At the beginning of each year, I really like to read Pigsty by Mark Teague with my new little ones. It is a funny, and fantastically illustrated story of Wendell Fultz who decides he does not want to clean his room. His mother tells him it’s his choice if he wants to live in a pigsty. Wendell is content with his choice, even when a few pigs show up to live in his pigsty. The piles keep growing, and soon, Wendell begins to discover some of his prized possessions have been chewed on, smashed, and lost in the mess. He demands that the pigs help him clean up! With the room nice and tidy, Wendell is happy, but the pigs don’t feel quite so at home, so they move to Old MacDonald’s farm and now only come to visit for game night.
When reading this story with preschoolers, it is important to explain the term “pigsty” at the beginning. I usually just let them know that pigs on a farm live in a pigsty, and it’s muddy and dirty and really messy. So when people want to describe a place that’s really messy, we call it a pigsty. As we read the story, I really emphasize the part where Wendell’s things get ruined in his messy room. We talk a little about how he must feel about losing some of his favorite things.
At the end, we talk about our room, and clean up time in particular. If we didn’t clean up, what would happen to our things? Would you be able to find all of the pieces to your favorite puzzles? Would our books get smashed and ripped? How would we color if all the marker lids were left off? Talk about a few of the specifics in your room. (You might even choose to read this book before doing a clean up and look around at what gets left behind. Then set them loose to clean with gusto!) Let the children know how happy you are that they help you during clean up time, because when we take good care of the fun things in our room, that means we’ll be able to play with them again.
When I use this story in a small group, we play a memory game as an extension activity. Using an art tray, I arrange a few items, preferably some things that might have been in the pictures of Wendell’s room. I’ll gather about ten items, and use about five at a time, using more or less depending on the age group and their ability levels. I’ll let the children look at the items on the tray and talk about what they are. Then I have them close their eyes and I remove one item. The children open their eyes and try to guess what’s missing. After doing it a few times, I let each child take a turn being the one who removes an item while the others close their eyes. This activity fosters cognitive skills while also teaching the social skill of cleaning up and promoting language skills as you discuss the story. It’s a great way to reinforce, right from the beginning, the importance of cleaning up our preschool room, and keeping the pigs out!
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