Healthy Kids YMCA Child Care

How to help your kid keep track of their belongings

Cluttered child's desk overflowing with school supplies

It’s that time of year again when mittens go missing, snowpants mysteriously walk away, and kids come home from school unknowingly wearing their classmate’s boots. For parents with children who find it difficult to keep track of their belongings, the winter season, in particular, can be a challenge.

And, after rummaging through the lost and found bin at your child’s school in a last-ditch effort to recover their misplaced items, it’s likely you’re looking to put an end to the cycle of buying, losing, and replacing before we enter a deep freeze. While there’s no quick fix for teaching youngsters how to better manage their things, there are helpful strategies that you can implement now to avoid yet another long list of lost items this time next year:

1. Create memory cues

One of the most effective ways to recall a memory is by using a mnemonic device. Create mnemonics with your child, such as a funny acronym or catchy rhyme, that’s easy to recite and will prompt them to recall the things they always seem to forget. For example, the acronym “MESS” may help a kid remember to bring home their mittens, earmuffs, scarf, and snowpants at the end of each school day.

2. Stop, look, and think

Since children tend to lose their possessions during transitional times at school, teach your kid to stop, look around, and think about whether they’ve gathered all their belongings before they make their next move. This can be tricky for children to grasp at first, so it’s important for you to routinely model this behaviour as well as encourage your child to practice it when they lose track of an item in the home.

3. Set consequences (and provide rewards!)

Although it’s common for kids to struggle with staying on top of their things, when your child constantly forgets homework assignments at school or their new pencil case suddenly goes missing (again), for instance, it’s time to implement a meaningful consequence. Perhaps this means a timeout from technology for an evening, or maybe they have to dip into their piggy bank to chip in for the cost of a replacement item. Setting consequences holds children accountable for their actions and teaches them to be more cognizant of their responsibilities in the future. And when you see an improvement, be sure to balance those consequences with positive reinforcement. Treats are great, of course, but your acknowledgement alone goes a long way.

Keep an eye on our blog as next week we’ll tackle how to respond should your youngster’s belongings continue to slip away from their grip.