A child and many toys behind the title: 3 Cleanup Strategies


Do you have young children? Have you ever struggled to get them to help clean up? If so, you are certainly not alone. First off, children must learn the skill of cleaning up as most of us are not born with it. Secondly, it can be challenging to motivate a child to clean up, especially when they want to keep playing.

To help you out, I’ve collected three cleanup strategies for toddlers and preschoolers as well as a handy list of tips.

3 Cleanup Strategies

  1. Sing a Cleanup Song

  • Using a cleanup song can be a great strategy for helping young children know it is time to switch gears from playing to cleaning up. There are many different cleanup songs you can find online. Feel free to spend some time searching for one you like.
  • Here is a classic cleanup song you may already be familiar with. As far as I can tell, this song originally came from the Barney TV show. The words are simple and you can sing it as many times as needed.
    • Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere,
    • Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.

  2. “Who Can Clean Up the Fastest?” Game

  • Some children are competitive. This can be used to your advantage. Try making cleanup time a competition. The competition could be:
    • Between two children: “Sam, you clean this side of the room, and, Jane, you clean that side and let’s see who can get their side cleaned up first.”
    • Between a child and yourself: “Let’s see if you can clean up the cars before I finish cleaning up the paints.”
    • Between a child and a timer: “I’m going to start the five minute timer. See if you can clean up this whole room before it goes off.”
    • Between the child and themselves (for older children): “Last time you cleaned up all the blocks in 1.45 minutes. Let’s see if you can do it faster this time.”
  • Here is a visual five minute clean up timer you could try using:

  3. Find and Clean Game – I Spy

  • Here’s another cleanup game you could try. This game may be especially effective for those last few toys that still have not been picked up.
  • Invite your child to join you and tell them you have a challenge for them. Be direct and specific. “Tommy, I spy a blue car that needs to go in the white bin. Can you find it?” “Mary, I spy a purple doll dress hiding under the cupboard. See if you can figure out where it belongs.”
  • Praise each child when they find the item you named and have put it in the correct place.
  • For more advanced children, consider naming multiple items. “George, I spy seven triangle blocks that need putting away. Can you find them all?”

Tips for using Cleanup Strategies

  • Follow through
    • With all the tips I am about to share, it is important that you follow through. If you don’t do what you say you will do, your child may be tricked the first time or two, but it won’t take long for them to stop taking you seriously and soon it will be nearly impossible to get them to help clean up. They will ignore what you say, since past experience tells them that you don’t mean what you say, and they’ll keep right on playing.
  • Give a warning
    • Give your child a heads up at least two minutes before it is time to clean up. You could even set a two minute timer and explain that when the timer beeps, that means it is time to clean up the toys.
  • Explain what’s next
    • One of the biggest hesitations of children, when it comes to cleanup time, is not wanting to clean up because playing with toys is fun, and they don’t know if the next thing will be fun. Therefore, explain to your child what they will be doing next. When you give the two minute warning, it is a good time to briefly mention what’s next. “Two more minutes to play and then it’s snack time.”
    • You don’t have to be super specific.
    • If the next thing is something they don’t like. Try mentioning the next two things they will be doing. “Next we will go for a diaper change, and then we can play outside.”
  • Give plenty of time
    • Young children are not very fast at cleaning up, especially when it is a new skill they are just beginning to learn. If you want your child to be involved in helping clean up, be sure to give you and your child enough time to get everything cleaned up without being frantic and rushed.
    • Afraid you will be done cleaning up too early? Find a few engaging books or learn some fun and simple preschool songs to sing with your child while you wait. Here are a few of my songs that are great for helping smooth over those waiting transition times.
  • Be specific (which areas of the room need cleaning)
    • Remember that your child is still learning how to clean up. It will take time and teaching for them to learn which things go where. Therefore, be patient. Take the time to explain how you want things put away. You may have to explain several times.
  • Lead by example
    • Young children learn best by watching your example. Do you want your child to be cleaning up? Then get down on their level and help them do the cleaning. (As an added bonus, cleanup time goes a lot faster when there is an adult helping!)

Well, there you have it. Three cleanup strategies for you and your toddlers or preschoolers. I hope these are helpful as you go about your day. Don’t forget to smile and enjoy the time you get with your youngsters. Cleaning up is more fun when you’re smiling.

Looking for more classroom management tips? Check out the following links:

Children with backpacks behind title: Free 4 Fantastic Preschool Field Trips in Calgary


While this article is specific to preschool field trips in Calgary, it may give you ideas of free field trips you could find in your area. 

Not a preschool teacher, but want to take your child on a field trip? Consider going together with a handful of other moms with preschool-aged children.

Free Preschool Field Trips

1. Pisces Pet Emporium


  • This pet store is among my favourite field trips for preschoolers as they offer guided tours for free.
  • Think of Pisces as a preschooler-sized zoo! They even have little monkeys!
  • Tip: Even though you booked it a while ago, call Pieces a day or two before your field trip to remind them.
    • Pros:
      • get to see various animals including small monkeys, fish, cats, dogs, bunnies, birds, etc.
      • It’s harder to lose kids because the store is not crowded and only has one exit.
      • The tour guide may allow the children to feed the fish and will likely pull out a couple of animals for the children to see up close or even to pet.
      • Typically only about an hour long – a good length for many preschoolers.
    • Cons
      • Only one class can go at a time.
      • The aisles can get crowded, especially if you have lots of adults along. Consider limiting the number of volunteers you take.

2. Fire Station


  • See the fire trucks up close and personal. Maybe even get to climb inside one.
    • Pros:
      • Children love firefighters! Getting to be inside the fire station is thrilling for them.
      • Encourages a positive attitude toward community helpers.
    • Cons
      • The firefighters giving the tour are on-call. Therefore, if a call comes in, off they go. This means your tour may be cut short.
      • It’s my understanding that a lot of Calgary kindergartens visit the fire station as their field trip.
      • The minimum age for fire station tours in Calgary is 4 years old.

3. Fish Creek Provincial Park / Inglewood Bird Sanctuary / Prairie Winds Park


  • There are many lovely parks in Calgary. Some, like the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, are wildlife areas, while others, like Prairie Winds, are more cultivated including playgrounds.
    • Pros:
      • Outside – Many children these days don’t spend enough time outside. A field trip to the park gets them out of doors and in the sunshine.
      • You are in charge of this field trip, not dependent on a tour guide who may or may not be good with preschoolers.
    • Cons:
      • Weather dependent – being outside means you have to adjust your plan based on the weather.
      • You have to plan it. Because there is no tour guide, it is up to you to plan activities, games, etc. that will engage your children.

4. Library


  • The Calgary Public Library system has been adding play areas to several of their libraries.
  • Also, some of their branches can be booked for storytime where a librarian will read books and sing songs with your class for 30 minutes. (I do not know whether this is a paid or free event.)
    • Pros:
      • Encourages early literacy and interest in reading.
      • Some librarians are excellent at storytime, or you could find a corner and read stories to your own class in which case you have control of the quality of storytime.
    • Cons:
      • Need to keep the children relatively quiet and have to watch them closely as there are many aisles to hide in.
      • Some librarians are used to doing storytime for elementary children and may not adjust well to the preschool age.

Regardless of whether you live in Calgary or not, I hope this article has given you some great free preschool field trip ideas to enjoy with your children.

What are your favourite free preschool field trips?

A bright preschool circle time set up


I’ve heard many people asking about curriculums to use with their preschooler(s). While there are preschool curriculum options available for sale, it may be easier than you think to create your own curriculum customized for your children and your schedule.

While there is no one way to create a curriculum for your children, here is the process I typically follow as a preschool teacher.

Step 1: Overall Learning Goals

  • Determine what overall learning goals you want your children to reach.
  • Academic suggestions include topics such as:
    • ABCs
      • It often works well to focus on teaching one letter per week, though they will need lots of review along the way.
      • Here are some fun ways to teach the letters: Teaching the ABCs
    • Numbers 1-20 (counting and recognition)
    • Shapes and colours
      • Focusing on one colour or one shape per week could work. Alternatively, you could have “Shapes” as your fun theme for a week.
    • Calendar
    • Science
      • Some people love integrating science into various themes. If that’s you, here are some ideas for simple science experiments to do with children: Preschool Science Ideas Board
    • Sight words
      • Wait until your child has a very good comprehension of the alphabet sounds before introducing sight words.

Step 2: Fun Themes

Choose fun themes and make a schedule of them.

  • Here’s a great list of preschool theme ideas to get you started: Exciting Preschool Themes
  • Decide how often you want to change up your theme.
    • Depending on how often and how deep you dig into each theme, you may want to change it up frequently.
    • I typically lean toward having a new theme every week, but I know others who change their theme once a month.
    • For some themes, such as Under the Sea, there are so many songs, crafts, and activities that can be done that I often extend it to cover two weeks.

Step 3: Weekly Goals

Decide how much curriculum you want to do per week or per theme.

  • Do you want to have a letter and/or a number per week?
  • Do you want to have a specific learning goal per week?
    • Weekly learning goals could include:
      • Rhyming
      • Identifying patterns
      • Taking turns
  • How many organized crafts do you want your children to make per week?
  • Do you want to do crafts related to each letter or number as you teach them? Or will your crafts be more connected to the fun theme?
  • How many songs do you sing each day?
  • Do you have organized gym times each day?
    • If so, consider finding a new game or a new variation of a familiar game per theme.
    • Here’s a versatile gym game that can be adapted to nearly any theme and adjusted for different spaces whether indoor or outdoor, at a school or at home. 4 Sides – Gym Game

Step 4: Brainstorm and Research

  • Now that you have your overall topics, your fun themes, and you know how many crafts, songs, and activities you’re looking for, it’s time to start filling in the blanks. Use your theme and overall learning goals as a springboard for your creativity. At the same time, remember that not every activity needs to connect to the theme.
  • Your planning might look something like this:

Sample of Preschool Lesson Plan

  • Fun themes could inspire:
    • Crafts
    • Songs
    • Stories (public libraries are a great resource)
    • Games/Activities
    • Decorations
    • Field Trips (I might do 1-3 field trips per year)
    • Snacks (if you’re ambitious)

Need a Lesson Plan Template like the one above to organize your ideas? You can print this one for free when you join my email list.

Step 5: Collect Supplies and Implement the Plan

Have fun and don’t be afraid to be flexible with your preschool curriculum. Sometimes new topics or opportunities pop up that are worth switching to. Other weeks the plan simply doesn’t happen. That’s okay. Try again next week.

Remember that the preschool curriculum is meant to serve you and your children. You do not need to serve the curriculum.


How young should we teach a child to call 911? That’s a good question. Many preschools will dedicate a week to teaching 3-4 year olds how to call 911 and other safety information they might need in case of trouble.

If you do a quick search on Google, such as “4 year old calls 911” you will likely find various news articles and recordings of humorous reasons young children have called 911 along with tales of heroic children who knew just what to do when the only adult with them passed out, such as this news clip on YouTube.

Yes, a preschooler might needlessly call 911, but they may also be in a situation one day where calling 911 saves someone’s life. With this in mind, I encourage you to teach your child how to call 911, but be sure to tell them that it is only if there is an emergency.

The following song is a great way to start teaching your child about calling 911.

If you have a different emergency number in your area, this song may still work, just switch out the number as you sing.

*As this is an original song, please be sure to include my name as the songwriter any time you share this song.

9-1-1 Song

Original song by: S. J. Little

Tune: If You’re Happy And You Know It

If you need the ambulance, call 9-1-1.

If you need the ambulance, call 9-1-1.

If you need the ambulance, if you need the ambulance,

If you need the ambulance, call 9-1-1.


If you need the police, call 9-1-1.

If you need the police, call 9-1-1.

If you need the police, if you need the police,

If you need the police, call 9-1-1.


If you need the fire truck, call 9-1-1.

If you need the fire truck, call 9-1-1.

If you need the fire truck, if you need the fire truck,

If you need the fire truck, call 9-1-1.



Every time you sing “9-1-1” hold up the correlating number of fingers – 9 fingers, then 1 finger and then 1 finger again.

If you want, find pictures of an ambulance, police car, and fire truck and point to each one as you sing about it.

Other Safety Tips to Teach Preschoolers

There are many other safety tips you can teach a preschooler. What follows are a few I recommend. If you know others, feel free to mention them in the comments section below.

  • Teach your child their own first and last name
  • Teach your child their parents’ first and last names
  • Teach your child their parents’ phone number
  • Teach your child “stranger danger”
    • If you aren’t there with them, a stranger, no matter how nice they may seem, might want to hurt them. They should never go anywhere with a stranger, unless you give them permission, even if the stranger offers candy or a chance to see puppies.
  • Teach your child who is safe
    • Explain to your child that if they ever get lost in a crowd, they should look for either someone who works there or a mom with kids as these are more likely to help them find safety. Next time you’re out at a large store or venue with your child, practice spotting employees or other safe people your child could go to if they need help.
  • Teach your child what to do in case of a fire
    • Stay low and go outside. You could even practice having a fire drill.
    • Show your child pictures of a fireman with his mask on. Teach your child that this is what a fireman might look like if he was coming to rescue them from a fire.

Let us pray that our children never need to use any of these safety tips, but, just in case, the preschool years are a good time to begin teaching these important things.

Child cutting with scissors behind title: Scissors and Preschoolers - Scissors Basics


When should children learn to use scissors? At what age are they too young? How should I teach my preschooler to use scissors?

If you’ve asked any of these questions, then you’re in the right place. As a preschool teacher who has worked closely with children, 2-5 years old, for over 9 years, I’ve learned a thing or two when it comes to teaching young children how to use scissors. In this blog post, I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you.

Why teach preschoolers how to use scissors?

If you’ve been around early learning and child care settings, you will likely have heard the term “fine motor muscles.” Fine motor muscles are the small muscles in the hands, especially those needed to hold a pencil. A child with strong fine motor muscles has a distinct advantage when it comes to learning to hold a pencil properly for writing. Therefore, we want to provide many opportunities for children to exercise their fine motor muscles. One excellent way to do so is by using scissors.

Added to that, a child who goes into Kindergarten feeling comfortable and moderately capable with scissors will have an advantage during various crafts and activities that require the use of scissors.

Which scissors to start with?

There are three basic types of scissors for preschoolers.Crayola Safety Scissors

  1. Entirely plastic safety scissors – These are the type of scissors that can cut playdough, but not much else. Most of them do not work well on paper. Crayola makes my favourite type of these scissors. They come in a set of three. I have no problem leaving these scissors freely at the playdough table for children even as young as 2 years olds. I have seen these available at various stores that also sell Crayola markers and crayons.
  2. Metal safety scissors – These scissors look like regular adult scissors except that they are smaller and have a rounded point rather than a sharp tip. These sorts of safety scissors are widely available in stores. Note that they are sharp enough to cut various materials and, therefore, require adult supervision.Maped Spring Safety Scissors
  3. Spring safety scissors – These scissors look identical to typical metal safety scissors, except for the addition of a spring. Children with weak fine motor muscles are typically able to close the scissors, but may find it difficult to reopen the scissors without using their second hand to help. Preschools often have a pair or two of these spring scissors. If you are only teaching one or two children how to use scissors, buying these special spring scissors typically is not needed. If your child struggles to open the scissors at first, don’t be worried. Simply keep practicing with the scissors and providing other fine motor exercises to strengthen their muscles.

Going forward in this article, I will be referring to the second (and/or third) type of scissors, but not the first entirely plastic ones.

When to teach preschoolers how to use scissors?

If you asked me to pinpoint an age when most children are ready to begin using scissors, I would say 2.5 years old. However, I say that cautiously. Having worked with countless children, I have noticed that some children are very impulsive and unaware of what they are doing with their hands. These children may not be ready to begin using scissors until they have matured more as scissors can be dangerous when not handled well.

Also, only bring out the scissors during calmer parts of the day. If you have multiple children around, you do not want the others running nearby while scissors are being used.

How to teach preschoolers to use scissors?

Before I tell you how to teach your preschooler to use scissors, a word of caution. Scissors are dangerous. Children, and those instructing them, must treat scissors with a degree of respect.

  • ModelYoung girl using scissors
    • If your child has never watched someone use scissors before, take a moment to grab a piece of paper and a pair of scissors and show them how to cut.
  • Thumbs up
    • Although this may feel awkward for your child at first, the proper posture when using scissors is to have thumbs up. By that, I mean that the hand holding the scissors has the thumb on the top and the fingers on the bottom when cutting. Similarly, the hand holding the paper, which I like to call the “helper hand”, should have the thumb on top of the paper and the fingers underneath. For many children, this takes practice and several gentle reminders.
  • Supervise
    • Again, scissors are dangerous – to you, your child, and to the environment around them. Be intentional to tell your child that scissors are only for paper. A child left unsupervised with scissors is prone to cutting something that shouldn’t be cut, whether the tablecloth, their clothing, the nearest ribbon, etc. This is also the age for self-haircuts. Nearly every year one of my children shows up one day with a very short haircut accompanied by their parent’s explanation that the child gave themselves a haircut. Therefore, I repeat, keep an eye on your child when they are using scissors.

Techniques for teaching children to use scissors

1. Hand-over-hand – this technique I recommend for the first few times your child uses scissors, especially if they are younger than 4 years old. For some children, only one time of hand-over-hand is needed. For other children, I would use hand-over-hand for several months before trusting them to use scissors on their own.

    • The hand-over-hand technique is exactly what it sounds like. I put my right hand over the child’s right hand and my left hand over their left hand. I find this works best if I sit on a low seat and have the child stand in front of me. In this way, I am more or less providing training wheels for the child as they learn to use scissors. While using the hand-over-hand technique, I help the children make crafts.

2. Free cutting – Some children are able to skip the hand-over-hand technique and move right to this one. Some teachers start all their children with this technique.

    • Collect a pile of papers, flyers you are planning to recycle work well. Have the child sit at a table. Give them a pair of scissors and several pieces of paper. Allow them to freely cut the paper however they wish. Many children will end up cutting the paper into itsy bitsy bits. That’s just fine. The goal of this technique is to give the children space to build the fine motor muscles needed to use scissors and to become comfortable using scissors on their own.

3. Following a line – Some children will be more engaged with their scissors if they are making something. There are various ways to give them an opportunity to do this, even when they are just starting out with scissors. I will list a few below.

Ways to incorporate scissor practice into a craft

  1. Choose a colouring sheet that matches your theme, draw a line around the image on the colouring sheet. Be sure the line is distinct from the lines of the image, perhaps by being a different colour. Have the child cut along the line. Then allow the child to colour, paint, or otherwise decorate the picture.
  2. If your craft includes several parts that you would typically cut beforehand and then give to the child to glue together, consider allowing your child to cut out one of the bigger pieces. For beginner cutters, it should be no smaller than a quarter of a sheet of paper. Once they have cut it out, have them proceed with the craft as usual.
  3. Let the child cut something to glue on. For example, if you’re talking about food, you could give your child a grocery store flyer and encourage them to cut out various food items and glue them on a piece of paper. Alternatively, let them cut a piece of paper into itsy bitsy bits and then glue the paper onto a picture to make a flower, etc.


  • Round lines are harder than straight lines
  • If your child gets distracted while holding scissors, gently remind them to look at their scissors when they are cutting.
  • Teach children that their helper hand is the one that should be turning the paper to follow the line. Their scissor hand should stay mostly straight in front of them rather than turning with the line.
  • Slightly thicker paper is often easier for children at first.
  • Teach the child, perhaps by modelling it, that when they are following a line and go off track, they need to stop and cut towards the line to get back on track.

What are some of your favourite scissor activities for your child?