Get Organized! Place pictures or written labels on low open shelves so that children know exactly where things belong. Store loose manipulatives (wooden beads, laces, play dough cutters) in see-through plastic bins
Establish Rules. For instance: Four children at a table to prevent overcrowding; put the puzzles in the rack when finished; keep sand in the sandbox. You might wish to display these rules on a chart in picture form.
Use Clever Containers. Use clean, flat pizza boxes to store felt board pieces and delicate art paper. Try tall, clear, plastic water bottles to hold paint and long brushes securely at the easel. Hang stretchy woven net bags by the door to hold playground balls.
Rotate Materials. Keep shelves uncluttered by putting out a few selected materials at a time. Alternate puzzles, games, and other manipulatives to keep children from becoming bored and mishandling objects that no longer meet their needs.
Recycle It! Discuss with children how to reuse scraps and damaged materials. For example, use construction paper snippets for collages and those loose puzzle pieces as templates that children can trace with markers.
Make It Fun! Add a dose of fun and humor as children responsibly care for classroom materials by singing a song about hanging up dramatic-play clothes or inventing simple chants and rhymes that children can use when returning materials to their proper places.
Lead the Way. Verbalize your actions as you care for materials so children can understand your thinking behind them. For example, say, "I'm putting the lids on these paint cups so the paint won't spill on the floor."
Share Useful Hints. Help two children discover that it's best to work together to carry a heavy tray of blocks so the items don't spill during cleanup time. Also, share cleanup tips such as washing paintbrushes in cool water so as not to loosen the glue holding the bristles to the handle.
Have Safety Checks. Encourage children to examine the wooden blocks or trucks with you to look for splinters, cracks, or chips and to work with you on any necessary repairs. Emphasize the importance of placing the blocks and vehicles carefully on the labeled shelves so this damage isn't as likely to occur. Take children on a "safety search" around the classroom. Invite them to help you with any necessary repairs, including wooden blocks or trucks that may need sanding due to splinters, cracks, or chips.
Plan a Cleanup Party. Give outdoor equipment some loving care — wash the trikes, inflate tired-looking balls, sand rust off the climber, add new sand to the sandbox. Invite parents to help too!
Children's appreciation for classroom objects will be heightened as they clean and care for them.