Clean-up time in the preschool classroom

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on November 9, 2009

in Quick Tips for Preschool Teachers

There is sand all over the floor, paint on the table, and toys scattered about which means your preschoolers are having fun learning and playing but now it is time to clean it all up. What should you do?

Give the children a warning and some guidance
A few minutes before clean-up time begins, go around to each child or group of children and give them a heads up that it is almost time to clean up. Remind each group what they will need to do once clean-up time begins. For example, if a group of children are playing in the sand table, tell them that when you announce that it is clean-up time, they will need to shake all the sand off of their hands, then help sweep the sand up off the floor. Give your preschoolers guidance as to what you will be expecting from them when the clean-up time begins.

Use a clean-up song
You can either make-up your own clean-up song or see if another teacher has a clean-up song that you can borrow. After warning your students and giving them guidance that clean-up time is about to begin, wait a few minutes then begin singing the clean-up song. As you sing the song, go around the room and gently guide students back to the messes you want them to help with.

Offer up some praise
As students are helping, let them know that they are such good helpers. If you have a child that isn’t helping, redirect the child to an area that needs some help and tell the child that it would mean the world to you if he or she would help his friends.

Be consistent
Make your clean-up routine consistent and don’t give up. Your preschoolers will participate more favorably as they become used to the routine and see that you are not going to give up and do it all yourself.

Check your expectations
Preschoolers can do a great job helping to clean up the classroom but there will be areas that you may need to go back and touch up later on. Don’t expect a spotless floor or table, instead make clean-up time about encouraging children to participate and do their very best.

Enable success
If you want your preschoolers to be successful in clean-up time then keep your classroom organized in such a manner that they will be able to put things away. Don’t let messes get too out of control – if the mess gets too out of hand, preschoolers will be overwhelmed and unable to deal with the clean-up. Remember, preschoolers are still developing their cognitive ability to sort and classify items – clean-up time is a skill they must learn.

Have a mini-lesson
Each day, choose a clean-up skill you would like your students to learn. For example, show them how to use a broom and dust pan to sweep up some dirt, then take turns seeing if they can do it all by themselves.

Have a mini-lesson on where the trash can is and how to carry trash from the table to the can then have the children show you how they can do it all by themselves. Shout “hooray!” for every child.

Make clean-up  a rewarding experience and give preschoolers lots of praise for a job well attempted or well done.


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Copyright ©2009 Deborah J. Stewart; All Rights Reserved!

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