Kids are undisputed champions when it comes to losing things. Keys, books, clothes, toys, umbrellas, and sometimes even entire backpacks disappear without a trace no matter how careful your child swears they were.
Finding these lost things is a task that parents take on daily and one that fails more often than not, resulting in additional financial costs.
How many new hoodies do you buy every school year to replace the lost ones?
Every parent has asked themselves the same question at least once:
How do I get my child to not lose things?
It’s up to us to teach our children responsibility and how they can keep organized, but we also have to remember that learning these things is a process that can take many years.
Not every child has the same learning capabilities or level of maturity, so the most important thing for a parent is not to give up.
It’s also important to remember that kids function on a whole different level than we do. Your child may not adopt your practices, but at least you are helping them develop a few of their own.
Kids live and think differently than we do
Young children, especially in lower elementary grades live in the moment and have not yet mastered the art of paying attention for longer periods of time. It’s incredibly hard for them to keep track of their things throughout the day.
Their lives revolve around what is happening to them at that moment, so if their friends call them over to play, they don’t have the time or know-how to check what belongings they are leaving behind.
Every school has them and they most often take things from those they see as weaker than them.
Often, kids feel shame for being bullied and don’t immediately tell their parents or teachers what is going on.
If your child keeps losing the same things over and over again but has no trouble keeping track of others, it might not be their fault. Keep an eye out if they repeatedly lose items of value or something other kids would think is cool.
It is possible that they are not really losing their things and a bully is taking them away from your child.
Kids don’t understand the value of things
In most countries, we can replace every lost item almost immediately.
For kids, it is difficult to understand that parents have to pay for everything they lose when they can see things available in every store.
Teach your child how to get organized
Children in elementary school are old enough to start taking on small responsibilities, but keep in mind this is a lengthy learning process and prepare yourself for many failures along the way.
Start basic with home chores and make keeping their things in a certain place as one of the chores.
Set up routines
Repeating the same thing every day will make it easier to remember.
Help your child put their belongings in the same place every day. Make preparing the school bag a little project. Together, put everything they don’t need away and make sure that everything that they will need the next day is in their bag.
Guide them through the preparation process and make sure they do the preparing themselves, instead of just watching you do it.
Remind them what they need to do
Talk to your child about their day and remind them what they should do after every activity.
Point out that they should put their sports clothes in their bag after practice, their supplies back after a lesson, their jacket and cap in their place in the classroom…
Have them double-check they have everything before going to school.
Be consistent yourself and always do these things at the same time (for example before breakfast or dinner), so that they can internalize these actions and repeat them even when you’re not around.
Make a checklist
Together, create a colorful checklist and place it inside their school bag. This will help your child pack for school and make sure that they take everything with them when they leave school.
Laminate the list to make it last longer and go through it with your child every day, until they memorize it and to double-check that something didn’t slip their attention.
This is also a good tool to help your child develop organizational skills for later on in life.
Make searching for your child’s lost stuff easier
Very few things are ever truly lost, and most lost items will eventually find their way into one Lost & Found box or another.
Labeling your child’s belongings will make them easier to return. Write down a phone number so the finder can contact you more easily.
Attach a smart finder
Since these use batteries, you can’t attach them to everything, but you can at least add an extra layer of protection to some of the more important items like your child’s keys, phone, wallet, or backpack.
You can connect the smart finder to your phone to keep track of your child’s belongings and you can also share the finder virtually to your child’s phone through the phone app. That way, they can look for their lost things themselves as soon as they realize it was lost.
There’s no limit to how many people you can share the finder with, so anyone in your family with a smartphone can join in on the search.
Smart finders are an especially good idea when it comes to keys and wallets; losing these doesn’t just mean replacing them but replacing a host of other things like door locks and IDs as well.
Where, when and who
Have an action plan ready for when your child loses something. Retrace their day with them. Ask them where they last saw the lost item, when was that, and who else was with them.
This will give you a good starting point for your search. Make sure to include your child on the searching process to help them develop the skill of retrieving lost items too.
Ask your child what they think you should do to find their lost things, so they can actively participate in the search. This will also help them develop their own strategies they can later use independently, instead of coming straight to you to solve the problem.
Teaching your kids to keep track of their things is a long and sometimes difficult process.
The easiest way to solve the problem of lost things is to go out and replace them with new ones.
Unfortunately, this is also the worst thing a parent can do, since your child will not be able to learn from their mistakes and will most likely repeat them their whole life.
Kids do get better at keeping track of their things as they get older, but that doesn’t mean they won’t still lose stuff sometimes.
For your own sake, keep your peace of mind and accept that sometimes, no matter what you do, your child’s things will just stay lost.