do you get children to pick up toys and clean up after themselves? Each
provider has a bag of tricks. Here are some ideas.
- KEEP THE AREA NEAT. If everything has a place, picking up isn't
so hard. Children develop a sense of order when they live in an organized
- MAKE A GAME OUT OF PICKING UP TOYS. Putting things back in their
places can give the same joy as working a puzzle. Some children don't even
know that picking up is a dreaded chore.
- PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF. Example is a good teacher. You don't even
have to talk. They get the idea just by being around you.
Of course it isn't always so easy. Some children arrive in your care with
a bad attitude about picking up. They don't see it as fun and games. They
just don't want to do it.
In this case you have to take a problem solving approach. Discuss,
negotiate, determine consequences. As a group you can figure out how to
solve this problem if you are dedicated to the idea that order in the play
environment is the responsibility of those who use it.
Don't get into power struggles. Don't make cleanup such a negative
experience that kids go to any length to avoid it.
Some providers have a need for more order than others. Some are willing
and able to let the mess accumulate as long as the children are
constructively involved in play. Clean-up time may be ongoing, or it may
be a scheduled event - say before lunch. Both ways work.
Some providers see a need for ongoing projects and are willing to suspend
pick up time in some areas. For instance an art project may take a whole
day to complete - or several days. A block structure may be saved to work
on later. Of course this becomes a problem if the blocks are not available
for other children to work or play with. However, that's the kind of
problem that can be solved. You need to help one child know what the other
is feeling and help them work out a solution together.
What doesn't work is to let the mess accumulate all day and face it by
yourself after the children are gone. That's not fair to you, and it
doesn't teach children responsibility.
Reprinted with permission from the
National Network for Child Care - NNCC.
(1993). Cleaning up. In M. Lopes (Ed.) CareGiver News (July, p.4).
Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension.