Cleaning up: a child’s right to be reflective

I hate when my room or any other part of our apartment is dirty. I can’t stand clutter and I start to lose my mind. I’m the same way with the classroom. I like the books to be lined in a certain way, the kitchen materials to be put away nicely and the cloth napkins to be folded. I do get lazy, especially at night, and carelessly put things away before I go home. For the most part, I like a clean classroom.

I want things to be organized so the children can select the materials they want to use easily. I don’t want them to have to  hunt for what they want because it’s too cluttered or messy. I like to compare it to Nordstrom rack. You have to hunt for what you want at the rack or you could look at the few sections that are nicely organized, those are easier for me to pick from. That’s what I gravitate toward. Having the skills to hunt for what you want is great! I don’t think it’s really a skill I have, it’s just not something I enjoy doing.

So I like things organized but I also don’t like my work to be disturbed. Right now, I have taken over the kitchen table with an art project, I have wedding stuff in my room and a pile of books by my bed that block my clock. All things that I’m currently working on and would be so mad if my fiancé decided to clean them up.

I think children are like this too. They leave projects all over the classroom. They might come back to the project and they might not, but if we clean up to early, we don’t give them a chance to look back on their work.

I had an experience in the classroom a few weeks ago where a child built a structure with pegs. She worked hard on her creation. Once she has finished, or I thought she had finished, she moved on. A while later she went back to her structure and told another girl in the class all about it. If I had decided to put this away when I thought she was finished, I would have robbed her of this reflective moment.

So how do you know when to clean up a child’s project? How do you know when they are really done working? How do you set your strong urge/need to organize aside and leave the room a little “messy” a little longer? How do you balance your needs and the children’s right to reflect back on their work?

I don’t know the answers to these questions but I have a few ideas of where to start:

  • Talk to the child! Ask them about their work and if they are ready to put it away or if it should be saved in a special spot so they can come back to it later
    1. We haven’t done this in our classroom (of two year olds) yet, but I would be interested to see how the children responded
  • Change your perspective! Try to think of the “messy” classroom as a classroom full of projects! This one is mostly for me, I’m sure there are other people out there who love organization just as much as I do.

So next the time you get ready to clean up the classroom, take a moment to think about the children, their projects and their right to be reflective.


2 thoughts on “Cleaning up: a child’s right to be reflective

  1. I had a similar realization recently. It feels kind of “yucky” when you realize it.

    I was trying to clean up my classroom with my camp students this summer and a boy was working diligently on a Lego creation. I had given them a 2 minute warning for clean-up and he just continued to work. When the 2 minutes were up, I asked him multiple times to put his creation in the Lego basket. He wasn’t listening so another child grabbed his creation and put it in the basket. The little boy started crying and crying. I thought to myself, “I HAVE to go about this in a different way next time.” It wasn’t my best teaching moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right! It totally feels yucky. Don’t beat yourself up about it McKenzie 🙂 now you know and that’s pretty great that you realized you needed to make a change! Do you have an idea of what you’re going to do differently? Thank you for reading my post and sharing! I love hearing from you 🙂


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