“I can’t find it… will you help me?”  is the most overused phrase in most households, … and it is not always my children who can’t find their things… many times it is me.    Frustrations can get high, especially if there is an important time factor involved.   As parents, this can be a time that we don’t necessarily handle the situation well.


Sometimes it seems like children have a limited vision when they are looking for something.

WHERE are the keys? They are supposed to be right HERE !

Even I don’t handle it well… sometimes.   Emotionally I get upset that it wasn’t put away correctly, and that they can’t find it by themselves, and require my help when I am trying to get myself ready.   Those negative feelings can permeate the entire household, burst out in unfriendly words, and even accompany us in the car for a long time.  Hmmm… not a great way to start a trip… to anywhere.  I don’t want it to be that way… I want my children to learn how to help themselves, to help others, and to be on our way with happy hearts.   Our family does not have this down perfect yet, but we are improving.


Fact is… parents need a PLAN –  to TEACH our family to keep track of our things better, and how to make searching for missing items more successful and upbeat… and prevent those negative nelly vibes.  Fortunately, songs and silliness can be a key part of that plan.  Developing routines and positive practice with songs and silliness can make improve competence with both skills, therefore improving a child’s confidence that they CAN know where things are, and search effectively to find something.

“It’s not lost until Mom can’t find it”… is the norm for most families.


The ability to SEARCH well is a SKILL,

one that we, as mothers, have perfected with extensive practice.

The key to PUTTING THINGS AWAY in a designated place is part of a  ROUTINE,

first by having a specific place for each thing,

and making it a habit to put it away… right away.


These are life skills that do NOT develop naturally,

it is not in our genetic code to develop these on our own,

it must be developed through guidance and practice with positive emotions,

Having these skills and routines will make a difference every single day of their lives.

So developing these skills must be started as young as possible.


“Out of sight, out of mind” – that is the mentality a child is born with :  it only exists if they can see it or feel it.  (Know any adults with this kind of mind set?)  Once their brain has developed enough that they can see it in their mind – only then do they “know” it is gone, and want it back… mom is usually the first “picture” that forms in a baby’s mind, and they express the desire for her return by “asking for help”, ie. crying.   Thus the pattern develops… “I realize it is missing, so I ask for help, and it appears.”   Unless we teach them differently, this pattern will continue… indefinitely.

As parents, we don’t stop helping our children… that’s what parents are for.  But as they grow physically and cognitively, we can gradually teach new skills to replace some of the need to be helped, AND allow them to be helpful to others.  And make it fun !



There are many songs that can be sung to help the process of searching.  You may have learned one as a child.  If so, please share the song in the comments.     We teach many in Kindermusik classes, especially in the upcoming unit of Milk & Cookies for the toddlers and 2 year olds.   But one of my favorites is an old southern song I learned when I was a child, The Paw Paw Patch.  And we did sing the chorus as pick up many things (cleaning the house, picking vegetables in the garden, picking up dog poop…)  My mom loves to sing… and was willing to use these songs as a tool to get us to do chores !


Where, Oh, Where is pretty little Suzie?

Where, Oh, Where is pretty little Suzie?

Where, Oh, Where is pretty little Suzie?

Way down yonder in the paw paw patch.


Picking up paw paws, putting ‘em in the basket.

Picking up paw paws, putting ‘em in the basket.

Picking up paw paws, putting ‘em in the basket.

Way down yonder in the paw paw patch.


Haven’t heard it?  Enjoy this video of the song as part of the series “Songs for Little Kids” by Little Fox.  Their words are a little different, but it’s a great cartoon, and definitely helps you get the melody in your head.



To begin with, we start by building in the FUN factor.  Regularly playing a game along with the song helps CONNECT the song to FUN.  So a great beginning activity is to sing while playing hide and seek with your child… using the child’s name instead of Suzie.  Children LOVE to hide and be found, and be physically held and hugged when they are found.  This can be as simple as having a baby hiding underneath a blanket or scarf, while the adult sings, then lifts the blanket when singing “Way down yonder in the paw paw patch.”   Then sing “YES, I found her, hug and kiss her…”  or “I found Sammy, Tickle his belly…”   Make up the words to match what your child likes !

Where, oh, where, oh where is Daddy?”




Then, when YOU have lost something, and are looking for it, start singing the song while searching, even when holding the young child, or as the child watches you… without asking for help.   Just make sure they can hear your fun singing, and that you get excited when you find what you are looking for.


As the child begins to understand, and take it to the next level, start with a desired object, like a shaker, or a ball, and hide it to the side of them, or behind them, or under a blanket that they SAW you put it under.  Sing along as they look, and skip to the end phrase when they find it.




When the child seems to get tired of the game (stops looking, or gets distracted by something else), then pick up the object… WITH THE CHILD… and go to put the object where it belongs… right away.  Singing the name of the object and where it goes. “Picking up the shakers and put it in the basket…”  This starts the routine of putting things in the place where they belong, when finished with them.


If they are having a hard time putting it away, redirect them to think about what may be coming next and give them choices, “After we put this away… Let’s go get something to eat.  Would you like a banana, or some crunchy apple bits?”  Then you can begin to sing the song to find what they chose.

There are many ways to find a place for things.  With shoes being the most often lost, I found a wonderful website article which displays some creative ways to store shoes:  Shoe Storage Solutions by It’s Overflowing.   In my house, less is more.  This demonstrates the only kind of organization that works for shoes in my house.  I like that that you can SEE through this basket, and simply move it to sweep up any mess.




The next time you want to play with that object, start singing the song to find it as you are walking to where it belongs, then sing the name of the object, “… where are the shakers.”  and the place when it is found as the last line “Yes, we found them in the white basket.”   This starts the routine of beginning a search by looking where the object belongs, AND it reinforces that when you put things where they belong, it is much easier to find them.


I, myself, have been guilty of looking for an object in many different places, then finally finding it where it belongs. Ugh!   I will go to great lengths to teach my children better than that.




NOTE:  Being silly really catches their attention and sparks the release of chemicals in the brain that help connect this POSITIVE FEELING with the song, and with the actions of the skills we are learning.   How?


  • Exaggerate the motions of searching… point to the eyes, then point which way the eyes are looking.
  • Use American Sign Language for “Where” – the pointer finger moving around in the air along with the eyes.  Exaggerate saying the word repeatedly at the same time “Where?”
  • Look in the place it is supposed to be, and be TOTALLY SHOCKED if it isn’t there.
  • If it is in the place where it is supposed to be, exaggerate your PRIDE!  “TA DA!” add a trumpet sound, and do a little happy dance.
  • When searching for an object out of place, pretend to look in places they KNOW it won’t be… like in their shirt, or in your shoe, as well as places that it might be.  “We were in the kitchen, let’s look in the kitchen…”
  • When older, they will laugh when you try to find a shoe in the refrigerator, or a shaker in the bathroom sink.
  • Hint:  Never ever look in the toilet for something that’s not supposed to be there.  Just sayin’.
  • When an object that is out of place is finally found, act so SURPRISED !   Eyes so big, mouth open wide… gasping for air.  “WHAT ?!  That’s not where the shakers go.  Shakers go in the white basket.”  Then make a big deal about taking it to where it belongs.  On the way, if they are old enough, ask if it belongs in “wrong” places, sing along “Does it go in my big shoe?  Does it go under the table?”  Does it go on mommy’s head?”   They will laugh and say no, and help you know where it goes.  “ No, it goes in the white basket.”

I don’t recommend starting this process when you are late to get in the car.  Set aside blocks of time during the day to play around with these skills without the rush.   Try to plan to leave early enough that it doesn’t become stressful to have to find things.   Hahaha… yeah, well we can try.    When in a rush, sing the song, try to stay happy, find what you need and go.  Then evaluate the situation when you return, and try to set up more time to set it up for better success next time.

Of course, if needing to train older kids or other adults in the family, it may take a different approach.    But you may try it with a teenager and be amused by the reaction.  At least I got a good laugh out of it.



For a child, being helped is somewhat normal, but being help-FUL feels grown-up!   So, when given the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of something (e.g., helping mom find her keys) and also feel helpful and grown-up, most children jump at the chance.


Give them the opportunity by asking for help when you know the object is where it is supposed to be.  “Where, oh, where is puppy’s leash…”  “You FOUND it here on the hook by the door ”  Than back it up with fun, a fact, and an opportunity,  “TA DA!  THANK YOU, you know where the leash goes!  Let’s go for a walk.”

Simple SEEK and FIND GAMES are another way of giving them to opportunity to find something that we KNOW is on a printed page, and it encourages them to move their eyes around and look in different places.  Use spatial relationship words to help their eyes move around – like UP, DOWN, OVER the ____, UNDER the ____, BEHIND something, etc.   It is easy to do this with most picture books.  I love the Little Critter books that have a spider on each page.    This practice with spatial reference words will also help when they are looking around the house.  These can even be sung with the same tune.  ADD the silliness factor by singing in a high or low voice accordingly.

  • Let’s look low DOWN on the floor…
  • Let’s look UNDER this and that…
  • Let’s look HIGH up on the counters…
  • Lets move this and look BEHIND it…



WHAT SONG DO YOU USE to help your child with the search and find process?