5 tricks to teach your child: How not to forget things at home or school

If your child forgets things, here is a list of unique tricks that have worked wonders for us. Our favorite trick to help a child not to forget to take something to school or bring something home is our shoe trick.

The shoe trick has an interesting story.

Once upon a time, when I was still a child and our family did not have a car, I had to walk miles to go to the grocery store to get milk and other essentials.

As the oldest girl in the family, the task of going shopping was left up to me. And according to my father’s value, the shopping was supposed to be done correctly.

If you don’t have it in your head, you have it in your legs

Child or no child (and no matter what age), if you are responsible to get groceries for the family, you cannot forget. If I did forget to buy something, back to the store I walked — for miles again.

If I forgot to make sure that the cashier gave me the correct change, back to the store I walked.

And every time I returned home and my father found out that his beloved daughter had forgotten something, I got to hear his famous words, “if you don’t have it in your head, you have it in your legs.”

Mind over matter

Most everyone is familiar with John Gray’s #1 New York Times bestseller Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. To simplify Gray’s book, men tend to focus on action while women focus on emotions and talking.

So what planet are children living on?

In our opinion, children live neither on Mars nor on Venus, but rather travel back and forth until they find the place they feel that they belong to.

While being busy to discover the wonders of the universe  (going from Mars and Venus), kids have more important things to focus on than to remember not to forget something.

How many teachers are male? How many heads of households are male?

Children today are drawn towards Venus characteristics because most of their daily life is around women. If you can talk yourself out of why you forgot something and there are no physical (action) consequences, why not?

How children learn

Children do not learn by words, but by action. If you beat a child and tell the child it is getting hit because he or she forgot something, the child does not get the verbal message but quite a different physical message.

And that message is that beating or hitting is what you do to others.

If talking is not effective and physical beating gets the wrong message across, so how do you teach a child not to forget things at home or at school?

Here is our list of 5 tricks you can teach your child:

  1. The shoe trick at home: We changed my father’s words “if you don’t have it in your head, you have it in your legs,” to “if you don’t have it in your head, you have it in your shoes.” Rather than telling a child to not forget to take an important paper to school, have the child put the paper or any other item (action) into his or her shoes that he or she will wear in the morning. If the item can’t be stuck at least partially in a shoe, have your child write a note and place it (action) into the shoe. It’s quite difficult to leave the house when there is something stuck in your shoe.
  1. The shoe trick at school: Until your child learns that shoes are their own personal mailbox, encourage them to write a note every day and have the child put the note into his or her shoes until he or she gets home. Writing is considered to be a kinesthetic activity (action), and by merely writing something down, a child is using a different part of its brain. Even though a note in a child’s shoe might be uncomfortable for a while, it will do its job. Until your child learns to use the shoe trick by habit, some positive reinforcement (a treat) is, of course, always helpful. However, health and safety always come first!  
  1. The door trick at home: If the shoe trick is not an option to help a child not to forget something, some of our students’ parents have relied on the door trick. Have the child write down what it needs to take to school and have the child tape the note to the house door knob — no getting out of the house without seeing the note. 
  1. The door trick at school: Since schools generally do not allow students to tape something to the door, teach your child that his or her schoolbag’s zipper is the door. If a child places something inside a school bag, it gets most often lost among all the other things in there. Taping, tying, or pinning something to the outside of the school bag stays in sight – and will less likely be forgotten.
  1. The car trick: If none of the above tricks work for you, you can try the car trick. Most children have the usual spot in the car they sit in when they go to school. Have your child place the important item on his or her seat so the child has to sit on the item when in the car (action).

After sharing the above tricks with the parents of our students, the parents began to use the same techniques for themselves. The parents ended up putting keys in shoes, lists of important things, or even food items.

In conclusion …

The most crucial thing to understand about the above tricks is that children learn more from action than from words. And the action has to be taken by the child.

Parents can use words to tell a child to put something in the shoe, on the door, or in the car, but the action has to be done by the child. Your action can be positive reinforcement by spending quality time with your child.

If your child is too young to write, have him or her draw a picture. Not to forget something can be an exciting and fun activity for younger kids.

From a neuroscientific point of view, the above actions are helping your child to grow new neural pathways in its brain. Once those pathways are established (a new habit is learned), you can relax and just tell your child, “if you don’t have it in your head, you have it in your shoes.”