Seven Ways To Help A Child Transition Smoothly

Noah was a four-year-old boy who attended a private, full-day preschool.  He was in a class of twenty other boys and girls.  One morning I received a call from Noah’s dad.  Apparently, Noah was having trouble at school.  Whenever it was time to move between activities, butterfly-Detananwhether it was from one classroom center to another or from outside play to inside, he simply refused to participate with his classmates.  He appeared to have difficulty transitioning and reacted strongly when it was necessary for him to leave an activity he was absorbed in.

I went into Noah’s preschool to consult with his teacher and principal.  We talked about some good ideas that Noah’s teacher could implement in the classroom in order to help Noah transition from one activity to the next.  The ideas we discussed can work at home as well.

How to help a child transition smoothly:

  • Verbal preparation: Transitioning songs and chants such as the popular “clean-up time” can work wonders at easing the child’s tension when changing from one setting and/or activity to the next.  Additionally, verbally prepping the child to expect certain activities throughout the day, by discussing the day’s schedule in the morning or by verbally reviewing the day’s schedule at various intervals throughout the day, can help ease the transition.
  • Visual preparation, in addition to verbal preparation, visual preparation often provides extra support to prepare a child to wind down one activity and get ready for the next.  Try this: instead of negotiating when it comes time to end a game, try allowing children to roll a die and agree beforehand that the number rolled is the number of minutes left for the activity.
  • Create a visual, tactile schedule. In the classroom, this can take the form of a vertical chart that depicts the activities of the day, with a detachable marker that is moved down the chart as the class progresses through each activity.  You can create a similar chart for home use to hang in a high-traffic area, such as the kitchen, in addition to hanging one near your child’s bedroom that he or she can reference throughout the day.
  • “Heavy work” activities assist in transitioning for some children. An activity that engages the entire body can provide a feeling of stability that enables a child to transition more confidently.  Heavy work activities include carrying a basket filled with toys or books; pushing, pulling, or stacking chairs; scrubbing a rough surface such as the art easels in the classroom; and wiping the table down after snack time with a large sponge.
  • Make transitioning fun! Have children form a “choo-choo train” that travels from one location to the next.  Or try singing the Wheels on the Bus as you roll along to your next activity.
  • Pretend that the child’s animals are making the transition first: “Mr. Bear is getting ready to go outside for recess.  We’d better put on Mr. Bear’s sweater so he can go outside!”  This mini-activity encourages the child to follow.
  • Maintain a consistent routine whenever possible.  Children thrive on the security that comes with consistency, especially children who tend towards anxiety or rigidity.

Noah’s teacher found that incorporating a few of these strategies not only improved Noah’s ability to transition, the class as a whole learned to move from one activity to the next with minimal tension and maximal cooperation.

Photo credit: Detanan

Do you have any transitioning tips you use? Please share your comments.

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