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It can be hard to clean up when you have a classroom full of preschoolers or kindergartners drawing, painting, or crafting. Once the last line is drawn or the last brush of paint is applied, you’re often left with a pretty big mess to clean up. We’ve come up with four tips for art classroom management that can help you with classroom cleaning after art time.

1. Make Clean Up as Easy as Possible by Prepping Ahead of Time

If you prepare ahead of time, cleaning up afterwards will be much easier.

  • Tape paper down on the table or use Mess Free Messmatz or another type of messy mats to keep messy art contained in one space.

  • Have children wear aprons and put down a splash mat to protect the floor.

  • Use spill-proof paint cups to prevent paint from spilling on the table or floor.

  • Have a drying rack or area prepared for children to place their artwork to dry.

  • Make sure containers and storage units are clearly labeled to ensure quicker cleanup.

  • Know what materials each project will require and have them ready for children to use.

2. Turn Cleanup Time into Another Learning Opportunity for Students

There are plenty of age-appropriate ways for children to help you clean up while also practicing different skills and concepts. Get kids cleaning (and learning) by incorporating music and games to keep it fun and educational.

  • Sorting – “Let’s put all the red crayons up.”

  • Counting – “Can everyone pick up four crayons to put back in the basket?”

  • Ordering – “First we’re going to clean the table, then we’re going to clean the floor, and then we’re going to go wash our hands.”

  • Time – “This song lasts for five minutes. Let’s see if we can get everything put away before it ends.”

3. See What Art Supplies Can Be Reused, Recycled, or Thrown Away

Instead of throwing away all of the day’s used art materials or putting them in a big pile that’s set to the side, go through them and make different piles of what can be reused, recycled, or thrown away.

  • Quickly look through the materials that students use repeatedly in the art center. For example, does the glue stick have enough glue for another project, or does it need to be thrown away?

  • Put all of the leftover pieces of paper into a scrap paper bin for students to choose from when they just need a small piece of paper.

  • If children have papers that have been marked on or used as practice, encourage children to put them in the recycle bin.

4. Remember That Everything Doesn’t Have to Be Spotless to Be Clean

Even if your students help you with cleaning up the art center or art area, not everything will be perfectly cleaned or organized. You will only have so much time to clean, so make sure you don’t have too high of expectations. If a table gets cleaned up but still has streaks of marker on it, recognize that that’s something you can work on later. As long as children contribute by completing age-appropriate tasks and you get a good bit of the center back in place, be happy with those results until you can come back later in the day or week and do a more in-depth cleaning of the area.

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