Do Your Kids Hate to “Clean Their Rooms?” Try This Fun Tip!

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A young acquaintance of mine (age 10) is passionate about writing.  She is also loves to read – and organize!  When I asked her to share advice for other kids about organizing, her answer surprised me.  It turns out that tracking her progress helps her to stay motivated.

Her full response (written in her own words) is below.  There are so many articles about outdoor Fall Clean-up, she has cleverly titled hers, “(Inside) Fall Clean-up!”

logodokids(Inside) Fall Clean-up

This is about progress. What always helps me clean a messy room, is, I clean certain spots at a time. When I want to start a spot, I take a “Before” picture of the mess. And then, of course, I clean the spot. Once I am finished with that spot, I move on to another area, and take a picture of that mess. Once I am finished doing that with every spot, I take an “After” picture of each area. Then, I compare all of the pictures, and see how much I cleaned up.  

There you have it!  Great tips from the trenches – written by a kid!

1.  Taking photos of the different sections breaks the task into manageable chunks.

2. ‘Before” pictures always look terrible, so your kids can have a little LOL before they begin.

3.  Staging “After” pictures actually requires a little extra fine tuning, so the room will be even cleaner!

Please let us know what other organizing challenges your kids are having and we will collaborate on more advice.

Now, go clean YOUR room 😉


Reducing Kid Clutter


Nagging at your kiddos about their clutter?  Know they should be able to keep things organized, but it’s just not happening?  One way to approach the problem is to learn how to modify their behavior…

Changing Behaviors

As a former Early Childhood Special Education Teacher, one of my areas of expertise is in Behavior Modification.   The end result is to change an existing behavior.  When it comes to organizing for kids, what are some of the problem areas you need help with?  Things like this come to mind:

Putting Away Clean Laundry,

Managing Sports Equipment,


Entryway Clutter,

Putting Away Toys, and

Bedroom Messes

Instead of nagging (or doing it for them) what if you tried a series of steps to change the behavior?  The key is to be very involved at the beginning of the process, but to always be aware of how to fade out your involvement.  You don’t want the kids to be dependent upon you to complete their organizing tasks!  And always be positive 🙂


Entryway example:

Are your kiddos capable of coming in the door, hanging up their backpacks and coats, and putting shoes on the designated shelf every day after school?   Have you prepared the environment so they can easily reach and find room to do so?  Does the stuff just end up on the floor anyway?

In order to modify this behavior, it is important to find time  to clarify what you expect.  This can and should be at a time when you are not already irritated.  Again, the goal is to be positive! 🙂

Instead of the only verbal and negative DON’T, messages, “Hey, DON’T kick your shoes off and leave them in front of the door,” – take them to the space and show them what you expect.  This should be paired with positive comments about what they CAN do, “Please place your shoes on the shelf when you remove them.”  Or, better yet, act a little befuddled and ask THEM for ideas about what might make the process more efficient and functional 😉

Involve them in the process – can they operate a phone camera?  Have them take before and after photos of the space!   The goal is to encourage them to  have pride in taking care of their things.


Now that you have clarified the expectations, it is time to discuss types of prompting.   At the beginning, you might use all three at once:

1.  Physical

2.  Visual

3.  Verbal

Entryway example:

1.  Physical prompting – This can be in the form of you standing in the doorway literally placing a hand on a shoulder to slow down the barreling through the door, or casually blocking the way if the kids drop everything and start to head to another room.   You can also pick up a dropped coat, or just sit in the middle of the hallway.  Extra points for silliness apply!   Tapping the visual clue (see #2) counts too.

2.  Visual prompting – Do you have the “after” photo handy from when you “Clarified Expectations?”  Have the kids hang it on the wall in the entryway as a visual reminder of the “Expecations.”  Younger kiddos can create and hang a construction paper STOP sign!  Anything that gives them pause.  Older kids might make a sign on the computer that reads (instead of STOP, DROP, and ROLL), “STOP, HANG, and SHELVE!”  You could even have them hang it outside the door, so they see it as they approach.

3.  Verbal – This one is usually overused, so be mindful.  Kids become “prompt dependent” upon hearing you say, “Did you…?”  The goal for behavior modification is for you to drop the, “Did you’s!”  so they take cues from the environment instead.   This way, they won’t need YOU to remember!

If you are using verbal prompts, think of positive ways to speak.  Instead of calling from another room, “Did you…?”  Try instead to pair it with the actual process.  Stand in the doorway and look for the detail.  If  backpacks are on the floor, and your physical presence is not enough, you can specifically remind your kids what they CAN do, “Please hang your backpacks on the hooks.” while talking about their day at school.


The end goal is to lose all the prompts – starting with the verbal ones!  The less you need to interject your voice into the process, the more likely they are to complete it independently.  For example, walk by the entryway (physical prompt), and talk about something other than the task at hand.  If you stand there long enough, they might surprise you!

If you are not home after school and come upon a pile when you return, resist the urge to call out in anger, “Hey, get down here and hang up your stuff!”  Instead, try walking the shoes to your child and having a conversation about something positive.  Then interject… “Thank you for working with me on keeping the entryway organized!  Today, these were on the floor.  Please put them on the shelf. ”

If you only nag  and/or do it for them it just makes everybody cranky!  And the behavior backslides!  Hold them accountable.  Nicely 🙂

Questions?  It’s a lot to think about, but behavior modification techniques reduce negativity and promote independence.  Worth a try, right?

The Gifts of Food Allergy

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I want to share an excerpt from our recently culled FAAN newsletter binder of recipes.  It is an uplifting message from 2003 that my almost-not-a-tween found, highlighted with happy orange marker, and posted on the fridge. It speaks to the value of living with food allergies and we live it every day.

Article as it appeared in 2003:
The Gifts of Food Allergy

Raising a child who has food allergies brings many unexpected challenges into our lives.  Life would be much easier without having to deal with food allergies.  However, think of all you have learned and the positive ways food allergy has affected your life.

Nothing is all bad or good, and food allergy is no exception.  Listed below are some of the positive ways food allergy has enriched the lives of families just like yours.

* Your family is aware of what they eat, and is likely to make healthy food choices.
* You are active in your child’s academic life; the administration, nurse, and teachers all know you.
* You’ve become more than you were (stronger, wiser, more assertive) to keep your child healthy and happy.
* Your child knows what it feels like to be different and has learned to be compassionate to others.
* Your family has learned to “look out for each other,” allowing children to learn true caring.
* Your child has learned that his or her actions can have extreme consequences and has learned to make responsible decisions.
* Food allergy teaches patience, safety, and restraint as opposed to immediate gratification (e.g., the label must be read before eating an item, food cannot be shared, etc.)
* Your child grows up focusing on activities rather than snacks and meals.

These are only a few ways that food allergy can affect our lives in positive ways.  There are many, many others.  Feel free to share some of yours with us.  We’d love to hear from you.

Tween and I would love to hear from you too!
Eat happy 🙂

Food Allergy Cookbook

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Read with interest the simple “How To Organize Your Loose Recipes” post on Wikihow from fellow NAPO-Chicago member, Barb Tischler.  My multiple food-allergic tween and I have been collecting recipes from magazines, on-line searches, and FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) newsletters (from back in the day when newsletters were of the snail-mail variety) for several years.  Inspired, we piled our collection and got to work.

My almost-not-a-tween spent her own time culling and sorting, so I stepped aside.  Adapting the binder idea, she re-used an accordian-style folder from school.  The result is a file of sheets of recipe options she has used, will use, or will adapt to use.  The plan is to collect the most successful recipes from the collection and start a new binder with the plastic protectors per Barb’s suggestion.  It will be her very own Milk-free, Egg-free, Nut-free (except almonds!), and Sesame-free cookbook!

The Travels of a Food Allergic Tween

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Vera Bradley Crossbody

What does it take for a tween living with severe food allergies to travel?  Realistically, it means the responsible adult must be ready for anything.  Even with a responsible, well-adjusted, kid…

     1.  Be prepared!  Never allow your young child with food allergies to travel without an allergy pack (containing medical information, snacks, and just-in-case medications.)  This makes a HUGE difference down the road when your now tween balks and does not want to draw attention to being different.  Our tween has a collection of purses – most recently a Vera Bradley crossbody which helps somewhat.  Always carry.  No exceptions.  

     2. Be Proactive!  My tween headed to Portland with extended family and packed extra milk-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free treats and snacks – just in case.  Sure enough, she reported those little extras – Cliff Organic Twisted Fruit helped make mornings special.

     3.  Be Open!  While in Portland, my tween reportedly tried different food options (fresh salmon, deconstructed mango salad, vegan strawberry cream cheese, crab) she knew were safe. She was thrilled and sent pictures to me via her cell phone (which, by the way, is NOT a substitute for carrying allergy pack).

You never know…At one of the vegan bakeries, an employee stuck a peanut donut in with an assortment.  Tween had a bite (not of the peanut one – thank goodness!) and her throat started to feel itchy.  Not wanting to make a scene, she mentioned it in passing to present adult.  The adult did not pick-up on the cue.

     The story ends without blame (ALWAYS!), but with a sober reminder and Benadryl.