Utilize special songs or cues. Children will learn
to associate that song mentally with clean up time. And
then theres the Mary Poppins-thing music and
a positive attitude can make a chore seem more fun.
Have shelves labeled with words and pictures &/or
silhouettes. This makes putting toys away
self-correcting, and a skill building matching game, in
which children can experience success and be
self-sufficient. Your environment should make sense
and areas should lend themselves to appropriate use and
clean up. Everything should have a logical place.
Assign specific taskswhen necessary. Some
children truly do not know how to clean up or know where
to start. Many young children come home to a magically
clean home and are not expected to clean their rooms.
They actually need to be taught this skill. You
may have to teach children to sort the
manipulatives, instead of just throwing them all into the
Clean up as you go throughout the day. Children
should not be allowed to leave an area to go to another
area without first picking up what they took out.
If one area of the room is consistently a nightmare at
clean up time, examine the problem. An example of
this would be the Homeliving Area. We often add to
the environment, yet forget to take things out of it,
creating an overwhelming mess at clean up time.Sometimes
less is more. If only 4 children are allowed in theHomeliving
Area, you dont need 10 purses or a table setting
Make a mental note of which children were playing in
which area(s) during freeplay time. Ya gotta
love the child who, when you give your five minute
transition warning, scoots quickly out of the really
messy Homeliving Area! You also know that someone
was playing with the blocks even though everyone insists
"not me!". Quickly jot this down if you need
When a child wants to start some elaborate or
complicated game or activity ten minutes before it is
time to clean up, let him make the
choice. Some children dont mind putting
something awayhalfway through, and some do. Let
them make an informed decision and retain having
Working together is the focus of clean up time. You
will, of course, hear the, "I didnt do it/Its
not my mess" argument. Acknowledge that fact, talk
about being a team and working together. Thank that child
for helping, even though it wasnt his/her mess. And
there is always the natural and logical consequence of
"The sooner our room is clean, the sooner we can
__________." Use the next activity as a motivator.
Start cleaning up some areas sooner. If you can
see an area is going to be difficult or time consuming to
clean up, get a head start on it.
Dont be locked into everything having to be
cleaned up daily. If your children build an elaborate
block structure they want to show their parents, consider
the possibility of saving it. They can then expand upon
it over the next few days.
Only certain areas of the room should be open at the
beginning and end of the day for manageability purposes. It
is really not fair to that 6:00 pm child to have to clean
up the entire Block Area because all of the other
children have left for the day.
Ask parents to help and to reinforce you by having
their children put away what theyre doing before
they go home. Children often want to run to their
cubbie and get their coat the minute they see their
parent. Politely redirect the child back, because he/she
"forgot to do something." Thank the parent(s),
let them know you appreciate their support with this,
that you know they are tired and probably just want to
get home etc.
GAMES/IDEAS TO MAKE CLEAN UP FUN:
Beat the Clock" use an egg timer, kitchen
timer, the clock, etc.
"I Spy" (naming overlooked items, having
children figure out what they are)
Assign different colors of items to each child to pick up
Have each child pick up 10 items (or however many)
- "Surprising" the Teacher that is coming back
into the room
Assign cleaning buddies or create "teams"
A "contest" as to which area or team can be
"I need my best puzzle-doer! Who is really
good at puzzles?!"
"Who knows where this goes?" (appeal to
their sense of competency)
Be funny "Does it go here? "
(naming an obviously silly place)
Nominate a daily cleaning "Inspector" or
"Im hungry for " Have children put
things back in bin (that you hold) pretending and naming
a food that they would like to eat. Involve them.
Reward teamwork. A marble goes into a jar each
time children work together without being asked, to earn
a special treat or activity
Puppets talking to, giving directives, and encouraging
children to clean up
A round of applause when the room is clean. Yeah!!!!!
Positive reinforcement, praise, and enthusiasm work