How can I help my child learn to clean up after herself?
Resist the urge to clean up after your child when they complete an art project, read a book, or play with their toys. Insist that your child places caps on markers and pens, gently turns the pages of a book and returns all items in their original condition and to their original spot when they are finished using them. Your child is never too young to set these expectations!! Kindergarten students are expected to clean up after themselves whether it be when they are working at their desk, working in a small group, participating in free centers or in a large group setting. When your child works as part of the group to keep their area clean, they develop respect for their environment and items that may or may not belong to them.
Now that I know, what do I do?
Make everything a game! You can make almost any clean up activity into a game. Challenge your child to see how many toys they can pick up in two minutes. Use a song as a cue. Many Kindergarten teachers use a song to cue students that it is time to clean up. There are dedicated clean up songs but you can also use one of their favorite songs from a CD or the radio. The clean up time will fly by when they are singing along to their favorite tunes. You can also have them race against the song to see if they can clean up before it is over.
The white glove test. Give your child a white glove and a magnifying glass. After they feel they’ve cleaned up, they can use the white glove and the magnifying glass as props to inspect their work. Watch out or they might notify you of those dust bunnies under the couch!
Host a toy car wash. This idea was shared on the TV program A Place of Our Own and not only is it a great sensory activity but it also reinforces the importance of keeping things clean. Gather a bunch of toy cars along with bikes and trikes and host a car wash. Provide lots of different cleaning brushes, sponges and towels along with soapy, bubbly mixtures. Then have your child start cleaning! They’ll find it fun and won’t even realize their cleaning. During or even after the car wash discuss the entire experience and why it was important to clean the toys.
Be consistent! Make sure your child cleans up every time . That does not mean only at home. That means you should check every time that they visit a friend’s house, go to Mother’s Day Out, attend a birthday party, etc.