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Transitions are the changes in activity, location, mood, tempo, etc. that happen as we go through life. They can be big, like moving or starting day care, or small like:

  • Waking, getting up, dressing, going to bed or down for a nap.
  • Coming in from outside or stopping other play activities to eat, etc.
  • Going to or leaving day care.
  • Trips, outings, errands.
  • Surprises, disappointments, and changes in plans or routines.

Consider your child's needs and temperament when planning transitions. For example, plan quiet, "wind-down" activities before bedtime, and exercise between periods of sitting still. Remember that transitions are harder for some children than others. Transitions are easier for any child if:

  • There is a predictable routine.
  • The child is forewarned about transitions, especially if not part of the usual routine.
  • The number of transitions is limited.
  • The child isn't rushed and can finish what she's doing.
  • You empathize with his feelings about hard transitions and praise any progress.

Some little tricks to smooth transitions include:

  • Warnings a few minutes before a transition, e.g. "five more minutes and we'll have to clean up."
  • Picture schedules, timers, a bell or other signal, or a special song, like "Clean up."
  • Finding a good stopping point, e.g. "do it 3 more times." "After this program--."
  • Little set routines like bath, pajamas, brushing teeth, book, and hug at bedtime.
  • Using imagination to make transitions fun, like pretending to fly or swim to the car.


Page Last Updated: 2017-09-27