Navigating Transitions: Helping Young Children to Switch Gears

Navigating Transitions: Helping Young Children to Switch Gears

As an adult, making a transition from one activity to another feels like no big deal. It can be jarring the first time you realize that your little one has a very hard time moving from crayons to dinnertime or from brushing teeth to using the potty. Kids have a tough time with transitions both at home and at daycare. Our five tips will help you to help your child to manage transitions more easily, which will in turn make your day proceed much more smoothly!

  1. Build a routine. Children feel safer when they know that they can depend on the same routines day in and day out. This allows them to feel more calm when it is time to stop one activity and move on to the next. They know that cleaning up toys comes right after playtime, so they’ll be more capable of making that transition easily.
  2. Use music. The PBS Kids television show, “Daniel Tiger”, uses songs to explain everyday facts to kids and help kids to remember how to manage their emotions and handle everyday problems. You can come up with your own music to accompany problematic transitions at home. A “Brushing Our Teeth” song or a “Time for Bed” song may work wonders once it becomes a part of your child’s ritual.
  3. Try a visual chart. A chart which contains pictures that denote each and every activity your child must move through in her day can really help her to understand her world better and make more sense of her day’s timeline. It may help her to feel more in charge when she’s able to visually see a representation of her day’s procedures right in front of her.
  4. Implement a rewards system. Many children have one or two main sticking points in their day. Maybe it’s bedtime, maybe it’s mealtime, or maybe it is cleaning up after playing with toys. Create a sticker chart and when your child does a great job of transitioning to the next activity, allow him to choose a sticker to affix to the chart, in order to reinforce this positive behavior.
  5. Count down. Do you need to leave for home in five minutes, but your child is happily dangling from the play structure at the playground? Let her know that she has five more minutes to play in order to prepare her for leaving. Count down as every minute passes so that she knows when “zero minutes” is approaching.

Has your family landed upon a strategy that has helped your child to manage difficult transitions? Let us know about what has worked for you in the comments section!

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