Play and what about clean-up?

This child has only two and a half hours a day in this magnificent rich environment and it seems to me that if they’re going to be able to work hard as an adult then they’ve got to play as hard as they can play because they’ve got to build that muscle mass.  They’ve got to build that brain and where they’re going to do it is play.

Things to think about

What is your clean up philosophy with young children?
How can you add grace to daily clean up?
If all learning for young children is through imitation and discovery, then as long as we model cleaning up for children in a joyful way, they will take that on as well.  Do you agree with this?
Can you see the way in which we foster a lack of community when we tell children they have to clean up their own space instead of just modeling clean-up for young children where everyone pitches in?
How can you add humor and imagination to your current clean-up for children?

Highlights from Playful Wisdom
by Michael Mendizza featuring Bev Bos and Joseph Chilton Pearce

There is no challenge we will ever face more important or more rewarding. We pay millions to professional athletes to hit a ball two-hundred-and-fifty yards. This is kindergarten, sandbox play compared to the infinite complexity, always moving and changing, adaptive learning we call childhood. Parenting and mentoring young children is an art, the ultimate act of creation. Our children are indeed the future of humanity. It is our sacred trust to provide the safest, most challenging and nurturing space possible for them to blossom. And every step along the way our artistry is to know when to step aside, to assume competence and allow the vast, open-ended capacities nature intends, and has invested billions of years cultivating, to express in unique and ever creative ways. And here we come very close to defining that well used but seldom realized phrase, unconditional love. To claim ownership, to have our identity puffed up by our child’s performance, to condition them to please ourselves or others, to value the grade or score more than the child’s actual experience, what they are learning and the joy real learning implies, is a betrayal of the sacred-creative trust nature hold for each and every parent.

As we have seen, the absorbent, ever sensitive, alert and often telepathic heart and mind of the early child, and everyone-always if we know how to look and listen, is model sensitive and experience dependent. Children spontaneously and effortlessly become the mode-experience we are. If we grasp the truth and lawful nature of this principle, we naturally give the vast amount of our energy and attention into perfecting ourselves as the model. Most, however, ignore the overarching significance of the model and focus on the child, praising, rewarding and punishing conformity to meet the parent’s and culture’s expectations. This focus on the child with its implicit conformity training betrays nature’s agenda and is the deep root of conflict that plagues children and families all over the world. Nature assumes that this self-less love is there, active in the model and imbues every child with ‘unquestioned acceptance of the given,’ a term the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget used. What happens if a selfish-ego is the model instead of unconditional love? The entire developmental system is skewed, distorted and with compounding interest, inside each individual and outside in the culture this conflict and confusion creates. Our true place and purpose as nature intends is to be this safe, nurturing and challenging environment, that knows when to lead by example, when to step back and when to watch with wonder as our children become the miracle we all are, or should I say could be.

So what about clean up?  Well if the essence of all learning is play, it’s how we learn about everything is to play with everything, then the more a child has to worry about who is going to clean up, the less they play.  The less they play the less they grow in every way possible.  So you have to give it some thought about what you’re going to do.  First of all people say, “Oh Bev, you are not structured at all.”  I am the most structured organized teacher that ever lived on this planet.  I’m thoughtful.  We really keep the place basically underneath very organized.  Out of that we expect and become frightened when it doesn’t happen, we expect kids to create chaos because we know that that’s the way the brain grows.  If they have to use too much in the beginning, too much water, too much sand, and we don’t want them to worry about who’s going to clean up. 

We always have the energy to do that as the adults.  We just kind of pitch in, we put things away.  Sometimes I hand something to a child and say see if you can figure out where that goes.  I also remind children when they’re eating your napkin goes in the garbage can, but there isn’t this intensity about if you play here then you have to clean up.  This child has only two and a half hours a day in this magnificent rich environment and it seems to me that if they’re going to be able to work hard as an adult then they’ve got to play as hard as they can play because they’ve got to build that muscle mass.  They’ve got to build that brain and where they’re going to do it is play.  I’ve already done that and I have the stamina and the energy to clean up.  I can work that hard because I played like that as a child.  I also worked hard as a child.  But I don’t think, and I learned a lot by looking at my five children.  All five of them were raised in the same house, a lot of stuff, but very organized and probably underneath pretty clean.  All of them are entirely different housekeepers.  I can’t believe this has happened.  My one daughter, well you want to make sure you go to the bathroom before you go to her house because her house is a little chaotic and it’s different there. 

So I know that how I was doesn’t make any difference.  It’s up to everybody individually.  I think we think that we can control what our kids are going to be like when they grow up.  Hopefully they’re not going to spend all of their time making their house look like houses look on television because that’s the frightening thing.  That’s not real.  What’s real and what’s authentic?  There’s going to be piles of stuff.  I mean everybody has a different comfort level.  What we have to do at the school is we have to have it ready for the next group that’s coming in.  So we just pitch in but it has to be done with grace and dignity and we don’t sing clean up songs.  We just get it done.  And if you want kids to really help what you need to do is give them really important things to do like whose turn is it to vacuum?  They love to do that.  Would anybody like to help me wash the easels?  The best story I have about clean up is two little girls came out of the bathroom and they were covered from head to toe in soap suds and water.  They were just absolutely, I hardly recognized them, and I said, “Well what’s going on?”  They said, “We’ve been cleaning the bathroom.”  And I said, “Yeah.”  And they said, “And we’re never going to do it again!”  And I said, “And why not?”  And this one little girl said, “Because people keep coming in there.”  And I thought isn’t that the truth.  You just get it clean and somebody comes in there. 

But you know how had it gotten to the place where this isn’t just something we do?  It’s what my mother did and it’s what I did.  We simply I think, again, we’ll go back to the thing where if you don’t play hard as a kid, you don’t have the energy or the mindset that you can work hard when you grow up.  They go together.  They just go together.  So I’m not concerned about that.  I’m not going to tell you that just because you play there you have to put it away.