Staying On Track With Thomas

Have you ever made a recipe, but forgot to include an essential ingredient? Completed your “to do” list, but forgot to return an important phone call? We’ve all felt rushed at times, and this can lead to accidental omissions. How can we slow down, and make sure we keep track of what matters? This is the challenge that Thomas the Tank Engine™ faces in the book Thomas’ Train. It is the fourth in Caribu’s series of Thomas & Friends™ 75th Anniversary Video Read Alouds featuring Kevin Jonas.

In this story, Thomas is given a new responsibility: he’s assigned to pull a passenger train because one of the other engines is sick. In his excitement, he forgets to attach himself to the passenger cars, and he accidentally leaves the station without them! The journey seems easy for Thomas until he discovers his mistake. 

Thomas’ Train teaches an important lesson about being patient. No matter how pressing a deadline is or how exciting an upcoming event may be, if we make a mistake on the way, we will have to face the consequences. It’s important to slow down so that we don’t lose sight of what’s most important. 

Children, too, need extra time to perform activities successfully and keep track of important details. They are still developing their executive functioning skills, which help them to prioritize and complete tasks. For many kids, it is a challenge to organize belongings and keep up with daily schedules. 

Here are some tips to help your family stay organized, calm and on track: 

Organize in advance: If objects in your home tend to go missing, you might want to take some time to reorganize. Explore systems of organizers, bins and drawers that can help you and family members provide “homes” to essential items. Label each space with words and pictures so that it’s clear where each item belongs. (There’s a reason why teachers organize classrooms this way!) Consider assigning each person a bin in the kitchen or communal areas. That way, they can keep track of their own necessities, and grab them when time is tight.  

Eliminate Distractions: When you or your children are working on a project, try to make time and space to focus on each task one by one. If possible, find a clean and quiet space in your home with comfortable seating and lots of room to work. Clear off the area, and turn off devices not being used. Refer to the activity instructions, and break each task into manageable steps. Before yelling “I’m done!” check off each required step to make sure that it has been completed. 

Take Time to Clean-Up: Cleaning up before and after activities can save precious time that might be lost looking for missing items. Leave 5-10 minutes at the end of each activity for clean-up time. Make sure to return each item you are using to its “home.”

You can also use music to cue “clean-up time” and make this more fun. Many kids learn “clean-up” songs at school that you can try at home. Or, play a sequence of songs that lasts for 5-10 minutes. When the music stops, the messy area should be clean! As you repeat this routine, the music signals to kids that it’s time to pack-up. Consider giving kids an incentive for meeting regular clean-up goals.

Use checklists: For activities and events that require extra materials, create checklists for each family member. Before the activity begins, everyone should check their list! You can also use your cell phone to set reminder alerts so you don’t forget specific details. 

Make it a team effort: If everything gets lost in your home, it’s time for the whole household to take a step back. Make a plan together that includes some of the suggestions above. Divide and conquer with organization tasks. Consider assigning each person a specific space or room to monitor. Schedule days and times to tidy specific areas or complete a general clean-up. 

Take a deep breath: Both kids and adults can sometimes reach a frustration point. Take a step back from a stressful task and sit down if you can. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. When you feel ready, take a few minutes to review the steps of your task. If time allows, grab a glass of water, or get some fresh air. 

When you return to the problem, try approaching it from a new angle; or try physically moving to a different space that could give you a new perspective. Enlist the help of friends or family who can look at the situation with fresh eyes. 

Don’t beat yourself up: Just like Thomas, we all make mistakes. Even if you do lose track, apologize sincerely for the error and correct it. Make a plan to improve, and commit to goals that will help you avoid similar situations in the future. 

Thomas’ Train is just one of many Thomas & Friends™ stories that teach us about being patient and focused in our approach to hard work. Join Caribu as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of this timeless series with four Video Read alouds featuring Kevin Jonas. Use the ‘Videos’ tab of your iOS app to find Thomas and the Freight Cars when you’re ready for your #CaribuBreak