Assist Your Child With Spring Cleaning Their Backpack

Spring is here! It can feel so good to open the windows in your home to the warm breezes after months of cold weather. Spring is the time when many of us give our homes a thorough cleaning. And it is also a wonderful time to encourage your child to clean out their backpack and stay organized in the final stretch of the school year.

Ideally, students should clean out their backpacks once a week. Often I work with students on organizational skills and a backpack clean-up has uncovered completed but never turned in homework, signed permission slips that never made it to the teacher, and other assorted important paperwork.

Staying organized is one aspect of Executive Functioning skills. The three main areas of EF are working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control.  We need our EF skills so we can pay attention, organize/plan/prioritize, start tasks and stay focused until completion, regulate emotions, understand different points of view, and self-monitor our behavior.

Keeping a backpack organized, keeping a planner up to date, getting completed homework from backpack to the correct bin, and bringing important school documents home from school all require executive functioning skills. Some students need support so that they can internalize these skills.

The following are tips to help students keep their backpacks organized:

1.) Only put water bottles in outside pockets to prevent leakage onto books/papers.

2.) Keep an ID card with student’s name and phone number in an interior pocket in case backpack is misplaced.

3.) Use a zippered pouch for pens, pencils and erasers to reduce “floating items” in backpack.

4.) Use a large clear plastic bag for dirty PE clothes.

5.) Designate one area of backpack for pencil bag, wallet, etc. and a separate area for textbooks, folders, and binders.

6.) Keep a lightweight 3-hole-punch in backpack so all important papers can be immediately 3-hole-punched and placed in binder in appropriate area.

7.) Make a copy of permission slips that are to be returned to school and tape them on refrigerator as a reminder of event.

Encourage your child to take everything out of their backpack on Sunday evenings in preparation of the upcoming week. Help your child create a system for binder organization. For example: TKO – Toss any unneeded papers, Keep important papers for test prep in school binder behind designated dividers, Organize papers in a keep-at-home binder that may be needed later in the semester.

Be patient with your child. For some people, executive functioning skills are easily mastered while challenging for others. Remind your child that while EF skills have absolutely no correlation with intelligence, staying organized can help make school life more manageable.

If you would like to talk about how to assist your child with executive functioning skills, I am here to help! Please give me a call or send me an email at