How to foster an emerging sense of order

Between 2 and 4 years old most young people begin to develop their sense of order.  This is the time when your child will become exasperated if you say the wrong word during story time or if you move her artwork or put away his toy before he was finished playing with it.  It can be a difficult time for parents and caregivers alike, because in the past your little one didn’t even notice when you put away his toys.  Now everything starts to become a negotiation because along with a sense of order, a stronger will and resulting tantrums also mark this stage of development.

This sensitive period for order can be challenging, but there’s no fighting against human development, and if you think about it, you wouldn’t want to anyway.  This is actually the perfect time to teach your child how to put away toys, straighten her room, and help out in the kitchen.  But in order to capitalize on your child’s innate desire to learn and this sensitive period for order heed this advice:  Attention to detail is the key to getting the most cooperation from your child during this time.

Let me illustrate further; Paying attention to minute details and showing your child all the tiny steps involved in tidying, cleaning, and putting things away create more interest and better results.  For instance, if you would like to teach your three year old to fold and put away his socks follow these steps slowly, carefully, and methodically (and wait until you have your child’s attention before moving on to the next step):

1)     Take newly dried clothes out of the dryer while they’re still warm

2)    Put them in a pile on the bed and invite your child to feel the warmth and play in the pile a little bit.

3)    Ask your child if he would like to play a sock folding game.  If yes, continue, if no, try another time.

4)   Ask your child to help you find two matching socks.

5)    Put every ounce of your attention on the pair of socks, turning them, feeling them, noticing the details and the way they feel in your hands.

6)    Examine the toe of the socks and show your child the sewn ends of the socks.

7)    Examine the hole of the socks and show your child how you can put your fingers inside the hole.

8)    Determine whether the socks are inside out or not.

9)    Slowly right any sock that is inside out, showing your child exactly what you are doing.

10) Place one sock carefully on the bed in an area clear of other laundry and with the toe to the right.

11)    Place the matching sock on top of the first sock.

12)  Fold the stacked socks in half lifting the cuffs and laying them on top of the toes.

13)  Put your right hand inside the fold with your thumbs inside the top sock

14) Use your left hand to stretch the top of the sock over the top of the other sock.

15)  Regard your work.

16)  Repeat until all socks are folded (remember to remain slow and methodical in your movements).

17)  Place the folded socks in a neat pile.

18)  Carry the folded socks to the dresser and put them on top.

19)  Open the drawer and place the socks inside one pair at a time with care and deliberation.

20)  Carefully close the drawer and smile at a job well done

21)  Let your child try and offer no further guidance, just continue to demonstrate silently.

As you can see, the “simple” act of folding and putting away one’s socks can be a challenging muti-step process for a young person.  But if you are willing to take the time to teach your child these types of skills now, you will undoubtedly reap the rewards later.  Be careful not to expect your child to put away her socks every time from now on though.  The more freedom your child has to express her newfound love of order, the more it will emerge and grow.  On the other hand, if your child feels forced into a greater sense of order than has naturally developed, she is likely to rebel.

I hope this was helpful and I welcome your comments, stories, and questions.  Please leave me a comment!  And have a wonderful week, Shelly