I recently received an email from a reader asking about my stance as an Early Childhood Teacher on packing away. Not normal, everyday packing away of toys but packing away those super special constructions or creative projects that children have spent a lot of time making and refining. Here is Fiona’s question and my response…
Just recently discovered your blog! I have a question for you as an ex-Early Childhood teacher.
My son is now 5.5 years old. He’s a bit reluctant to pack up activities after himself and does so begrudgingly (but at least he does so). Not as co-operatively as I would like, but not too bad. He’s actually good about cleaning up his bedroom floor at night, which is a job he likes.
However, the real issue is those times when he invests a great deal of time and creativity into making something. Today, my son really spent a long time before school, building a railway. He tried so hard to figure out ways to get the tracks rising up and then down, supported on blocks etc. He was really chuffed when he worked it out the way he wanted. Then he went on to build block stations all around and etc. etc. He’s an only child and perhaps a little too used to having things set up “just so” with no interference.
However, he *never* wants to tear down his creations! He gets quite frustrated and upset if I ask him to pack up one of his super-special marvelous creations. So we tend to leave things out (moved neatly in a corner). Then he will come home from school and add to it. And so on.
What did you do in the Early Childhood setting with the ‘super special creations’? Do you think it is a good habit for kids to get used to accepting pack up and starting again the next day, no matter what? I sort of don’t want to stamp out his creativity and efforts by tearing things down once he’s worked on them, but on the other hand, I just get sick of the procrastination with pack up time.
Hope you don’t mind getting email requests! Love reading your blog!
Yes, in my early childhood setting we valued super special creations, our cleaners were used to vacuuming around interesting construction sites! There are a number of reasons why;
1. Children need time to see their ideas come to fruition and often this time is interrupted by other elements of the daily routine. By packing away for mealtimes or to go out, you child needs to start all over again each time and as well as being disheartening and frustrating, it often means children do not have the opportunity to make more detailed, involved constructions or creations.
2. By revisiting previous work, children usually engage in revising, extending and improving upon their previous ideas. This is an important part of the learning process.
In terms of managing the situation with your son, I suggest allocating a special space in his playroom (or your living room, if you are in the same situation as we are) to be his ‘project work’ space where he can keep projects in progress. This could be a shelf or a mat in the corner of the room. A lightweight piece of board to build on can make moving constructions around the room much easier.
I would, however, negotiate with him the number of ongoing projects that he can keep at any given time, this could just be one, if that is what you think will work best for you (I am unsure how tolerant you are, how much space you have or how large his projects are). Once he has reached the agreed number, he needs to choose which one/s will be kept and which will be packed away. This way he knows the limits ahead of time and he is responsible for making the choice of which to keep and which to pack away.
You could also involve your son in making a sign for his special space. For a small child they could make a picture representing ‘Don’t touch,’ similar to the photograph at the top of this post, older children can have a go at writing some words for their sign.
If you have a digital camera you may also suggest that your son take a photo of a project before he packs it away. These can be printed out and stuck into a scrapbook for him to revisit (and rebuild) at a later time.
I hope these ideas help Fiona and others facing similar difficulties. What are your strategies for managing super special creations? Please leave a comment below to share.