My six year old daughter is just transitioning into attending classes and activities more independently. As this is happening, she may get dropped off by her dad and picked up by me (and vice versa). This means things are getting left behind. I know it is pretty typical for a six year old to spread stuff out and forget it when staying elsewhere, hanging out at a friends or a club location. In fact, I remember this being a common complaint from the parents of kids I taught in Middle School and even my Highschool Biology kids had trouble with it.

I know it is a lot to expect for my daughter to have to remember a whole bunch of stuff, but there must be a way to at least increase the liklihood of non-forgetful and more responsible behavior with jackets/school books/ etc. when she heads to school activities, play dates and extra-curricular activities. She is well educated on why forgetting things is a problem and a few techniques for avoiding forgetting things.

She actually has a bag for each activity with the necessary activity items in it. Each bag is organized a particular way and I certainly check that she has the essentials with her when picking her up. She often spreads out though and doesn't always get everything back into her bags.

My husband is also not vigilant about asking her if she has her; coat, water bottle and bag so he is working on getting better about at least asking for those three items when he picks her up from somewhere. At the same time, I would like her to be a bit more independent and not need us to remind about things at each pick-up - at least eventually (I know there is a learning process involved and I can't expect this over-night).

Has anyone out there had any particular success with a technique they tried?

  • 2
    I have no suggestions, but I think this is a great question! Possibly making of list of general items that you can laminate and attach to their backpack somewhere so they can quickly look over it and check it? IDK. Totally just throwing that out there.
    – Meg Coates
    Dec 7, 2012 at 21:47
  • Sure...you could even have pre-made ones: sleep over, class, day-trip, whatever...then you can just clip one on quickly. And if she finds it a little embarrassing, you can clip it to the inside instead. Probably not such a problem for a 6-year-old, but for a middle schooler they might prefer for it to not be hanging out there for everyone to see.
    – Meg Coates
    Dec 7, 2012 at 21:59
  • 1
    True about Middle Schoolers! At the same time, I'd probably say, well when you can prove you don't need it, you don't have to have it! :-) Dec 7, 2012 at 22:00
  • I agree! You could make one side with her name and the other side with the list on it so it really just looks like a cool name tag.
    – Meg Coates
    Dec 10, 2012 at 14:20

2 Answers 2


I'm going to add the back-and-forth that we had in the comments above as an answer since it seems to address your particular question. I think 5un5's answer is great, but I've been involved in enough theater productions and sleep-overs to know that stuff just winds up everywhere.

For situations like these, perhaps a laminated list that you can clip to her backpack would be helpful. I know from some of your other questions that your daughter is pretty advanced in her reading level, so a simple list like, "books", "jacket/coat", etc. wouldn't pose any problem for her. For younger kids, a list with pictures might be easier for them. You could even put her name on one side and the list on the other side so that it looks like it's just a name tag.

You don't even HAVE to have a laminator. Clear contact paper works just as well. Hole punch at the top, a key ring through the hole, and clip to a carabiner on her backpack. With this kind of system, you could even have multiple lists that could be quickly switched for different situations. You know, one for sleep over, one for rehearsal, one for play-date. If you wanted to be extra savvy, you could leave some blank lines at the bottom of the list and have a spot to write in extra items with a dry-erase pen she might not use frequently but might need to go with her from time-to-time.

There's a similar idea on this website. It's for a chore chart that you laminate and attatch to a lanyard, but you get the idea.

Personally, I'm a list-maker so I tend toward stuff like that. It might not work for her, but it's a thought.

  • 2
    Yup! Totally is working. All I have to do is say, "did you check your list?" and she either runs around checking it and grabbing or says, "yup" and off we go. - So far ;-) Dec 10, 2012 at 23:06
  • 1
    Yay! I'm glad it's working. And it's an excellent way of putting the responsibility back in her lap instead of you it being your responsibility to make sure she's got everything.
    – Meg Coates
    Dec 11, 2012 at 14:37
  • What a BRILLIANT idea. I wish I'd had this as a kid. I lost everything.
    – ribs2spare
    Jan 19, 2023 at 13:21

Have patterns, once the pattern becomes a routine, it will become automatic.

A six year old may not be able to remember more than one or two things at first. So decide what is essential. For instance, start with just the backpack. Give it a place at home, in the cars, and at school. Then, once she is remembering the backpack every day for 10 days, build from there. Books go in the backpack. Jacket goes on the backpack, etc.

How to make a pattern? Each item should have a consistent location at each context. Examples of contexts are home, school, car or other transport, like inside a backpack. Make a list (for yourself) of the items she is to remember, and the consistent location where the item goes in each context she is. For example, the jacket is on the hook in the closet at home, she's wearing it in the car on, (if she isn't then her getting dressed routine needs to be reviewed.) Then at school, it goes on the hook. When she leaves school, she "gets dressed" again, putting on the jacket. And goes home where it goes on the hook in the closet. For books, they go from the desk at home, to the backpack for transport, then to the desk at school, back in the backpack when she leaves school, and then at home back to her desk. Each item has a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

You can tell her the stories, and when you're at the transition points, ask her to recount the story. It will work as long as there is exactly one place where each of her things go in each of her environments. She can help decide where these places are and label them. It makes it easier, because then the places serve as reminders for her.

Once you know all the items and their context dependent locations, you can help her build automatic behaviors. Think about your organizational habits, and how you remember things. You can use tricks, like putting things you're going to take with you near the door. Modeling organization helps a lot, so make sure you're organized.

Here are some great tips for raising an organized child.

http://www.onlineorganizing.com/NewslettersArticle.asp?article=452&newsletter=go http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/812899/5-ways-to-raise-organized-kids

  • Patterns are a great idea - at home - and we do use them. However, not every location is conducive to what you outline. For example, I can't suggest to the theater owners that they put coat hooks in their theater lobby and the costume and prop rooms are jam full of costumes and props. Plus, location changes depending on how close "opening night" is. Sometimes practice is entirely backstage, in the green room, or in the theater itself. She has a self-contained bag for each activity with all the items needed, but I'm not there to make sure each item gets back into the bag. Dec 9, 2012 at 16:06
  • She has four regular activities that she attends. One provides a cubby space for the kids. The rest are basically, "claim a chair and your stuff goes there." Because she is a mover - she often winds up with multiple "chairs." Also, this doesn't answer the question in regard to staying at other's homes - whether it be for an afternoon or overnight. Dec 9, 2012 at 16:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .