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Transitions (II)

Dear Debi,
My 2 1/2-year-old son loves playing with his cars. He loves them so much, he’ll whine or throw a tantrum when he has to put them down to get ready for lunch. How can I make going from playtime to mealtime less stressful?
Kico Velarde
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Explain what will happen & when
  • Accommodate kids’ individual schedules
  • Give kids time to finish their activities or come back later
Expert Advice
Ana Gallegos
Ana Gallegos
Preschool Program Manager
I would tell Kico to plan out a consistent and predictable schedule and make it child-oriented. Also, take a look at what the child’s specific needs are. Take time, preparation and planning to assess what needs to be done. For a young child, you need to set up consistent time frames that allow the child to experience predictable outcomes so that they expect the same routine every day.

A transition is the process in which you move children from one designated activity or environment to another. It is important to eliminate waiting time for children in between activities because they get frustrated if they wait for long times.

As parents and caregivers, we want to provide the best possible care. If we know the child’s developmental stage, we can understand how much they’re willing to wait and we want to recognize that a transition can be very crucial if they’re going to have a positive or negative day in your program. Recognize the transition as effective or ineffective. The goal is for your child to be a successful individual in your setting. Don’t set up your child for failure. Let him be effective in the course of transitions.

It’s not always necessary for children to finish their activities. You can give children strategies and say, “time is almost up”. Give them options about finishing their activities and warn them about what is going to happen next. You can also give them the option of having someone stay behind with them so they can finish. If you’re working with a difficult child, recognize that transitions are difficult for them. It can be effective to have someone stay with the child to process the transitions a little bit more. Some children need more one-to-one correspondence with each other, as opposed to others who are more group-oriented and more comfortable with leaving an unfinished project.

It’s important that we always make sure we give the children an opportunity to know what’s going to happen next. Consistency is very important because children need to be given a warning about when things will happen. They need to be aware for them to understand their environment. Also, once children get used to a schedule, they can become role models for the younger children and that brings a balance where the children can imitate child oriented activities vs. teacher directed instruction. When you give them consistency and routine, it brings a balance to their scenario on a day- to-day basis.

You can signal a transition by using anything from verbal cues, to giving hand signs about time, holding up a minutes sign, blowing a whistle, or even singing a song. I find that singing a song helps children understand that something is going to change. When children sing the transitional song, it increases their vocabulary skills and enables them to become participants in a group. They key is to be consistent with the sign or clue. Set the foundation for it so children can be consistent.
Child Care Provider Comments
Letycia Gomez
Letycia Gomez
Mother of Two
Establishing a routine has helped a lot because then children know what's coming next. At bedtime, for example, we set the routine: first, change into your pajamas; then we brush the teeth; tell a story or do some reading, then Prayer, and then it's time for bed. They get used to that routine, and it makes it a lot easier. When we vary from the routine, there's usually trouble.
Carri Bryant
Carri Bryant
Cares for her two great-grandchildren
As a grandmother, I like to sing. Of course, as a professional at school, I still use singing as a transition kind of thing. If you sing the same song for the same transition, and if you do it daily, it really helps. When I'm at school or when my grandchildren are there, and we start singing that “now it's time for lunch”, everybody knows to wash up and get ready for lunch. Children will become accustomed to what you do systematically.
Beth Collier
Beth Collier
Child care provider for 22 years and mother of three
I think Kico's brought this question at a perfect age because it's before a child might even be in my program. But it's great to set up a transition activity, as in it's not just a negative to stop playing with your cars. Tell the child, “You get to come and help me get ready for a meal.”

You can give a child a specific job. It's one child's job to put, say, the napkins on the table. They get to choose – are we using the blue or the red napkins? Or an older child can truly set a table. They can help put maybe the salad dressing on, whatever it is. T here are little things at the end of the preparation that the child can take part in.

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