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When Toddlers Lose Stuff

Kids this age are notorious for misplacing their favorite things around the house and begging you to help find them. And if they're in preschool, that means they have even more items to lose, like lunch boxes and book bags. Unfortunately, preschoolers aren't hardwired to understand what happens when they drop stuff and leave it where it lands. (Think "out of sight, out of mind.") But this is the perfect time to teach your child to keep track of his possessions. Here's how:

Tell him that everything has its own place. Buy separate bins for crayons, small toys, school supplies-anything he uses often that otherwise gets scattered around the house. See-through plastic containers work best. Taping a photo or drawing of what's inside on the outside of the bin will help your child learn what goes where. Get him into the habit of putting everything back where it belongs before starting a new activity.

Make a game of it. Cathy O'Brien of Farmingham, NH, plays a detective game with her son TK, 5, using clues to help him figure out where he last put the object he's looking for. "It motivates him to retrace his steps instead of having me do it for him," she says.

Create consequences for losing stuff. Deb Widner of Columbus, OH, has a "Saturday box," where any objects that aren't picked up and put away go each night, unable to be retrieved until Saturday. Use one of those and your child will learn soon enough not to leave his favorite truck out.