When I was doing some courses a couple of years ago, I had come across a course helping me to set up my centers better and giving advice about some best ways to help the children become more responsible with the items.
So to do this, I had taken my shelves that have manipulatives on them and opened them for the children to use freely. I also made sure all the toy shelves were readily available. For two years this routine worked wonderfully.
The children would find what they wanted to play with, enjoy themselves for a while, and then put things away.
Well, this year things have not been going too well. Pre-K is going fine, but my three-year-old class is having lots of difficulty with this concept.
Mrs. T has called this group the drop and run group. They pull things out, dump them on the floor, and move on. Then, when clean up time comes they scatter. It was taking 15 to 20 minutes for clean up.
So, I decided it was time to shift gears. I needed to limit the amount of items the children could choose from. I went back to putting certain manipulatives on the tables for the children. Then I went through our kitchen things and trimmed them down a bit.
My final step was to not make the shelves as easily accessible. I give them different choices each time, just not everything.
It really has worked wonderfully. They even seem to play much more calmer and kinder. I am hoping to gradually allow them free reign, but I am going to take it one step at a time--slowly!