While many young children struggle with focus, organization, and impulse control, these
behaviors tend to be more severe and persistent in those with ADHD (attention-
At school, your child may blurt out things in class, have trouble following directions, and
regularly forget their homework. At home, they might interrupt their siblings, constantly misplace their belongings, and have piles of clutter in their room.
As the parent of a young child with ADHD, you are probably familiar with many of these
scenarios. The good news is that by introducing your kids to tips and tricks while they’re young, you can help set them up for future success at home, school, and beyond.
Thanks to a HomeAdvisor blog on organization hacks for people with ADHD, we’ve collected five ADHD-friendly organizational tips for the parents of young children.
1. Think Small
You may have big goals, but taking small steps can help you achieve them. The “divide and
conquer” strategy can have real results for people with ADHD—even if you have to divide a few times before conquering. ADHD tends to increase distractibility and procrastination, so breaking things down into manageable chunks can help keep kids from feeling overwhelmed or getting off-task.
No matter the project, find a way to break it down into achievable components. When tidying a messy room, divide it into sections and focus on only one at a time. Or, set a timer for a specific work period that makes sense for your youngster (like 15 minutes), and then for a specific rest period (like 5 minutes). As your child matures, you can incorporate these short periods into regular routines, such as establishing a daily 10-minute room clean-up period before dinner.
2. Get Things Organized
Clutter can contribute to stress, distractibility, and problems with time management. In addition to reducing mess, organization strategies may facilitate success in other areas (such as completing homework or getting to school on time). The first step to organization is making sure everything has a home. Clothes go in the dresser, toys go in their designated bins, and school papers go in their relevant binder or folder.
This philosophy can also extend to rooms in the house, or parts of a room. You may try dividing your child’s bedroom into segments by purpose (such as separate areas for playing, sleeping, and school work). Or, you can designate specific areas of the house for certain activities: a room for craft projects (where all materials stay), or a quiet area for reading or downtime (away from distractions like TVs and video games).
Other organization tools may make sense as your child ages. While younger children might be able to follow a weekly chore chart or short daily to-do list, older children may benefit from a smartphone calendar or planning app to keep track of all their activities. If your child can read, then labeling shelves, cubbies, and boxes may help them remember where things belong.
3. Emphasize Visuals
Since ADHD can affect memory, “out of sight, out of mind” can be a real issue for those with
attention disorders. The more organized and visible items are, the less your child needs to rely on memory to find them. Fortunately, this does not mean that they should leave their belongings strewn about the house. You can store items in clear tubs so that their contents are visible without having to unpack them. To save time in the morning, try placing cubbies or open baskets near the front door (or bedroom door) for your child to keep their shoes and other belongings.
Visuals can help organize activities and tasks as well, especially once your child can read. Put
Post-its in highly visible areas for important reminders, such as to bring lunch to school or to
brush teeth in the morning. Keep a family calendar of activities in a central location in the home. Try making a chore chart for household tasks, using a white board and dry-erase markers so you can designate different family members and they can check off the tasks when done.
4. Keep It Colorful
Kids often love color. Distinctive colors also tend to stand out in our minds. Use this to your
advantage by color-coding items to improve your child’s attention and recall. Put colored tubs in your child’s room for different items: green for toys, blue for clothes, and red for art supplies. Choose one color for each person on your family calendar or chore chart (or better yet, have them pick their colors!).
If you use sticky notes as reminders, use one color for each child so they pay attention when
they see “their” color. Colors can also help your child keep track of schoolwork: they might use different colored folders for different classes, or even keep notes in different colored pens for different themes in school.
5. Make It Motivating
ADHD can interfere with executive functioning, making short-term rewards significantly more
appealing than long-term rewards. While most children need help staying on task and working towards goals, those with ADHD may need more specific and frequent rewards to do so.
You can reward your child formally, creating a system where they earn points or activity time for following plans and reaching specific goals. You can also reward them informally to keep them motivated, such as praising them for their efforts (not just their accomplishments) or allowing them to choose the next activity (game or show, for example) when they demonstrate appropriate behavior.
Since people with ADHD often struggle with focus, breaks can be just as important as rewards. When children know they will receive time to rest, it reduces anxiety and makes it easier for them to focus on the task at hand. So, make sure to schedule breaks into their days and their tasks. For example, you may allow one hour of playtime between school and homework. Or, set a timer to allow 5 minutes on the trampoline after every 30 minutes of work.
More ADHD-Friendly Home Organization Tips
While it will take a bit of persistence and a whole lot of patience, we hope some of these
strategies make a difference for you and your family. For more organizational tips or for
professional assistance arranging ADHD-friendly spaces, check out HomeAdvisor.