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Clean Up Time Made Easy

Words of wisdom about clean-up time
Clean-up time at Chabad Neshama Preschool in Brooklyn, NY
Photo by Sarah Winner-Silver

It’s 9:55 AM at Neshama Preschool and classrooms are abuzz in a furious rush of activity of clean up time. To an outsider it might seem as though there is a hubbub of chaos, but as I walk through the classrooms, I notice the minute intricacies of clean up time which teachers attach so much value to. Each child is engaged in clean up as a sort of a fun game, where children are guided with creativity of the teacher to collect items based on size, number and color in designated spots. I note some children in a small group working together to place fruits into a designated basket labeled with a picture and the word fruits, while others are aligning blocks based on size and shape with a helpful hint from their teacher. The classroom seems alive with a perceived cumbersome chore of cleaning, yet to these children clean up time has become an educational adventure, where toys have meaning and value that is essential to classroom management and learning.

As a mother of two little ones I can say that, clean up time can be challenging, exhausting and downright frustrating activity which at times creates chaos with no end in sight, as I’m sure most parents can understand, becomes a dreaded chore. So, how you may ask, can clean up time be a fun, exciting and learning time for children and adults alike? In order for clean-up time to turn into a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone, organization is key. The first step is to organize your playroom by adding individual toy bins designated for each toy. That is Lego pieces will be placed in one bin, while blocks in another, dolls or cars on a shelf and so on.

Once you have organized and placed each toy in its bin or shelf, begin taking pictures of each toy in its appropriate place. Then attach the pictures underneath a shelf or bin to illustrate to your child that a specific toy belongs in each designated spot of the play room. Once your child is finished playing he/she will clean up by matching the toy to the appropriate spot by looking at the picture as a guide. This routine will teach your child various skills, not only will your child learn to respect and value their play space but they will focus on early math skills such as sorting, classifying and locating sets. Thus, designating toys in such a manner will not only help you keep an organized playroom, but also help your child develop respect and value his/hers toy and learn math in the process. To take this a step further, you can print words and place them near the picture to label the items in the bin or on the shelf. This in turn will help your child become aware of language, reading and identifying skills, while searching for the right letter or word.

As a parent to make clean up a fun experience, involving your child in the process will ensure their complete participation. Once young children realize that their input is valued and independence is afforded, children develop natural eagerness to please their parents, make them proud and achieve skills on their own. Thus, when you spend time labeling your play room, ask your child to help you by finding a bin and searching for the right picture and then attaching it with your help. Utilizing these fun tips, and adopting them to your own style and play room, will enrich and infuse clean up time as an enjoyable time for both parents and child.

It is 10:10 AM, and as I walk back to my office, clean up time is over, each toy has found its home, and the classroom is peaceful, with happy children enjoying breakfast chattering among themselves, in serenity of a clean space. As a director of Neshama Preschool, I’m proud of the students and teachers, and as a mom I cannot wait to try these tips at home.