Backpacks are a great invention…until, of course, your kid stuffs a few too many loose papers into the bottom, tops them off with a dead sandwich or two, and suffers one of those classic Water Bottle Slow Leak Fiascoes on the way to school one day.
If your child (like most kids) is just figuring out how to make a go of this backpack thing, don't despair. Parents can make all the difference by showing kids where each thing goes, and helping them return stuff to its “home.” To help it all make sense, try making this creative organizing tool. And while you're at it, know this: you are making a difference! Educational experts agree that good organization is one of the most important study tools for a successful student—not just now, but for all the years of school ahead.
What You Do:
- Start by picking a sturdy, comfortable backpack with plenty of pockets and pouches. After all, if the pack is too hard to wear or load, you can be sure: it won't even be used!
- Help your child assemble all the stuff that she's likely to use in the pack, and place it on a table. Include any lunch materials, too, such as a water bottle.
- Now help your child load everything into its “home” in the pack, taking heed of a few guiding principles. First, never stick the water bottle inside the pack where all the books are, since it's pretty much guaranteed that if you do that, the top will pop off at some point and you'll be left with a sobbing child and a backpack swamp. Second, always stick pencils, pens, and other small objects in a pouch or other container, and place them in a convenient outside pocket. Third, pick an organizing scheme for the books, either big to small, or in the order they fall in the day.
- Take out your index card and your markers, and draw the pack, with an arrowed label for each part. Make sure that everything's packed right in, with a place for everything and everything in its place.
- On the back of the card, have your child write her first name and the school phone number or email in case the pack gets lost.
- Now laminate your card, and place it in an outside pocket, easy to reach. If your child is especially prone to losing things, you may even want to put a hole through one corner and attach it to an inner ring or loop (many backpacks come equipped with these).
What's Going On?
While third grade is a smooth adjustment for most kids, there are always a few that stumble on the new routines, especially with homework. And—sorry, parents—as fourth and fifth grade and middle school loom, it's only going to get harder! So now's the time to get organized. Good habits now can save you and your child hours, days, and months on end of frustration, and help turn a breakneck race through school into a calm, relaxing trip!
Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school History and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.