Organizing kids stuff is a must in families with more than one kid. Teaching kids to keep up with their stuff is NOT easy, and I cannot keep track of everybody’s everythings around here. I’ve got four kids, and we do school at home, so we’ve got a ton of *stuff*…notebooks, pencil boxes, scissors, rulers, etc. It gets overwhelming, and it’s hard to enforce personal responsibility if I can’t tell whose stuff is whose.
I’ve also got competitive kiddos. They’ll often pick the exact same toy, toothbrush, or notebook. Then when only one can be found, it’s impossible to know who the original owner is.
One strategy I’ve found that works great for things like toothbrushes and notebooks that come in a variety of colors is to assign colors. Each person gets “their” color of that item. It makes life SO much easier, because I know if I’m buying pencil boxes or hair brushes that I can just grab their “signature color” and we’re good.
But what about things like matching plastic dolphins? I tell you it’s insanity waiting to happen. I let the little kids pick from a bin of approximately 4,268 plastic animals at the grocery store, and they BOTH picked identical blue dolphins. I know what will happen. We’ll get in the bathtub and there will only be one dolphin to be found. And the war of the dolphin will begin.
Thank GOODNESS for pink nailpolish. We can make on the “girl” dolphin, so we can tell whose is whose. Here are some more tips on using signature colors for keeping track of items.
Tips on Organizing Kids Stuff with Signature Colors
- It’s not a favorite color…necessarily. The kids got a say in their color, but we didn’t call it a “favorite” color, because those can change by the hour with toddlers and by the fashion season with older kids. A signature color is how you know which item is yours…it’s not necessarily going to be your favorite color of that item.
- Why not just write their name or initials on it? Great question! Colors are just quicker to identify, especially for younger non-readers. We still often do mark names (so they can get used to seeing and recognizing theirs), but many items like pencils, toothbrushes, cups, bath towels and washcloths are just simpler to identify by using color, since writing is tricky at best and rubs off with use. Using colors also saves me lots of time not having to label and read each label- I can just grab their color. The color identification helps the kids as much as it helps me when sorting out whose stuff is whose. Imagine sorting through the towels and washcloths above if there were names written on instead of colors…it just takes longer.
- Try to pick colors that most items come in. (red, blue, green, orange, yellow, pink, purple) Chartreuse may be a lovely color choice, but you’ll be hard pressed to find notebooks, pencil boxes, and toothbrushes in that shade. Yet another reason to avoid using “favorite” colors.
- Signature colors work best on items where everyone in the family has a matching item. Like bath towels, cups, , notebooks, pencil boxes, camp chairs, etc. It works super well when the child needs to learn to be responsible for that item, as it’s far easier to tell which item is theirs with a glance. And if someone has left their school supplies out or their towel in the floor, I know immediately who needs to come tidy up.
- When we don’t bother with signature colors: when the items or supplies are used by everyone, like playdoh, crayons, books, hand towels, etc.
- If items don’t come in the signature colors, it’s easy to color code in other ways. Our white bath towels and washcloths got colored ribbon tags to help the kids keep them separate. Nailpolish, colored duct tape, sharpie markers, or sticker dots are other ways of marking colors on objects that might not come in the signature colors. But be forewarned: if one person gets “generic” marking, it may work better to go ahead and buy all white and give everyone the chance to get artistic with marking in their color. Or feelings could become hurt.
- Secondary colors- a couple of times we’ll find an item that comes in all but one of our colors. In that case, I’ll let the ‘left out’ kid pick their choice of the remaining colors- sort of a secondary signature color, and then we decorate the item with their actual color. So the girl who loves blue had to get a red folder (red is an unclaimed color), but we put blue stickers on it.
- Don’t feel like you HAVE to always use signature colors. The kids picked out their own beach towels, and because they each chose a different pattern, they have no trouble remembering whose is whose, even if it’s not their color. But it really does make it easier for Mom & Dad if I add the color tags, because it’s hard for us to remember whose towel has the turtles on it. 🙂
Items We’ve Bought In Signature Colors
Here’s a quick list off the top of my head of what items we’ve use signature colors for:
- towels & washcloths
- pencil boxes
- snack bowls
- sippy cups
- book covers
- backpacks; sometimes- the kids start to prefer their sig color, so they’ll choose it when given the choice.
- sleeping bags
- hair brushes
- travel supplies like soap dishes, dirty laundry bags, etc.
- electronic device covers or protectors
- tote bags
- camp chairs
What’s your best tip for keeping your kids stuff organized, and teaching personal responsibility with stuff? I’d love to hear in the comments. 🙂
Great idea! My mom used to I initial a lot of our stuff, but in our family of 5 there are only 2 initials: LRM and LJM. I was beginning to go a bit crazy trying to keep my children’s things organized. I have been dabbling some with colour coding, but I haven’t been overly consistent. Thank you for your post.
Gwen Brown says
All my kiddos are C names, so yeah…that’s ANOTHER reason we can’t use initials. 🙂
When our three girls were small, we used a dot system on clothes: One dot for the oldest, two for the second, three for the youngest. Then if an item got handed down, I could add a dot. I used a laundry marker and marked the dots on the tags or back waistband. This helped me to sort their laundry, as they were often in similar sizes. I also know a daddy to triplets and twins. They used color coding for clothing when they were little: green shirts for one, blue for another. His kids are boys, so they didn’t care. I’m sure they had to get another system as they got older.
Gwen Brown says
I have 7 kids, 4 of which we adopted as a sibling group. They are similar in size so I began marking their laundry in their signature colors. They have their own colored crate & most of them fold their own laundry. But if I mark their tags too, sorting their laundry is a cinch.
Loved this idea when my kids were small- yellow, red, blue, pink, and purple will now always represent
my kids. I still prefer to keep to the color scheme, even though they are now all old enough to drive
to buy their own items.
Gwen Brown says
<3 I think my kids will be the same way. :) Their color may not even be their current favorite color, but they still like it as their signature color of ownership. :)