What to Do When Kids Keep Losing Their Belongings

3 min read
what to do when your kids

what to do when your kids

It’s no secret that kids are prone to losing their belongings, especially when they’re younger. There’s a reason elementary schools and summer camps ask parents to label all their children’s belongings and have lost-and-found boxes. Kids with ADHD or executive function disorders can have even more trouble keeping track of their possessions. Why is that the case? What can parents do to help? Discover how to keep kids with ADHD from losing things below.

Why Do Kids With ADHD & Executive Function Disorders Lose Things?

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. As the name conveys, people with ADHD can struggle to maintain attention and focus. One consequence of this inattention and associated ADHD forgetfulness is that it can make tracking an object’s location difficult.

While someone without ADHD may be able to set an object down and come back to it later, a person with ADHD needs to practice constant vigilance to remember the item.

Leaving a wet umbrella at the door of a restaurant is a good example. If a person without ADHD leaves their umbrella at the door, they may recall it on their way out. If a person with ADHD does the same, they may completely forget it. Why does this happen?

Often, individuals with ADHD are on autopilot, appearing to follow a situation even though they are not really concentrating. When the brain is only partially tuned in like this, it isn’t processing actions fully. This makes it easier to forget that you did something, like leaving that umbrella at the restaurant door.

People with ADHD may also struggle with other executive functions, like organization. Simply put, it’s easier to lose things in a disorganized space. A messy playroom can increase the likelihood of lost toys, for example, while a disorderly backpack can make it a challenge to find homework.

There is also a phenomenon known as “milk in the cupboard syndrome,” something that those with an ADHD brain are more prone to. This simply means they put items in the completely wrong place, like putting a milk carton in the cupboard instead of back in the fridge.

How to Help Kids With ADHD Stop Losing Things

As a parent, it can be frustrating when your kindergartner or elementary schooler keeps losing their stuff. Remember, your child doesn’t intend to misplace their belongings. Getting angry won’t help. But there are things you can do to make a difference.

1. Create Organization Systems

Help kids sort and organize everything, from schoolwork to toys. Color-coding can be a great way to start, even if your child hasn’t developed writing and reading skills yet. You can use colored labels to organize schoolwork, toys, and clothing. As kids get older and master reading, you can go beyond colors alone and incorporate symbols and eventually add written labels.

2. Find a Place for Every Item

Organizing goes beyond labeling. Make sure every item your child owns has its proper place. Bins are great for storing toys, while desk organizers can be useful for crayons, makers, and other school or craft supplies. Provide an assigned spot to keep their day-to-day essentials, like their coat, shoes, and schoolbag, and get them into the routine of always placing each item in its proper “home.”

3. Use Checklists

Checklists can help kids and frazzled parents remember everything from lunch to homework. Post a before-school checklist by the door and run down it before leaving for school. A simple laminated sheet with check boxes will help; if you don’t have a laminator, pick up a clear plastic folder from an office supply store. Overhead projector markers will be easy to clean from these surfaces, so you can wipe the list clean and start fresh the next day.

If your children are too young to read independently, you can use visual checklists composed of simple drawings or stickers representing the items.

4. Try Tracking Technology

A lost lunch bag is easy enough to replace. However, if your child has more valuable items they bring to and from school—like house keys, a personal phone, or school-issued electronics—you might want to invest in some tech support. Look for GPS-enabled devices that hook onto keys or backpacks or adhere to other flat surfaces, like books, tablets, and calculators. If your child has a phone, make sure GPS tracking is enabled and visible on a parent’s device.

5. Seek Expert Help

If your child continues to struggle with misplaced items and you’re running out of patience, seek outside support. Executive function coaching can help families make sense of the underlying challenges of ADHD and develop age-appropriate strategies that empower kids and grow with them. Focusing on specific executive functions—like organization to make items more visible and easier to find or working memory to keep track of items when they’re out of sight for long periods—can require expert input, providing both kids and parents with much-needed support.

Casey Schmalacker

Casey Schmalacker, Vice President at New Frontiers, is a seasoned leader in marketing, sales, and business development. With a dual degree in Government and Law and Economics from Lafayette College, he has spent the past 10 years coaching students, adults, and organizations to improve executive functions, soft skills, and workplace performance. Casey’s approach is rooted in strategic development and a passion for personalized coaching, emphasizing a culture of continuous improvement.

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