Who is in your zoo? Are you raising a horse, a lion, a dog or a penguin?

One of my favorite Disney movies was Dumbo, the others being Bambi and the Fox & the Hound. It’s no surprise I love animals. My 6 year old son doesn’t like Dumbo because he thinks it makes him mad to see Dumbo suffer and struggle and very sad to see how mean people can be to an adorable little elephant! As a Mom, I see it with different eyes and took the time to explain to him why I thought that the movie was very special to me. Dumbo was a sweet little elephant, the only thing peculiar about him was his ears! The world pounced on his peculiarity and made it a curse.

It took Dumbo much soul searching and determination to prove that he was not peculiar but indeed special. Most often we find a huge pressure from society to fit in, for the fear of being labeled and branded. In the process we forget the most fundamental truth – that each of us came here with a special gift that we brought with us to share and shine. However rather than focus on our strengths and use them to be a natural at where it leads us, we start to attack our weakness and spend our entire life making it better than thy neighbor so we can fit in. The only person who has control over this outlook is ourselves, but as a role model for our kids we have to go on a little treasure hunt to identify their strengths and hone in on them rather than make them better than their friend Pete!

Once Dumbo found purpose for his peculiar ears, he became a Hero! This is what I wanted my son to see – that with perspective and passion one can shine in life no matter what the world thought of it – Disney taught us this valuable lesson through Dumbo!

Now before you get upset with me for calling your clan a Zoo, let me assure you that it’s all done with the best intention and loads of good humor. Better still, it’s actually a fun tool to help you understand your kids natural gifts so you can help them thrive. I am not kidding! You will be surprised to know that there has been much thought and research to categorize thinking and organizing styles in children to help them thrive in today’s world!

I came across this book called “Every child has a thinking style” by Lanna Nakone and couldn’t put it down. Not only was it intriguing and amusing like the Zodiac signs by Linda Goodman, it was actually very insightful to understand and provide an environment for my little fellow to thrive.

Lanna Nakone took the joy upon herself to devote time to study how children think and organize. Her findings give us a toolkit to understand how children face their challenges and reach their true potential. Here is a broad summary of her field study and fascinating discoveries.

Basic profiles of the 4 organizing types

Maintainers – Mascot: “The Penguin”

  • The Penguin follows routines and is very predictable.
  • Brain location: The basal (back) left hemisphere. This part of the brain helps us maintain systems and places an emphasis on existing routines. Children gifted in this area prefer a structured and “traditional” organizing environment. They are the natural masters of organization and need only be supported in what society rewards them for doing.

Harmonizer – Mascot: “The Dog”

  • The Dog thrives in packs with other dogs, and so the Dog style loves human company. Dogs are known to bury bones and precious toys in the yard. By gathering toys and items of past experiences, harmonizers tend to collect a great deal of stuff and have issues parting with it.
  • Brain location: The basal (back) right hemisphere. This part of the brain helps us develop a sense of harmony and connectedness. Children gifted in this area desire organization if it enhances their relationships and helps them keep their environment peaceful. These children tend to focus on other people’s needs first and their needs and things second.

Innovators – Mascot: “The Horse”

  • The Horse is unpredictable and likes to be free and unstructured but also can be extremely focused in a particular situation and is the vehicle for covering wide distances both literally, in space, and imaginatively,in creative endeavors.
  • Brain location: The frontal/right hemisphere. This part of the brain helps all of us envision possibilities, imagine, and also make real changes. Children gifted in this area have a unique “stacking” system for managing their environment and need to have things out, right in front of them, as much as possible.
  • They tend to live by the axiom “out of sight, out of mind.” Innovator children have a strong aversion to daily routines and repetitive maintenance tasks. They need easy, “maintenance-free” and fun organizing strategies – nothing else will work!

Prioritizers – Mascot: “The Lion”

  • The Lion wants to be the master of its environment, and its agility enables them to be quick to the chase and hit the bull’s-eye time and time again.
  • Brain location: The frontal/left hemisphere. This is the part of the brain that helps us set and achieve goals. Children gifted in this area like order but prefer to delegate the tasks of organizing and maintaining to others. Prioritizing children tend to want to be in charge, give directions and make decisions to delegate. If organizing structures are minimal but functional, the Prioritizer will flourish

We have a fun exercise here for you to create a virtual pet using Scratch programming.  Enjoy, learn and share!

How is this useful to me? Pick your best match from above and delve deeper

new-pingQualities and Traits of the Maintaining –Style Child – Penguin

Cautious Practical Detailed Predictable
Exact Realistic Factual Reliable
Follows directions Task-driven Industrious Thorough
Orderly Uncluttered Persistent

Maintaining Style: “Penguin” Overview

Purpose: To provide consistency, reliability, and stability for themselves and for others.
Organization of space:They like things to be “just so.” They are the quintessential organizers in the making whose motto is “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”
Strengths:They are great helpers in labeling and putting things away. Maintainers also want to assist their family and friends on all tasks.
Challenges:Not apt to try new things without a lot of preparation.

Maintaining Style:Time Calendar: Needs to know what is expected of them and what they need to do at all times. Works well with a basic calendar. Provide plenty of room for them to write in activities, even on the weekends!
To-do list: Enjoys making lists and checking things off when completed.
Goals: Punctuality and doing it right.

Maintaining Style: Home Bedroom: Spends extra time to be sure belongings are neat and in order. Meticulous quality in arranging things,down to size, color, and function.
Memorabilia: Takes good care of special possessions and keeps them for a long time. Things are well organized,clean and labeled.
Strengths: Likes to use containers to hold cherished possessions. Maintainers are willing to give things away once they know the particulars about why and heave pre-planned how much stuff they plan to keep.
Challenges: Likes to have things just so and dedicates time alone, away from friends and family, to keeping order.Not very flexible about change and often unwilling to compromise their standards of quality to work with others.

Maintaining Style: School Homework: Prefers working at the same time and place every single day. Dislikes being rushed and does not work well under pressure. Hands in assignments on time.
Strengths: Loves details, is an excellent speller, and has neat penmanship. Willing and eager to follow directions.
Challenges: Doesn’t like creative problem-solving. May have difficulty with assignments when directions are vague.

Balloon-DogQualities and Traits of the Harmonizing Style Child – Dog

Adaptable Generous Caring Intuitive
Cooperative Personable Devoted Sensitive
Dramatic Sociable Emotional Supportive
Empathetic Sympathetic Friendly Understanding

Harmonizing Style: “Dog” Overview

Purpose: To achieve harmony with people and things. Their surroundings need to be a bit more relaxed than the traditional definition of organizing, with easy maintenance systems in place.
Organization of space: Crave a relationship with people and their environment that is harmonious, peaceful, and comfortable.
Strengths: Sensitive and generous to the needs of others and passionate about wanting to be of service.
Challenges: Has way too many things and does not dedicate time to handling their stuff. Being on time and acting efficiently isa challenge. They are more concerned with feelings than productivity.

Harmonizing Style: Time Calendar: Needs something that is motivating, so it’s best to feature a photo of family/friends on the top of the calendar.Place it strategically, on their desk or bedroom wall. Personalize time for them. They can wear a fun watch or have a great alarm clock that plays sounds of the ocean. Anything to make time less objective and more inviting will do!
To-do list: It is effective if they can create one big list for each area, like homework, personal goals, or hobbies. Not a big list maker, like the Maintaining-style child.
Goals: All needs and motives revolve around relating to others. Help them organize their time to be sure they take care of their own work and play as well.
Strengths: Loves being with people, animals, or nature. Less concerned about time and more involved with engaging with others.
Challenges: Has a challenge sticking to a schedule when little help is provided.

Harmonizing Style: At Home Bedroom: Enjoys a colorful, busy bedroom with lots of items scattered throughout. May have a lot of clothes, stuffed animals,plants, pets, fun pictures, or inspirational prints that make their space feel more alive and happy.
Closets: Does well sorting by style and color.
Drawers: Different drawers or stacking bins/baskets for different items by color and category. Not overly organized, but stacked horizontally.
Memorabilia: Needs to have a structure in place so they know how long to keep certain things and when to give them away.Need to keep as much stuff as possible with easy access.
Storage: The more attractive, the better. They’ll have fun if things look pretty. Sometimes it helps to color-code their boxes.
Strengths: Enjoys helping others in performing tasks. Likes to keep a lot of special things around to remind them of happy times.
Challenges: Needs a friend or an organizing best buddy to help them determine what to keep and where to keep it.

Harmonizing Style: At School Homework: Thrives in a comfortable environment, where people are around. Deadlines need to be set and enforced, kindly, by others.
Strengths:Social and helpful to their friends and kind to their teachers. Committed to working hard once they see how their work benefits or pleases others.
Challenges: Have a difficult time getting assignments in on time. Tend to spend time at school socializing more than studying

Balloon-HorseQualities and Traits of the Innovating-Style Child – Horse

Artistic Independent Assertive Inquisitive
Charismatic Inspired Creative Intuitive
Curious Inventive Daring Spatial
Imaginative Spontaneous Impulsive Visionary

Innovating Style: “Horse” Overview

Purpose : To be creative, expand their horizons, notice new things and patterns, and cultivate a vision of the future.
Organization of space: They need to have things out in the open as much as possible. They keep track of things they can see.
Strengths: They are very creative, quick workers and when they want to accomplish something they do it with great passion and force. They are great at originating ideas. They are big-picture thinkers.
Challenges: They have a hard time with follow-through and completion of details. They do not like to be told what to do and how to do it.

Innovating Style: Time Calendar: If it is big and strategically place, they may use it. May need some support with follow-through.
To-do list: Don’t even attempt it!
Goals: Able to originate many new ideas in very little time.
Strengths: Are hyper focused when they are working on something they enjoy or are interested in. If inspired, they make the most of every moment.
Challenges: Need to be reminded when things are due and of appointments that need to be met. Do not like to be disturbed by others.

Innovating Style:At Home Bedroom: Prefers that personal belongings be left out. Need hooks for clothing and nets hung here and there to hold stuffed animals, toys, etc.
Closets: Find it much easier to hang rather than fold because they are better able to see what’s there and it is easier for them to remember to use it.
Drawers: Get rid of them! Use clear plastic or wire grid stacking boxes.
Memorabilia: Tend to keep some of it, for no apparent reason, and then out of the blue, will toss it out and not look back.
Storage: Visually store things in clear boxes with lids or wire systems so they can be stacked and seen. Make this as easy as possible.
Strengths: Are good at space planning and organizing things in unique and personal ways.
Challenges: They may need help purging annually and getting things organized consistently. They like to be left to their own devices much of the time.

Innovating Style: At School Homework: Need your help to get things done with the right materials books, and files and handed in on time. May need to have two sets of schools books and have a homework notebook that has in one column, a date for what is due, and what it is, and another column listing the supplies.
Strength: Are very creative and an inspiration to their classmates. Are funny and able to come up with original and uplifting ideas.
Challenges: Tend to do things at the last minute and can lose important papers and materials. Also, they tend to think about projects ahead of time and then actually do them at the last minute.

Machovka-lionQualities and Traits of the Prioritizing Style – Lion

Analytical Factual Assertive Goal-driven
Calculating Logical Competitive Mathematical
Decisive Objective Thorough
Determined Tenacious Direct

Prioritizing Style: Lion Overview

Purpose:To set and achieve goals
Organization of space: They like things to function well and want their things to be in a logical space. They prefer to delegate the organizing jobs.
Strengths: Good at making the best use of their time. Tend to be hyper focused and driven at accomplishing a meaningful goal.
Challenges:They prefer not to do any organizing if possible. They will only do it if they see the value in it. They are also not that sensitive to people’s feelings.

Prioritizing Style: Time Calendar: Has the ability to keep pretty much in their own head, but strongly rely on others for help.
To-do list: Has the ability to keep pretty much of their to-dos in their head, but may have a master goal list going on.
Goals: To get the most use of their time and get the most done.
Strengths: Very good at time management, punctual-maybe a couple minutes early, functions at a high level.
Challenges: Wants to make decisions and be in charge. Has difficulty accommodating to anyone else’s schedule.

Prioritizing Style: Home Bedroom: Prefers to have minimal things, but in order. Accolades may be welcomed on walls, and awards are predominantly placed.
Closets: Prefers to have a clean, aesthetic with matching hangers and everything in perfect order.
Drawers: What little they own, they like to have easily accessible and have few but the best.
Memorabilia: Tends to keep things that denote victory and success, like athletic or academic awards.
Storage: Would like to spend their allowance money on tools and equipment. They want functional storage with minimal of upkeep.
Strengths: A pristine, functional environment.Challenges: Want to delegate maintaining.

Prioritizing Style: School Homework: Does whatever is necessary to meet goals, and works diligently in a quiet area with minimal distraction.
Strengths: Is a goal-oriented student.
Challenges: Managing emotions and feelings and being told what to do.

I am a big believer that “knowledge is power’. The more I know, the better chances are that I will use it to make my life better! Now that you have a good idea of what style your child might be, what changes are you planning to make in the way you will give them tasks or use their strengths? Please share your thoughts in the comments below