1 Be organized. Survey your room periodically. Store outgrown and seasonal materials. Low shelves and labeled see-through containers encourage independent cleanup.
2 Make way for messy activities. Place art, cooking, sand, and water activities on top of tiled floors. Put these centers near a sink for tool- and hand-washing ease at a project's end. Make sponges and child-size mops and brooms readily accessible. Put out wet wipes or paper towels for messy hands.
3 Cut down on cleanup. Create smocks out of old plastic shower curtains and tablecloths and hang them at eye level. For wet or messy projects, tape plastic garbage bags or newspapers on work tables. Then, bundle up the mess and out it goes!
4 Clean up with "soapy stuff." Invite children to wash snack and cooking utensils by providing dishpans, drying racks, and dishtowels. Use more soapy water to bathe baby dolls and their clothes or to scrub down play dough and clay tools (rollers, cutters).
5 Add creative containers. Use clear plastic hanging shoe bags to collect fabric bits or paper scraps at the art center or materials at the writing table. Use compartmentalized jewelry boxes to organize small discovery-table items and collections. Various-size suitcases can create interesting storage for dress-up clothes in the dramatic-play area.
6 Use silhouettes to smooth the way. Shape outlines give children specific visual suggestions for putting items away in their proper places. Trace around various blocks, cut out the shapes, laminate them, and tape them to the block shelves. Paint shapes on pegboards and add hooks so the children can hang up tools, instruments, and utensils.
7 Make learning games. Strengthen children's classification skills by putting books on racks by theme. Practice counting skills when collecting the science magnets.
8 Make cleanup fun. Forming a human chain to fill the block shelves or empty the water tub will help develop cooperation and team building. Personalize cleanup by singing songs using children's names and encouraging them to think up silly actions ("Robot Rachel Tip-Toes With the Puzzle" to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb").
9 Clearly identify storage spaces. Use masking tape on the floor to signify "garages" for various toy vehicles. Cut pictures from school supply catalogues and tape them on the appropriate manipulative shelves. Use giant alphabet letters with corresponding illustrations for children who may wish to help you file away library books.
10 Have a school-wide cleanup day. Invite families to help or make it a community event-talented college volunteers might retouch a mural to brighten a dull corner, while senior citizens could repair puzzles and sand