It always amazes the KidZone staff and me, just how quickly a group of kids can pull out, try out, play with (even chew on) almost every bin of toys we have in two hours or less. It is often evidence of a good time of play to see toys strewn about but it can also be both a safety hazard and an opportunity for kids of all ages to learn about taking care of things.
The KidZone kids start learning from the time they begin to walk to take care of the stuff in the KidZone. We have bins labeled with pictures of which toys go in them and we get all of the kids involved in putting those toys away, usually before they move on to a new toy. That doesn’t always happen, though, so near the end of each class hour we typically do a “Moms and Dads are almost here” clean up. Our one year olds tend to get confused by the sudden dash of clean up madness going on around them so we tend to give them one or two specific toys to put in each hand and then point them directly to the bin it goes in, repeating what we are doing (clean up time), what they are holding (Mega Blok), and where it is going (white bin) many times. Repetition is so important for learning at this age.
Then, when they place their one or two toys in, we give them a big clap and cheer, saying, “Great job putting your toys away!” Usually, they are just so excited to see us doing something they recognize…clapping…that they clap at themselves, too.
Our two year old friends can follow simple instructions, but it works best if we model the clean up process by cleaning up alongside them and talking about what we are doing as we do it. We tend to make the task simple and fun for them. For example, we may turn our hand into a crane which must be released by a simple push of the invisible button on our hand to drop down, pick up toys, move over to the toy bin, and, finally, drop toys into the bin. Of course, this must be done while making appropriate construction truck sounds or it just won’t be as effective.
Three year olds tend to remember where toys go and can stick with a task as long as we are there to guide them if they get a little distracted (a distracted three year old??? What???) They delight in showing us what they can do all on their own. Like our two year olds, we’ll sometimes play games with the clean up process, like putting a toy in the wrong place and asking the kids if where we put it is where it belongs. They find this to be very funny and love showing us the proper place or keep, laughingly, saying “no”, until we finally get it in the right bin.
The four year olds have often been with us for several years already, know the routine, and can clean up quickly. They’re good at sorting and finding where toys belong, as well as helping their younger friends and siblings, or kids who are newer. They also like trying to beat a timer, especially when we “show doubt” about their ability to do so! 🙂
By age five, most kids have gotten the clean up process down and quickly comply with it when we ask. Of course, that is the magic age of video games in the KidZone (a blog post for another day) so there isn’t as much toy playing going on anyway.
The items in the KidZone belong to all of the kids so it is important to instill a sense of ownership and pride in taking care of them. Not every trick or tip for cleaning up works with every kid but, if you’re trying to get your child to clean up at home, you might just try reminding them of what a good job they do in cleaning up in the KidZone and how you would love to see them do the same at home. They just might even sing the Barney Clean Up Song for you….
Need more ideas? Check out some of these useful tips:
Smiling faces, lots of laughter, and epic video game contests! All of these things, and so much more, can be found daily in the KidZone. The KidZone team is fortunate to be able to hang out with some of the coolest kids around – our members’ kids. We are blessed to get to spend hours upon hours with them, watching many of them grow from babies to preschoolers and all the way to elementary aged kids. The fortunate part about spending so many hours together is forming strong connections with the kids and watching them connect and build friendships with each other. This year we have decided to add a couple of extra things to the KidZone experience in order to help deepen those connections among the kids and, by extension, their parents. While we have always provided crafts and fun experiences for the kids, each month we are having specialty days where we have just a little more fun, add just a bit more to our games, and promote an exciting KidZone day for the kids to look forward to. So far we have had an Indoor Snowball Fight in January and a Valentine’s Day party in February. We are next looking forward to our Wearin’ of the Green Day on St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17. Each of these special days are advertised at the KidZone check in station, just outside the KidZone door where the names of the KidZone staff on duty are listed, and highlighted on social media as well as weekly email updates.
One of the other initiatives we are starting this Spring is a KidZone sponsored Play Date at the Rolesville Main Street Park. Beginning on Wednesday March 22nd and going forward each Wednesday until the outdoor pool opens, the Youth Programs Director, Susan Bayer, and/or another KidZone staff member hopes to hang out with your kids and you at the park. You do not have to be currently using KidZone to join us. All are welcome! We’ll bring fun items for the kids to play with – chalk, bubbles, jump ropes, etc. – and all you have to bring are your kids! This will be an opportunity for your kids to hang out with their KidZone friends outside of our four walls, for parents to get to meet their kids’ KidZone friends, and for you all to get to know any KidZone staff who are present a little bit more. Please note, this is not a drop off event. The KidZone is simply sponsoring and being a point person. A parent/guardian must be present.
We hope you enjoy all of the new things we have in place for our youngest members!