3 minute read


  1. How it started
  2. What items can be color coded
  3. Reason for color coding

How it started

Color coding for kids started when the Mitchells had only one or two kids. The first color coded items were dishes. The first child had red plates, bowls and cups and the second child had all the same blue dishes. When each child was old enough to walk, then they were old enough to be responsible for carrying dishes from the table to the sink. At a glance Amy could tell who hadn’t cleared their dishes. Kids from a young age are capable of cleaning up after themselves.

As their family size grew, they added more colors. Next they added green, yellow and purple with each additional child. Though they started out with dishes, they also added color to towels. When Amy sees a towel on the floor she knows who it belongs to and they are responsible for picking it up themselves. All members of an organized family are in charge of keeping thier own personal items picked up. Parents do not do it for them.

What items can be color coded

As years went on, the Mitchells added more color coded items: backpacks for school, balloons from a carnival, pencils from the dentist… These colors saved time having to write down names on all the items.

Kids seem to always remember what is their’s and what is their sibling’s, but this system of color coding helps the parents keep belongings straight too.

Kids still have freedom to choose their own favorite color if it differs from their assigned color. Green child has always been assigned green, but his favorite colors has changed a few times. He enjoyed green for awhile, but later changed his favorite color to blue and then to orange. Red child accepts pink for color coded color too, when red isn’t available. And actually she loves every color of the rainbow.

Color coding has helped this organized family in other ways too. When filing school papers, Amy just puts the child’s papers in file folders of their assigned color. They have also used those colors to tag budgeting tasks in their digital budgeting program, to remind them a of a child’s financial responsibility.

Dave and Amy were kinda out of sync the last time the family went on vacation to Grandma’s house and kids used random colored towels from the closet. They couldn’t remember who belonged to each towel, and they missed their easy system they use regularly at home.

You could also color code with sleeping bags, camping chairs, or scooters. If you can’t find that item in one of your assigned colors, you could tie a colored ribbon to it, or paint a strip of colored paint onto it, or wrap new handle bars covers on in the color assigned.

Parents don’t have assigned colors.

The kids started out with these color coded plastic dishes (so they wouldn’t break as they dropped them in to the sink). As they’ve grown older we’ve asked them if they would like to move on to using the family glass dishes, but they like having their own set of dishes.

Reason for Color Coding

Color coding started out to teach children responsibility. It helped the parents know who they needed to follow up with to pick up after themselves.

It also helped parents know what items belonged to what child.

If kids moved on to glass dishes, there probably isn’t the need to stay with color coded dishes, because by now they know to put away their own dishes after every meal. Not much follow up is required any more.

Once the Mitchells even took a family picture with all the kids in a shirt of their assigned color. It was a fun memory and a very colorful picture.

Toothbrushes could also be color coded.

The reason for all this is to teach kids responsibility and to help parents stay organized.

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