Joey School

3 Strategies to Make Smooth Transitions For Preschoolers

3 Strategies to Make Smooth Transitions For Preschoolers

Picture this: You’re in a new environment, you’re not very familiar with the people around you, and without warning, all of the sudden, everyone is moving around, scrambling on to another task, leaving you in the dust.

You might think to yourself, “Wait, uh...what is going on here? Did I miss something?”

That’s exactly the feeling we don’t want our preschoolers to have when we move onto a new task.

Shifting is a hard task, especially for preschoolers. At our local preschool, we shift and rotate environments often during the preschool day. This not only prepares our students for kindergarten, but it helps them practice skills they will need for daily transitions in their lives. In this article, we are sharing our 3 favorite strategies for smoother transitions! 

3 strategies for smooth transitions

  1. Prepare.  
Have you ever overslept and woke up late for a flight or important meeting? How do you feel at that moment? Are you able to go into your next task or place calm and collect? When preschoolers are engaged in an activity, if we do not give them warning of a transition coming, it can feel just as distressful to them in that moment. Preschoolers thrive on structure, but they depend on us to provide that structure for them. 

    The following are some examples of short term and long term structure we provide for our preschool students on a daily basis:  

    • We go over a daily routine so they know what is happening that day, and in what order. They can’t tell time, but they can tell if you skip an activity or change the order of the schedule. The trust they feel in the routine helps many kids relax and feel safe during school. 
    • When it is a few minutes before a transition, we warn our preschoolers by telling them the amount of time left. Since it is hard for them to grasp the difference between 2 minutes and 5 minutes, timers are a great resource. A visual timer like a sand timer or a countdown picture on your phone or computer works great for this. Here is an online one we use regularly at school and home by Idea4e.

    2. Use music.

    Music is another great way to indicate change. Clean up songs and line up songs that are used consistently remind them of what to do when they hear them. It engages them and helps remind them of the expected behavior when they hear the familiar songs/chants. Having a routine to follow leaves them less room to become overwhelmed or lost in a changing situation. 

    3. Practice, practice, practice.

    We spend the first few weeks of preschool practicing routines. It not only gives the kids confidence to be at school, but it also helps them know how routines work and what to expect. When practicing, follow the “I do, we do, you do model.” Show them what to do first, then practice it together, then let them be the one to show all by themselves. For example, if you do free play before lunch, practice how that transition works.

    If you are going to use a song or timer, use it and show them how you expect them to put the toys away. When you are done, show them how you wash your hands and where to go next to have lunch. Then get the toys back out and try it together with the music and the steps you previously demonstrated. Then repeat the process with only them demonstrating to you. This is a great chance to give them positive reinforcement for getting all the steps right. Although practicing this routine three times in a row can seem like overkill, it will not be time wasted. It will pay off in the future and save you from constant nagging, and most importantly help your child feel confident and safe in their learning routine.  

    These strategies we’ve outlined have been really effective for myself and Melanie with not only our own kiddos, but also our students in our local preschool.

    We hope these strategies give you the tools you need to help your preschooler succeed and smooth out transitions!