Eight great ways to get your kids organised for school

Daughter holding phone to dad's ear with younger brother doing homework.

At a glance

  • Set up simple routines at home to make things more efficient.
  • Talk to your kids regularly about planning how they use their time.
  • Make a list of homework tasks and ask your child to tick each one off as they finish.
  • Set a timer for working or playing on the computer if there are a few people wanting to use it.
  • Praise your child's attempts to improve their organisation.

Morning madness, late assignments, yesterday's half-eaten lunch sweating in the schoolbag – sound familiar? Just like adults, children cope much better if they can manage their time and their environment wisely.

1. Establish some routines

Set up simple routines at home to make things more efficient. For example, teach your kids that the first thing they do when they come in the door is empty their bag of food and notes or newsletters. Perhaps when these items are brought to the kitchen, they can then get a snack.

Similarly, a good rule of thumb for parents is to never double-handle paperwork. When you get a note for a school excursion, sign it, pay the money, put it in your child's bag straight away and then put the date on the family calendar.

2. Managing time

Talk to your kids regularly about planning how they use time for activities like homework and chores as their downtime. Older kids can begin to understand and practise time management if they have a watch they can wear and an alarm clock in their room.

A family organiser is a calendar that has a column for each member of the family to write in what they will be doing each day. Planning, communication and organisation can be a breeze if families use this simple tool. They are usually sold alongside regular calendars.

Providing whiteboards, pin boards or chalkboards in your child's room or the kitchen can help them to remember things and to keep notes handy.

3. Beat the Buzzer game

Try playing Beat the Buzzer to avoid that morning madness. Developed by researchers at RMIT University, Victoria, this game can help your child get ready on time because there is some positive reward involved.

4. Try using a weekly schedule

  • Buy a weekly planner for your child at the local newsagency or make a simple one on the computer.
  • Help your child list all of their activities for the week.
  • Fill in the planner with the times that are set such as time spent at school, sleeping, travelling to and from school and any regular out-of-school activities.
  • Ask your child to allocate a regular homework time that suits them and suggest how they would like to spend some of their free time.
  • Encourage your child to keep a balance in life with time for homework and special interests, time for friends and family, and time for exercise and rest. This works best when the whole family follows the same advice.

5. Five-minute focus

Get your child into and out of their homework faster by encouraging your child to focus on what homework needs to be done and to make a list of tasks such as their spelling homework, reading, etc. Each task can be ticked or crossed out when completed. Seeing things being achieved is rewarding and motivating.

6. Make a home study area

Kids can waste no end of time looking for stuff they need to finish their homework – a pot of glue can make a huge difference to a household's harmony when a project is due. Try storing the following items on the desk or in a drawer:

  • lots of blank and recycled paper
  • pens, pencils, sharpener, glue, staplers, batteries and a rubber
  • a ruler
  • a dictionary.

If your home has one study area or one computer and a few people vying for the space, allocate time to each person as needed. Set timers, such as the oven timer, to signal the end of the period for researching on the computer, playing computer games or even watching TV. It can also help keep the peace because everyone gets the same amount of time. 

7. Colour coding can help

Colour coding books can help your child to find things quickly, take the right books to school and bring the right ones home. This is especially good for kids when they start high school and suddenly have a lot of subjects to juggle.

Ask your child to select one colour for each subject. Cover their books for each subject in the same coloured paper, eg maths in green and English in blue. All information your child needs for that subject can be kept in the same coloured box at home. Your child can write each subject's name in their timetable using the same coloured pen that you used for covering each subject's books too. Colour coding possibilities are endless.

8. Praise good organisation

Praise your child's attempts to improve their organisation. Praise them for getting out the door on time, taking their lunch box out of their bag, and finishing homework and assignments on time. It may appear to them that they are often criticised, so praising positive behaviour will encourage more of it.


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