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Dear Debi,
Help! The children in my care tend to throw temper tantrums whenever I ask them to clean up their toys. I’ve tried clapping my hands and ringing a bell, but nothing works. What else can I do to make moving on to another activity, like snacks or nap time less stressful?
Cathy, Venice, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
  • Kids need clear guidance during transitions
  • Use verbal cues, songs, physical activities or a change in the environment
  • Have kids participate in transitions that are clear to them
  • Anticipate challenges
Expert Advice
Jennifer Montgomery Bell
Jennifer Montgomery Bell
Early Childhood Education Instructor, El Camino College
In family child care, a transition is a change from one situation or activity to another. These can be arrival and departure, clean up, getting ready to go outside, getting ready for nap time or lunchtime.

Usually when you’re transitioning, you should give the child fair warning. If they’re outside preparing to go inside, I’d suggest the kids sit down before they go inside. You can tell them, “Inside we have dramatic play available.” Make them aware of what they should expect. Prepare them for what’s coming up next. For consistency you have to do what you said you’re going to do. It helps them build a sense of routine.

Transitions need time – they shouldn’t be too abrupt. If you expect a child to end an activity suddenly and quickly, then you’ll likely experience negative behavior. Some children need more prep time than others. You may have to say to those children individually, before you announce to the larger group, that we’re going to change the activity.

Transitions can be presented by child care providers verbally, physically, or by a change in situation. And it can be done through a combination of these things. Gather the kids together as a group and discuss what’s coming next. Start to sing a song with the kids, which is an indicator that it’s time to start cleaning up. I had a teacher who would do chants. He’d start with beats, then add words and the kids knew it was time to head for the classroom. I saw another teacher use flags. The child goes and picks up a flag and there’s a flag for each transition. During clean-up the kid would walk around with the clean up flag yelling “clean-up, clean-up.” That really involved the children.

Providers who anticipate challenges can plan ahead for them. Planning ahead with different transition activities helps children prepare for a change in activities and allows them to feel in better control of their own behavior. For example, arriving and departing is always a big topic. Make sure you have a consistent routine, so the child knows what to expect. We have a good-bye window. The kids know they can wave to mom or dad and they can stay at the window as long as they want.
Child Care provider Comments
Mechelle
Mechelle
Child care provider for 4 years
After circle time, when I want them to get up and go, we do rocket time, where I begin a countdown starting from 10. It’s educational because we are counting, and at the end they blast off and go.

Sometimes I’ll say “boing boing” and we’ll bounce around like frogs, and once they do it once or twice they understand what we are doing. We also use a clean up song, when you sing “Clean up! Clean up! Everybody! Every way!” Then the kids know it’s time to clean up their toys and put them away.

The area is labeled and they know where to put everything. So each day the kids know what to expect and a lot of the transitional things are musically related, such as, “Are you happy and you know it, wash your hands?” Then they know snack-time is coming up.
Diane Ferguson
Diane Ferguson
Child care provider for 3 years
I’ll let the kids know they have five minutes till the next activity, but I don’t stress the time because they don’t understand that concept. So we’ll sing things like, “Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up!” Or if we’re going outside, we line up first. Then we get our shoes on and we go outside so they know it’s outside time. With lunch time, they get a 5-minute notification and then they clean up. Once again they’ll sing “Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up!” But it’s not about teaching time it’s about letting them know what’s next as a method for transition.
Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Child care provider for 4 years
My three-year-old has trouble with naptime, so I read him books. It’s hard to get him to pick the books and get right to sleep, so I’ll help him choose the books. We’ll start with me saying, “Do you know who would like to read this ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’? Let’s go read!” So when we start picking books, he knows it’s naptime.

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Topic: Child Care Management
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Resources
Developmental Milestones
PBS / The Whole Child / Emotional Development
Child Development Training Consortium – CDTC
Center On The Social And Emotional Foundations For Early Learning
1-877-275-3227
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Tips on Resolving Conflicts pdf
 
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