This year, I realised after these first 3 weeks that tidying up is not one top priority for my preschoolers and as we have so many boys in our group, they usually like to gather all together on the main mat, tipping boxes together and "messing" together. I can't call it "playing", "learning" or "working" as there is absolutely no constructive activity... Rachel and I have had to restructure their little group constantly and redirecting their work/play. They were not able to choose exercises on their own. So this week end, I thought long and hard about what I could do to change this and help them focus a bit more.
Choosing an activity on their own and tidying up carefully is very important as it helps preschoolers to develop their sense of responsibility. How a child learns to clean up now sets the stage for how they will complete the exercise later. When a child chooses his/her games/activity, this also shows that they have reached a certain level of maturity and that they are quite self-assertive and confident. What could I do?
I want the children to learn that some materials can only be played with on a mat or at the table, that some activities are for 2 children at a time only, that others require more concentration and can only can be played by one person. I also want them to realise that we are a "use the mat" environement and that everybody need their own working space. From now on, I only authorise 2 players on the big mat in our book corner. No more big boisterous groups of boys playing war and shooting on the mat!!!
So I tried to turn all these rules into a game and created labels/cards with the pictures of a type of materials/activity. Below each picture of the activity, I added a mat or a table to indicate where this should be played with. I laminated the cards, punched 2 holes and laced a string through to make a necklace. I explained the children that from now on, if the necklaces corresponding to the activity were all taken/used, this meant that they had to go and find something else to do until it was their turn. I remined them all of where the materials went and where the floor and table mats were stored. The kids loved the idea and really took to the "game". It worked wonders today. We got a lot more done today and it was so much more peaceful and organised!!! I hope this system will keep working. I will let you know.
We are now using these little necklaces for the dinos, the animals, the brown stairs, the Pink Tower, any of our constructin materials and for Play dough.