Q. My fourth-grader keeps misplacing, forgetting or losing things -- his violin, textbooks, hats. What can we do?
A. Use a coordinated two-prong approach for home and school, suggests Nicole Chamblin, a board member of the National Association of Professional Organizers who has offices in Freeport and Virginia.
At home, decide with your son on a place for everything. "Having him become part of setting it up, he's more likely to take ownership of it," Chamblin says.
Choose a place he passes when leaving. Put his violin there when he's not using it. Buy a clear plastic container to hold textbooks, and keep that there as well. Do the same for hats.
Make a checklist of what he needs to leave with each day and post it near the door on colorful paper. It takes 21 days to establish a new habit, Chamblin says, and she suggests rewarding him if he accomplishes the goal 15 of 21 days to give him incentive to try the new way. "After that, the reward is he'll know where everything is, and you'll stop screaming at him," she says.
Create another "bring home" list for school on colorful paper (Chamblin says white blends in with everything else and won't jog kids' memories as well). Ask the teacher's permission to tape it to his desk. At first, remind him each day to check his list before leaving class. Soon you shouldn't have to police him anymore, she says.