A new school year has begun and that means parents will be chasing the kids down for forgotten homework, crumpled permission slips and library books that were due weeks ago. Not to mention the trail of shoes, hats, jackets and backpacks, which lead to the refrigerator. Save yourself some frustration, and teach the kids responsibility at the same time, by creating a “drop zone” for all their stuff.
Pick the Perfect Spot
Your kid’s drop zone won’t be effective if it isn’t in the right place – which can prove to be a challenge. The key is to identify an area that is in the arrival traffic pattern, preferably from the very beginning. It is tempting to consider a beautiful desk or cubby far from the door, or even a bedroom. The reality is the further from the point of entry, the more likely the kids will create a path between the door and the designated place by losing stuff somewhere in between.
Set It Up
When setting it up, consider what you want to capture. This will likely change with the seasons, so keep that in mind. Here is a sample list of items and where each one might go:
Backpacks. The young student’s staple. Consider a small, child-sized coat tree to hold two backpacks. It works great and since the backpacks are all that the tree holds, it handles their bulk easi
Clothing. Put two rows of wooden pegs on the wall, one above the other. There’s plenty of room for hats, coats, gloves and scarves.
An “inbox” for school-to-home communication. This one is a biggie. A simple plastic in-tray that sits flat or hangs on the wall from an office supply store fits the bill here. When the kiddos arrive home, they move papers, etc. from their backpacks to the inb
An “outbox” for home-to-school communication. As you know, some forms must be returned to school. Place them in “out,” and have the kids check it once their homework is complete and they are repacking for the following day.
A snack/lunch bag area. If lunches are made the night before, the refrigerator is a great place for lunch boxes. If they are prepared in the morning, stage them with the backpacks.
Library books. No one wants threatening letters from school librarians, so have designated reading places around the house, and make sure books go into the backpacks when finished. Even if they have to ride around there for a few days, you know they’ll get back to school.
A drop zone is all well and good only if it gets used. You can help that happen with a little behavior motivation. Explain the drop zone to the kids and let them see it. Tell them how it works and why you’re going to use it. Then, set up the contract. Try a simple dry erase board onto which two rows of five squares are drawn. For every day that the kids put away their stuff and empty their backpacks before descending upon the house, they get a star in a block. If there are five stars at the end of the week, they receive a small treat.
Note: it’s important to pair praise and affection with the treat. Then you can eventually stop using the contract and reward (which is the goal, after all) as your hugs and appreciation will be enough to maintain the behavior.
Understand that it won’t work perfectly every day, or even every week, but keep at it and save yourself and your kids some frustration. You’ll probably be very glad you did.
Jennifer Snyder, Certified Professional Organizer
Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts
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