Guest blogger Kris Corrigan, Early Childhood Specialist and ERS Assessor returns with tips and strategies for clean-up time.
Now that your classroom is organized and you have decided on a clean-up routine to follow, it’s time to teach your expectations.
Teach your clean-up routine
It is important to take time at the beginning of the year to introduce your centers and discuss where toys should be used and put away. One activity that worked for me was to bring a box of toys to the rug at group time, and have each child find its home. When children know where things belong, they are less likely to become overwhelmed.
Prepare for change
Children become very engrossed in their play and may become upset if play is interrupted abruptly. It’s best if you give them a signal to prepare them for clean-up time. Turning off the light and announcing in 5 more minutes it will be clean-up time is effective. Children will quickly learn that it means it won’t be long before the clean-up song starts and they need to finish their play.
Save work when possible
If a child needs more time, put it on a shelf so the child can work on it the next day. An elaborate block design might not be able to be saved, but the teacher can take a picture of it so the child can have a memento to share with the class.
This is a great prompt for getting children to start clean-up. An up-beat song will also create enthusiasm as children will quickly learn the words and sing-a-long as they work.
Clean-up time can be a nightmare if we do not match tasks with children’s developmental level. Children will quickly become overwhelmed and act out, walk away or refuse to help.
- Two-year-olds – Children this age can follow simple instructions, but it works best if you model the process as you work alongside them. Give them simple tasks that are fun (Let’s drive the truck over to its spot or Let’s go put the baby back to bed).
- Three-year-olds – Three-year-olds will remember where toys go and can stick with a task as long as you are there to guide them. They delight in showing you what they know. Try putting a toy in the wrong place and ask the children if this is where it belongs. The children will find this funny and delight in showing you its proper place.
- Four-year-olds – Four-year-old will still need your help is the clean-up task is large. At this age, children can clean-up quickly and are good at sorting and finding where toys belong. When I taught 4-year-olds, they liked to beat the clean-up song.
What are your best ideas for songs or activities to motivate children to clean-up?