Preschool Transitions: Clean Up Time


Pick up time has never been easier in our classroom. The signal we now use is a John Phillip Sousa March. When the kids hear the music start they know it is time to pick up. The added incentive is when pick up is done we line up on a designated line and have the pick-up parade. We march and do other movements as well. Some favorite have been walking on the balance board, jumping over bricks, walking like various animals, etc.. Pick-up time is quicker and smoother and we also get to work on some of those gross motor skills each day. It has also helped to mark the path the parade will be taking with tape arrows on the floor so the line leader can lead the parade more easily and independently.


Clean up time can be hard-I found doing the following makes it easier-tell the children you are going to play a game, this gets them really excited, then tell them we are going to play house, who wants to be my vacuum cleaner? then tell those who raise their hands or say me, “Then I want all my vacuum cleaners to pick up anything that should be thrown away and put it in the trash, then “who wants to be my maids” then those who want to be the maids tell them to pick up any toys and put them away-this is great fun and it not only teaches them to pick up but also uses their imaginations as well.


I work with 4 yr olds and when it is time for us to clean up an move onto a different activity I put on our clean up song. We use Rusted Root’s Send me on my way. They love it. The song is up beat so they get some wiggles out while cleaning and dancing. They hear the song and without telling them to clean up over and over they know what time it is and begin to clean. I let them know what area they are to be in when the song ends. If there is extra time at the end of the song we dance, dance, dance.


When it’s clean up time, our “special person” of the day, turns off the lights. We then sing a little CLEAN UP SONG. If it looks as though the children are having a hard time beginning to clean…I say freeze. Everyone freezes in place, and we look around to see what we are going to pick up. The teachers always clean up just as the children do. I think modeling is one of the best forms of teaching.


To make clean up time fun for the kids and a lot easier on you, here is a fun way to do this. Make a traffic light out of cardboard, you could either paint red, yellow, and green circles or you can cut them out of construction paper. This can stick on the wall during play time. The green circle can be attached to the traffic light during play time. When it is almost time to clean up, the teacher can put the yellow circle up. When the children see the yellow circle they will know that play time is almost over. When it is time for the classroom to be cleaned the red circle will up. The kids will know that they should start cleaning up.


When it’s time to clean up, I put on some ‘working music’ as each child cleans their area. If it seems to be a massive job I will call on individual children and assign a specific task ex. Holly will you hang up all the costumes, Greg can you please put away the dishes, Tim will you help the blocks find their home… If the children still seem too distracted then I become the ‘Inspector’ with my magnifying glass… They love this one and will hustle to keep the inspector from finding anything out of place…


For clean-up time I play a few chords on the piano and sing the following song (tune: London Bridge is Falling Down). Everybody pick up toys, pick up toys, pick up toys. Everybody pick up toys, in our classroom.

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