1 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.
2 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.
3 Use Clever Containers. Use clean, flat pizza boxes to store felt board pieces and art paper. Try tall, clear, plastic water bottles to hold paint and long brushes at the easel. Hang stretchy woven net bags by the door to hold playground balls.
4 Rotate Materials. Keep shelves uncluttered by putting out a few selected materials at a time. Regularly alternate puzzles, games, and other manipulatives.
5 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.
6 Make It Fun! Add a dose of fun and humor as children care for classroom materials by singing a song about hanging up dramatic-play clothes or inventing simple chants and rhymes that children can use while cleaning up.
7 Talk About It. 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."
8 Share Useful Hints. Discuss cleanup tips such as washing paintbrushes in cool water so as not to loosen the glue holding the bristles to the handle.
9 Have Safety Checks. Take children on a "safety search" around the classroom. Invite them to help you identify objects in need of repair, including wooden blocks or trucks with splinters, cracks, or chips.
10 Plan a Cleanup Party. Give outdoor equipment some loving care-wash the trikes, inflate tired-looking balls, and add new sand to the sandbox.