Simple tricks to make cleanup time easier with children
What does cleanup time look like in your daycare? Do children rush to put everything away as soon as you ask them to or must you repeat your request many times before they finally spring into action? Does their level of motivation vary from day to day, from one hour to the next, or according to their mood?
Let’s be honest. “Smooth sailing” is not an expression that is normally associated with cleanup time. Children are rarely happy about having to put their toys away before lunch time or naptime. Are you in need of a few simple tricks? Read on and select a few ideas that will help you improve this routine. Keep in mind that consistency is key.
Labels on your bins
If you want things to end up in the correct bins, stick a label on each bin to clearly represent what it should contain. Use pictograms and pictures found on the Internet, cut pictures out of magazines or catalogues, or photograph the actual contents of each bin. Children need to see what belongs in each bin to be able to put things away in the right place. What’s more, this method will help children work on their categorization skills, since they will have to place the toys from a certain category in each bin.
The use of an audible signal
The first intervention that you should focus on is warning children a few minutes before it’s time to clean up. Once the time is up, use an audible signal to indicate that they must put their toys away. You can, for example, use a small bell, a rain stick, or a Tibetan singing bowl. Of course, you could also simply flicker the lights. If you use this tactic, you may have to repeat your request less often.
Include cleanup time in your routine
We all know children enjoy a routine. A regular routine helps them feel safe. If you use pictograms or pictures to illustrate each step of your daily routine, insert a picture that represents cleanup time where it is needed.
Is there a child who is a true cleanup champion in your group? Use various means to encourage this child and congratulate him. You could, among other things, press a sticker on his hand, draw a happy face on his cheek, or give him a temporary tattoo. This positive reinforcement will help you share your cleanup time expectations with your group.
A cleanup song
If you search the Web, you will find several songs & rhymes that are perfect for encouraging children to clean up. Aim for consistency and repeatedly use the same rhyme. Slowly, children will begin to sing it with you.
A “whatever is left” bin
What goes in a “whatever is left” bin? It’s simple. This bin collects all the small toys and parts that don’t seem to have a home in the other bins. Once a day or once a week, go through this bin and put things where they belong with your group. This is a great way to keep your daycare tidy and show children where certain things belong or what they can be used for (be creative).
Challenge your group to put everything away before a bell or alarm goes off. Of course, be sure to give them enough time; the goal is for them to succeed. Chances are, they will have everything put way in record time when you use this intervention method.
Low organizing tools
If you want a tidy daycare, you must be organized. Make sure you have plenty of shelves and storage spaces at children’s level. After all, if you want them to be able to put things away autonomously, they must be able to reach them.
Enjoy cleanup time with your group!
Maude Dubé, specialized educator