Our space in the back room can get chaotic very fast. For a long while I took on the bulk of cleaning up with minimal assistance and flexible limits where not everyone was required to help. As dumping and emptying shelves have become more popular and the task of cleaning much bigger I have changed expectations for the children of Cohort 10 and 12. With these new expectations comes even more modeling from me, firmly holding to the set limit/ expectation and being consistent and following through.
From my beginnings with Cohort 10 clean up time has changed drastically. I distinctly remember watching the one year olds pulling things off the shelf I had just cleaned up. Depending on the circumstances my response to those instances would be, “Pause, I am cleaning up so our room is ready for nap.” Or “I’m picking up some things before we go outside, that can be available.” I have been an active participant in our clean-up time ever since. What began as me cleaning up our whole room solo, turned into them showing interest and me asking or offering for them to help and now they are eager participants and cleaning majority of the toys. They are cleaning whole baskets of things now verse putting a single item in the basket.
I have used the term expectations very loosely when it comes to clean up time. I am always available for clean up and assisting but frequently ask for help. What cleaning up currently looks/ sounds like in our room: I will sit or crawl across the floor collecting toys; IF a child notices the toys in my hands, “I have these trains, are you available to put them in the basket?” IF a child is looking for something to clean and/or asks, “What else?” I then say, “I found all these toys, do you know where they go?” or “I have these toys to put away, I was going to do the animals next, do you want to do that?” As the children of Cohorts 10 and 12 continue to be in the phase of emptying baskets and clearing shelves clean-up time can be a daunting task. I help to minimize chaos, create individual tasks and encourage cleaning up when they are ready to move to the next activity.
We have gotten to this point where clean-up is always something they need to help with. How much I ask of them or insist they do depends on circumstances like energy level, time and what our next step is. Picking up something they were playing with is their work. I am always available to help and have no issues doing the majority but I am consistent with the limit that they are to clean-up. If I see they are dumping something out I simply say, “I wonder what your plan is?” and give a reminder that the blocks/ dominos need to be picked up before they move to their next activity of choice. The process or transition from me cleaning up to where we are now with them doing majority of picking up was long. It is not yet over though and continues to be something we work on together.