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Obsessed With Order

Almost daily, Amy Spencer of Winlock, WA, finds herself stuck in a traffic jam  -- on her living-room floor. "Luke lines up his cars there, and he gets very upset if you disrupt the order," she says of her 3-year-old son.

You may have noticed that your child has a new passion for organizing anything he can get his hands on, from shoes to stuffed animals. Don't worry: He isn't showing signs of having an obsessive-compulsive disorder. He's simply trying to make some sense out of a world that, from his perspective, can seem over-whelming at times, says Judith Myers-Walls, Ph.D., associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. "Kids this age are learning how things work and fit together," she says.

Between 3 and 5, children finally gain the cognitive skills to link objects by function (toys that bounce) and category (things you wear), not just by appearance (stuff that's red).

Sizing up things this way is not only soothing for your child but will also make it easier for him to stay neat, now that he knows socks all go in one drawer and toys in another (at least in theory!).