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How to Make Preschool Clean Up Time Easier

It’s clean up time!!! Tell me…did your stress level just go up?!  Preschool clean up time is no fun at all.  Trying to get lots of littles to pick up the mess they made seems to be getting harder and harder, year after year. 

It seems like they will do anything to get out of cleaning… like always having to go to the bathroom after clean up time is declared or being SOOO tired they can’t get up… I’ve seen lots of their shenanigans over the years.

But, clean up time doesn’t have to feel so frustrating every single day.  I’ve got some strategies that actually work!

How to Make Preschool Clean Up Time Easier

  • SING! (or use a song): Signify that it is clean up time by singing a clean up song or playing a clean up song. Use the same song every time. Don’t just say, ‘Time to clean up!’ – put it to music!
  • Model: You may not have played with the toys, but it is important to model what cleaning up looks like. You may have children in your care that have not cleaned up their own toys before, so by modeling, children can see what it looks like.
  • Hand out Tasks: Ask specific children to work on cleaning a certain area. When the whole room is a mess, it can feel quite overwhelming. By just saying ‘go clean up’, children may not know where to start!  Help them by asking several children to go to one center in the classroom and several others to go to another.  When they are asked to just focus on one area, it feels a lot less overwhelming.
  • Get Specific: Still have a child struggling to clean up, even when you’ve given them an area? Get more specific. Ask them to pick up all the Magnatiles or all the animals. Give them the bucket that the specific toy goes in and have them collect that toy. This teaches children how to sort the toy they are looking for from those they aren’t.
  • Use Labels: It’s hard for children to put things away where you want them if they don’t know where they go. Make sure your tubs have labels WITH pictures. This can aid in independent clean up and save you from hearing ‘Teacher, where does this go?’.
  • Non-Cleaners: Almost every year, I have at least one student that will allow everyone else in the class to clean up while they continue playing, hang around or fuss loudly about cleaning. They never actually help their classmates clean up.  So, for these non-cleaners I usually choose one toy (one I know they have played with) and ask the class not to clean it up. Those toys are left out specifically for the child who isn’t wanting to clean up. He or she is expected to clean up the specified toys during clean up time, but if he/she does not, he/she is not to move on to the next activity until the toys are cleaned up.  This generally only has to happen for a couple of times before the cleaning adverse realize it’s not worth the fight and they just start picking up like everyone else.

Do you use these cleaning techniques? Have one to add?

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