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Top tips for making children less likely to lose possessions

If you're sick of young ones misplacing their stuff, try some of these ideas to help them understand value and learn to look after things

By Lisa Salmon

Young children losing their possessions is the bane of nearly every parent's life. Research has found that mums spend more than £1,500 replacing items lost by their kids between the ages of three and 10, plus nearly two days looking for a total of 483 lost items over the years.

The most common items to lose are hats, jumpers and cuddly toys, and the research by children's label manufacturer NeatlyNamed found 62% of lost possessions such as coats, school uniform items and books, are never found again.

Around half of mothers say they've known their children to lose items within just 20 minutes of getting them, and 40% admit they've had to replace the same item repeatedly. But six in 10 mums say losing items as a child helps them appreciate the value of things later in life.

"How you deal with this when they're very young makes it easier - or not so easy if you don't do it properly - when they get a bit older," says parenting expert Suzie Hayman, agony aunt for Woman magazine.

"It's your job as a parent to be in charge. You cannot expect a young person to manage looking after their stuff - you have to be hyper-vigilant and watch whether they drop a toy or whatever, and gradually let them understand that it's their job to look after their stuff."

Here are some top tips to help your kids keep tabs on their possessions:

1. Get them into a routine to help them remember to put their stuff away in or out of the house.

2. Put a checklist above their backpacks or even just inside it, to remind them what goes inside.

3. Make sure there's a natural consequence for losing something - replacing an item with their own money, or if they're too young for that, perhaps missing a play date to go with you to buy another, or simply going without a coat and getting cold if they've lost their new one.

4. Don't just tell them how to keep track of their possessions - ask them what they think would help them not to lose things.

5. Explain value to young children, and play games where they buy things with pretend money. Suzie says: "This can be very useful with young children, because they start building up this idea of value, and that to get something, you have to give something."

6. Label everything with their full name, and keep reminding them about looking after their things.

7. By the time children go to secondary school, they should be fully responsible for their possessions. "They should realise you had to pay for it and if they lose it they have to pay for it," says Suzie.

8. Don't bail children out if they lose things. "It seems the easy option because you don't have an argument or tears," says Suzie. "But what you will have is more losses, because why should they ever learn if you're always going to bail them out? They're always going to look to you to help because you've shown them you're a sucker. That's not a good lesson, and you're not helping them to grow up and be responsible."

9. Come up with ideas to make sure they don't lose things, or have them stolen. If they lose something, walk them back through when they last had it, where could it have gone, etc.

10. Young children can't be expected to be responsible when they're little, but they can expect you to teach them responsibility.

11. Teach them how to look after their possessions in the same way you'd teach them to cross the road. "Start by holding their hand, then teaching them how to do it, then you let them have a few practice runs while you're looking after them, and then finally you let them cross on their own," explains Suzie.

12. Rewards can be used if a child is struggling with not losing things and doesn't lose anything for a certain period, but be careful not to reward them for simply behaving normally.

13. Remember children are much less likely to lose something when they've paid for it themselves.

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