Ever feel like you are hearding cats just trying to get one or two children to go from playing to eating dinner? Did you ever wonder how your child’s teacher gets 18-25 children to move from one activity to another? Let me tell you a secret… it’s all about consistent transitions!
What is a transition? A transition is the movement from one place or activity to another. So in school that might mean going from circle time to learning centers. Or moving from the classroom to the playground or cafeteria. This is not some type of magical powers that good teachers have, it is all about laying a foundation of expectation, practice, review and independence.
Cueing children is the first step. Children, and adults, have a hard time dropping something without warning. Yes, they need to learn to do this for emergencies, but for the most part you know a bit ahead of time that they are going to need to stop. So, let them know. A five minute and then a 2 or 3 minute warning is more than enough to let them know a change is coming. When you start this process you need to state clearly… “In 5 minutes you will need to stop playing with your puzzle and come to table for dinner.” As you move into the independence phase you can shorten this to just 5 minutes until dinner as they know the expected behavior at that time.
The first few times you do this, you will want to help the process. What do you expect them to do in this transition time? Should everything be cleaned up and put away? If you are leaving the house in 5 min, do you expect them to already have their shoes and jacket on?
Another key factor is establishing independent and shared tasks. The more you can have your child do on his/her own the smoother things will go down the line. But… and this is key… if you want them to do it on their own, you have to teach them to do it on their own. ANDDDD you need to let them do it. In the beginning it will take longer, but if you do it for them it will not be an independent task.
This is a process. Teachers take the first month of school to teach transitions. Take the time. Walk through the steps. Do not get discouraged it your child forgets steps or melts down. This is all part of the learning process. Once you and your child see that these transition plans help smooth out life… it will all be worth it!