Transitioning from one activity to another can sometimes be challenging for children. Whether it's moving from outdoor play to circle time, going from home to school, or any other shift in routine, transitions can sometimes cause uncertainty and frustration in young children. However, with the right strategies and support, we can help children navigate these transitions more smoothly and ensure their emotional well-being. In this article, we will investigate some short but effective methods that could assist children in embracing transitions and ultimately thriving in their daily routines.
1. Establish Routines: The first thing we will look into are routines! Routines tend to provide a sense of predictability and stability for children, making transitions easier to handle. Creating a daily schedule that incorporates consistent times for different activities, such as outdoor play, indoor playtime, snack time, bath time, and nap time could allow children to know what comes next. By keeping the continuity of the routine, children learn to feel safe and secure as their environment is predictable. Another idea is to display the schedule visually, using pictures of the child as well as the activities such as eating, bathing etc. so children can have a visual of what to anticipate. This will then help the child with any upcoming transitions as well as understanding what's coming next.
2. Use Visual Cues: As mentioned above, visual cues are powerful tools for children to understand and
remember the sequence of activities during transitions. Utilize visual aids like charts, timers, or pictures to represent each step of the transition. For instance, you can have a picture of a toy box to symbolize clean-up time or a book image for reading time. These visual cues will allow the child the time to grasp the concept of transitioning from one activity to another. Children are yet to understand the concept of time, nor do they understand how long five or ten minutes are. With the help of a visual timer, the children can see how much time remains as well as how fast or slow time passes. Children that have busy schedules could benefit from a day-to-day chart. Start your chart by laying out the day from morning to afternoon, for example, 7:00 wake-up time, 7:30 breakfast time, 8:00 school time etc. You could make this as detailed as you like. You could add a picture of the child and move it from one activity to the other as the day progresses. Additionally, this is a great activity you can prepare together with your child and allow him/her to move the pictures through the day.
3. Give warnings and Time Indicators: Children often struggle with sudden changes. Providing warnings and time indicators before a transition occurs helps them mentally prepare. For example, five minutes before tidying away time, you can say, "In five minutes, it will be time to put away your activity." This gives children a heads-up, allowing them to mentally shift gears and transition more smoothly. Think about yourself when you are in the middle of a good book and suddenly you are asked to interrupt your reading, put your book away because it’s time to go. This is likely what a child experiences when there is no explanation or warning of what comes next. Instead, use a warning or a gentle indication such as singing a song. This will help the child have a smoother transition to the next activity.
4. Offer Choices and Autonomy: Children thrive when they feel a sense of control over their environment. For this reason, it is important to offer them choices whenever possible during transitions. For instance, when a child is playing, you could ask "Would you like to clean up the blocks first or the dolls?" Providing choices empowers children and gives them a sense of ownership which in turn makes transitions feel less imposed and more like decisions they have made. A child who is allowed to take responsibility and ownership of his/her action will flourish into an independent child. As per Maria Montessori, “The great gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”
5. Engage in Transition Activities: Make transitions fun and engaging by incorporating transition activities. As mentioned above, singing songs, playing "Simon Says," or engaging in simple movement exercises can help children transition from one activity to another while keeping them engaged and entertained. These activities not only distract children from potential anxiety but also provide a positive association with transitions. So put on your singing hats and get creative. Children are more likely to listen when approached in a fun and exciting manner!
6, Provide Emotional Support: Some transitions can be emotionally challenging for some children and that’s OK! Establishing outines can be tricky therefore, it's crucial to offer support and validation. Acknowledge their feelings and empathize with any anxiety or resistance they might experience during transitions. Offer reassurance and use positive language to reinforce the benefits of the upcoming activity. For example, you could say, "We're going to have a bath now and then we can read your favourite story! Won't that be exciting? Which story would you like us to read tonight?". Here we are offering the choice to the child, but we are also giving the cue for what will come next. Sometimes there will be tears but it's important that the child feels that his/her feelings are validated.
7. Consistency and Patience: Consistency is key when helping children navigate transitions. Stick to the established routines and use the same strategies consistently. Be patient and understanding, as transitions may take time for some children to adjust to. Unboundedly, after a few weeks, transitions should start feeling smoother.
In conclusion, transitioning from one activity to another can be a challenging time for children, but with the right techniques and support, these transitions can become smoother and less stressful. By establishing routines, using visual cues, giving warnings, offering choices, engaging in transition activities, providing emotional support, and maintaining consistency, we can help the children thrive and develop the necessary skills to navigate transitions confidently. Remember, each child is unique, so be patient and adjust your approach to suit their individual needs. Together, we can create a positive and supportive environment for children as they grow and learn.
Natasha is our deputy manager in Little Gems' Nicosia setting. Patience, consistency and persistency are keywords and key actions in navigating transitions. Planning towards a positive outcome is always worthwhile, remembering it and sticking to it will give a positive end result. As the saying goes - failing to plan is planning to fail! Get in touch should you want to learn more about the transitions!