The best preschool transitions will help your classroom run more smoothly by creating consistency and engagement. Transitions can be very difficult for preschoolers at times. They tend to get really caught up in what they are doing and it is hard to stop. It is especially difficult if they are unprepared for the transition.
Since we know that transition times can be a source of stress for preschoolers, it makes sense to limit the number of transitions there are in the preschool day. There should be lots of time in between transitions in order to give the children plenty of time to engage in their activities. They should not feel rushed or they will become stressed, which can lead to power struggles.
Consistency is key in preschool. If your students know the routine of the classroom it will simplify your transitions a great deal. Use the same transitions and keep the daily schedule consistent each day and you can have smooth transitions in your preschool classroom.
GIVE A WARNING
Do not move into a transition without giving your preschoolers a heads up that it is coming. This will cause problems for some preschoolers and can lead to some major power struggles.
Giving a five minute warning for a transition gives your preschoolers a chance to finish up what they are doing. You can do this by going around and telling each group of children that there are five more minutes until clean up, or you could do something as simple as turning off the lights briefly and then turning them back on. Either way, keep it consistent by always using the same signal for your five minute warning.
Without that five minute warning, if you have preschoolers working with recycled materials and glue to create structures or you have a preschooler who has just sat down to draw a picture for their Mom, they will likely be upset if they are suddenly expected to clean up. Having a shelf that your preschoolers can use to put unfinished work that they can come back to later is also very useful in these situations.
Lining up can be a source of stress for some preschoolers. Sometimes it’s because they do not want to move on to the next thing, and sometimes it’s just having to be in a line at all. It is important to limit the time preschoolers spend waiting in line. If you are lining up to go outside for instance have the children sit in their cubbies once they are ready.
Leave books in each cubby for them to look at while they wait. Then, once everyone is ready, you can have them all get into line. Have the older preschoolers help the younger ones after they are ready themselves. This will speed things up and give the older children a sense of responsibility.
If you are lining up to come inside you really need to make it fun. Unless outside time has been particularly tiring, you are likely to have at least a few grumbles when it comes time to line up to go back inside.
You can make it fun by having everyone clean up and then line up behind the helper of the day. Then, the helper of the day gets to choose a movement that all of the children will follow. Have the helper of the day lead the line around the playground as they do the movement all the way back to the line and they continue all the way inside.
The most popular transition song that exists is probably the clean up song. It works well because it is up beat, which makes you feel like you should be up and moving doing something. It also gives direction as to what should be happening. The clean up song also gives a sense of community responsibility.
If you have a preschooler who is not participating in cleaning up though, you can start singing about all of the friends who are cleaning up. Then, they may decide to help just so that they can hear their name in your song.
At the end of your circle time, have just a couple of your preschoolers transition to the next activity at a time. You can do this by singing a song such as, “if your clothes have any red, any red. If your clothes have any red, any red. If your clothes have any red, then put your finger on your head.”
Then all of the children with red move on to the next activity. You continue to do this with more colors until all of the children have transitioned. This transition works well because only a few children are transitioning at a time, which limits the chaos of all the children running off to the next activity. Also, it is very interactive.
All of the children get to sing along, clap, and look for who is wearing the color called. The same song does not have to be used each day, but the transition should be more or less the same.
Once you have put the best preschool transitions into practice you will see your preschoolers become more relaxed. There will even be times when they initiate the transitions because they are so in tune with the classroom daily schedule and what is coming next.