Learning to Plan & Organize Through Play

Fun Planning & Organizing

Being organized and possessing good planning skills are essential to being successful as an adult. As adults we use these skills to keep our personal lives in order as well as to function in our jobs. So it goes without saying that a child who learns these important tools early will have a better chance at success later in life. But there are those personalities that just don’t see the joy and excitement in planning. I know there are times I need to remind myself that it is essential if I want to accomplish something so I self-motivate to get it done. But how to instill this in a child?

The Plan

  • Care for a Puppy – Most kids love their pets. And a great way to teach them planning and organization is to task them with care for their animal. Starting out simple and progressively moving to a more complex plan will begin to instill good behavior in your child. Maybe first start with feeding. Have the child each day check their pet’s feeding dish for food. Write out the activity on a scheduled labeled “Day” along with the time. And each day at that time the child would check the dish. Then once your child is comfortable with the task add other elements to the schedule. Maybe add an additional task each day then progress to a weekly schedule. Another good practice would probably be to have your little planner report to you each time they accomplish their task. And if you have more than one little organizer in training splitting up the tasks and a group discussion are even better. The idea being first the child learns about scheduling and carrying out plans but also about verbalizing and demonstrating their thought process.
  • Trip to the Amusement Park – Going to your child’s favorite ride park takes a lot of planning and organizing. Time off from work, coordinating transportation, and then what to do with the time you have at the park. Getting the child involved in all aspects of the trip planning will definitely go a long way in giving them a sense of what a structured, well planned activity looks like. One good task would be to have your child verbalize and describe the whole trip from start to finish. Once the trip is over discuss the original plan and what was actually accomplished.
  • Cooking – Cooking simple treats or meals are excellent tasks to teach kids about following directions and planning.
  • Building – Small arts and crafts activities can be a great way to teach the basics of planning and organizing. I remember when I was in the fifth grade we constructed toothpick bridges. It was a competition among other students to design and construct the bridge that could withstand the most weight. The bridge competition maybe too advanced for your child but constructing a duck or swan from a shoe box and construction paper could accomplish two things. Your child would need to plan and gather their needed materials but also it could be used to show them how to visualize one object into something else. In this example the child would imagine their shoe box as a duck or swan. Once it is constructed have the child describe what they imagined first versus what they actually created. What changes if any did they do along the way?
  • Fixing – The idea here is to not have your child fix the leaking pipes in the basement. But to again be involved in the planning process. In the Amazing Bean cartoon-comic I wrote a whole chapter about Bean’s eagerness to fix all that was wrong. The lesson I was aiming for with this strip was making mistakes is how we learn. Unfortunately for Bean the consequences were often devastating.

So maybe a small repair such as changing the inner tube on a bicycle tire is more in line with your child’s understanding. Picking the right inner tube size followed by removing the old inner tube and making sure the tire is still good would be a good task to get them involved in and demonstrate the planning and step by step procedures in order to fix the tire.

Making it Happen

Carrying out what was planned is critical to the learning process. Sometimes the plan needs to be modified. Other times the plan will fail. If a child is allowed to “fail” then they will hopefully learn from the failure and ultimately improve. We can’t learn if we can’t fail. Making mistakes doesn’t feel good but at the same time it motivates the thought process which asks the question, “What can I do next time to improve?”

Planning and organizing
The highly organized snail.


Discussing how the plan was changed once it was actually carried out is a good way to reflect on issues related to the change. If a child understands the impact on changing what was originally planned they will develop a sense of forethought and reasoning related to the consequences of the outcome. But it’s also advisable to illustrate that there are both positive and negative outcomes when we sometimes change plans. It’s not always a bad move to do so.

Planning for the Future

A good plan in place is great but teaching to have a plan “B” is equally important. George Washington once said, “It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous.”[3] The virtue here being it is good to have forethought and be prepared for the unexpected. If your child is able to begin to think about “what if’s” then they will be more confident and ready when things don’t go as planned.

A great way to teach is creating a shopping list for groceries. Then discuss what if the store is out of an item on the list. What’s the plan “B”?

And Lastly Have Fun!

Making it all worthwhile and valuable to the child will go a long way in teaching this important life lesson. In my cartoon-comic Amazing Snail is a very organized snail. I touch on this a little in one of the strips where Snail has organized all their DVDs by the ISBN. Having children organize their videos or games in some form could be fun too. Maybe they organize them by the ones they play the most or watch the most. They don’t need to take Snail’s extreme approach!

Bean and Snail organized
Excerpt from Amazing Bean


  • Casey, M Beth., Lippman, Marjory “Learning to Plan Through Play.” Young Children May(1991): 52-58
  • Reitzes, Fretta. Teitelman, Beth: Wonder Play. Philadelphia: Running, 1995.
  • Washington, George. Letter to Steptoe Washington. 5 December 1790.