Projects for Children
Summer Solutions to Children’s Boredom and Messy Rooms
By Daryl Hoole

Editor’s note: Daryl Hoole is answering homemaking questions from readers. These answers are appearing once a month on Mondays, alternating with her regular At Home column. Questions from readers will appear in boldface, with answers in normal type. If you have a homemaking question for Daryl, instructions on how to write to her can be found at the end of this column.

It’s a long, hot summer and I’m frustrated with pre-teen and teenage children who are just sitting around in messy rooms doing nothing. During the school year there is enough structure to keep them productive and happy, but right now they’re lazy and bored. Your recent columns on tips for motivating children and teens to help about the house make a lot of sense. Basically our children are cooperative, and I feel sure those suggestions will work well at our house once the children are back in school. At the moment, however, I’ve used up all my ideas. My question is, what can I do right now to help them have more productive and pleasant days?

May I suggest two projects that may solve both problems (boredom and messy rooms). One project would be to help each of your children create a personal “treasure chest” or “memory box.” The other would be to assist each of them to set up a small file for storing papers they want to keep. In both cases, their rooms would be cleaned and organized in the process. Cleaning and organizing usually works best with a specific purpose in mind. Let me explain, beginning with the treasure chest.

Treasure Chest or Memory Box

Children of any age love a keepsake box. It can be dubbed a “treasure chest” a “memory box,” “Bob’s Bin,” or whatever suits each child. It can be a large, plastic storage bin or any type of container that is each child’s alone and in which he or she can keep favorite things. These items can include a special item from a great-grandparent, a beloved baby blanket, a Scout shirt with merit badges in place, manila envelopes containing the ten “best” school papers of each year, a video of the school play, or a favorite toy such as a doll or teddy bear. It can contain anything of sentimental value, as well as the usual scrapbooks and photo albums.

As you work with them in sorting, selecting, and discarding items, good things should start to happen. First of all, their rooms will get a good de-junking. Stuff from under the beds, at the back of closets, or buried in drawers can be cleared out. It can be a real life experience for your children to learn to appreciate the value of not being encumbered by too much stuff. Next, each item selected as a “keeper” may prompt a teaching moment, a blessing to count, or something tender or humorous between you and the child. Most importantly, keeping a treasure chest can be an ongoing project. As more items are added over time, its value will increase year by year.

Someone once said, “In all our giving to our children, let’s make certain we give them roots and wings.” A Treasure Chest, with its selected contents, can give them roots – deep ties to the past with people, things, values and ideals. A Treasure Chest can also give them wings – hopes for the future with confidence, courage, goals, and dreams. It can set a standard for doing things that are worth remembering and collecting things that are worth saving.

Filing System

The second summer project is to help your children set up a simple filing system. First, select a file container for each child. It can be just a box from the grocery store, or you can buy small, inexpensive file containers at a local office supply store. Be sure to purchase Pendaflex folders for keeping the filed papers in order and upright in the container. By the way, these folders are now available in bright colors, instead of only “corporate” gray-green. Alternatively, you can scan the papers to create PDF files to be stored electronically.

Just as with the keepsake box, this is an opportunity to work with your children in organizing their rooms as together you select, sort, and discard papers. Teach your children to discern which papers should be kept and which should be thrown away. Then, help them set up a simple filing system that will work for them until they’re mature enough for something more complicated. (For the more complicated system, click on “Winning the Paper War.” or see The Ultimate Career, p. 17-19)

It’s never too early for children to learn to organize their important papers so they can be located easily when they are needed. A collection of good material from church, seminary, school and elsewhere can be a valuable resource.

Sooner or later, everyone needs to set up a filing system rather than conduct a search-and-rescue mission when retrieving important papers. Do your children a big favor and help them do this sooner – in fact, this summer!

Try these projects. I think your children and you will like them. Not only will they help you have a more productive, pleasant summer, but the treasure chests and files will be around to bless lives for a long time to come.

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Daryl will be the guest speaker at the Alaska Wasilla Stake Women’s Conference, August 3-4, at the Wasilla Stake Center located at 901 E. Bogard in Wasilla, Alaska. The conference will begin Friday, August 3 rd , at 12:45 p.m. and continue through Saturday, August 4 th until 2:30 p.m. For further information, contact Sr. Mardene Collins at

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Look for Daryl Hoole at BYU Education Week, August 20-24. She will be speaking each day of the conference from 9:50-10:45 at the Wilkinson Student Center, room 3228.

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By Daryl Hoole

Note: In addition to my monthly column on home management and family living that appears on Meridian the second Monday of each month, I’m pleased to respond to your concerns in a “Question and Answer” format the fourth Monday of each month. Please submit your questions to me, Daryl, at It isn’t feasible for Meridian to handle all the questions that come to me, so I’m addressing other questions and including additional information on my personal website,