Welcome to Joyful Toddlers!

This space is about increasing our enjoyment of the young children in our lives through concrete action and by adjusting the lens through which we view them. My work comes out of LifeWays, which is inspired by Waldorf education. I welcome your comments, and questions about increasing your enjoyment of the children in YOUR life.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Smooth & Easy Transitions

          Usually we think of transitions as something that must be done in order to get to something else, but very young children don’t think this way and can’t think this way.  Young children live in the moment.  So in order to have transitions go smoothly and enjoyably, change your view so that each transition is an activity in its own right, with a beginning, a middle and an end.  Think of it as a structured activity like circle-time.  It doesn’t happen in a ring, but it’s a series of actions to be done together, with song and verse.  It should be just as structured and just as enjoyable for the kids.
              Here are the steps that I use to make a transition go smoothly:
             1. Get everything you need ready before you start, so that children can be in motion the entire time (no waiting).  So this means, get handwashing stuff ready before you start tidying up to come to a meal.  In fact, we get our end-of-meal handwashing ready before we even start cleaning up from free-play, so that it’s a smooth transition from play to eating to cleaning up from a meal.  Think ahead!
             2.      Use songs during transitions.  This makes a HUGE difference!  Songs are really useful because they let a child know what's coming, without all the talking.   You don't have to be a great singer for these, just use songs you remember from your childhood, or take the tunes of songs you know and add simple words.  To the tune of "Twinkle twinkle little star" you could sing, "Find your shoes and put them on, find your shoes and put them on."  You may use several songs, one for the start of the transition, and one for the end. It's useful to use the same song each time for the same task, so that kids really get the hang of what happens when a certain song is sung.
                 3. Give individual tasks.  Giving tasks that children can accomplish is important.  First of all it keeps children engaged in what's going on.  For instance, giving them something to carry out to the car when you’re going somewhere makes it much more likely that they'll walk straight to the car, instead of getting distracted on the way.  But even more important, it allows the child to contribute to the process.  It goes more smoothly because he’s helping you.  You’re doing it together.
             4.  Keep things moving.  Start the process with some sort of fun thing that gets your child moving (a little game, or putting something in its place), then keep them moving smoothly then entire time.  So, start with tidying up, but then move seamlessly into getting ready to go outside.  Don't stop and talk about it, just do it.  Children will be swept up in the movement of it and will most likely follow your lead.  Children do best when they're in motion, so think of the entire transition process as a dance where you walz from one thing to the next.  If you do things in this way, once you get a child to stop his play, you can tidy up, get a fresh diaper, change the laundry, and get out the door.  If you have each step prepared, involve him in each step (give him individual tasks), use song and verse, and keep things moving, it will probably go well.  Better than breaking him away from his play four separate times, by far!

An Example
              So, using all of these tricks, getting yourself and your toddler out the door in the morning might look like this:  While he’s eating breakfast, you get everything you’ll need to take with you and put it by the door.  You also put his hat and his jacket on a little changing chair.  When you see that he’s about done with breakfast you sing out, “Last little nibbles!”  Before you get him out of his high chair, you get a warm washcloth and sing, “Wipe wipe wipe!  Wipe your face.  Wipe wipe wipe! Wipe your hand.  Wipe wipe wipe! You are clean.”  Then you lift him down, and give him his bowl to take to the kitchen.  You lift him up so he can set it on the counter, then immediately let him know it’s time to go get shoes on by saying, “Cockadoodle doo, my dame has lost her shoe!  My master’s lost his fiddle-stick and knows not what to do!  Where are YOUR shoes?”  As he runs over to them (or as you carry him over, if he’s not cooperating), you repeat the nursery rhyme at least two more times as he sits down in the changing chair.  He knows how things go, so he immediately starts trying to put his hat on.  I usually do hat first, then shoes, then jacket last (if it’s wintertime, hat first, then snowpants, then boots, then mittens, then jacket.  If you put mittens on first, they’re nicely tucked into the jacket sleeves).  Then get your own shoes and jacket on, and pick up your bags.  Take out one thing and say, “We’re ready to go!  I’ll carry the diaper bag.  Will you carry this for me please?” and then you walk out together.  As you’re walking from the house to the door, you have another song that you sing: this one a railroad song.  “I’ve been working on the railroad, all the livelong day…”  This is a long song, and it lasts the entire time as you get him into his car-seat.
                   If you have everything ready to go before you start, if you keep moving from one activity to the next (finishing breakfast to putting on shoes to walking out the door), if you use song and verse as you go, and you give individual tasks, then you can have a smooth and easy transition.

Miss Faith

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1 comment:

  1. These are such wonderfully transition ideas! (I love using songs with the kids- they instantly know what is next!)