Children and teachers often feel very frustrated about cleanup time and aggravated with each other when it is finally over. Not only that, but the teacher still has a lot of cleaning up to do. To make cleanup time easier, make sure children know where everything goes and that shelves are easy to reach. When appropriate, encourage children to clean up as they go along (wiping up a spill, completing a puzzle). Start a little earlier on difficult jobs–the block area, for example. Give yourself enough time for cleaning up. Give a warning and perhaps a signal–“In 5 minutes it will be time to clean up.” Let the children know what happens after cleanup. This gives them something to look forward to. “As soon as we clean up, we are going to play musical instruments.” Help children decide what needs to be picked up, especially on messy days. Encourage the idea of working together by working along with the children.
Use cleanup songs and games:
Airplanes flying the blocks over to the shelf
Busy bees at work
Elephants carrying toys with their trunks
Hopping rabbits carrying carrots back to their home
Cranes lifting and lowering blocks on shelves
Santa’s putting toys in pack and carrying it to shelves
Garbage truck pickup
Children can play many different roles at cleanup time or use objects in the room, such as boxes, chairs or trucks to help them clean up. For a child who is having difficulty, give him order a choice of 2 areas to clean up. You might have to choose for the child and then leave the child with the expectation that in order to do the next activity, the area must be cleaned. (Sometimes giving a lot of attention for not cleaning up encourages a child not to clean up.) Designate a meeting place for children after cleaning up so that they do not end up in another area and mess up what has been cleaned. Have something simple to do for those who have finished, such as listening to music or reading a book. Keep waiting time short. If you are having a circle activity after cleanup time, get started when most of the children are ready. Another adult can stay with those who have not finished. Remember that all of us have our off days as far as cleaning up, so look at your expectations to see if they are realistic.