KidZone Clean Up

March 21st, 2017

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:

How to Get Kids to Clean Up After Play

8 Ways to Get Your Kids to Start Cleaning Up After Themselves

Ask the Parent Coach: 8 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Clean Up


Susan Bayer, GFSAC Youth Programs Director