The benefits of planned transitions

Often transitions between one part of the routine and the next are chaotic, confusing, stressful and not at all child focused. They revolve around the needs of the educators and whether they have finished what was just happened and if they are prepared for what is about to happen. Some common transitions can be between inside and outside play, before meals, before or after a group time, before toileting/hand washing.

Children are not designed to wait. They are not designed to queue in a line waiting for the bathroom for long periods. They are not designed to sit unsupervised on the mat while they wait for further instructions as the room is packed up. It is often a cause of stress, anxiety, and even behavioural issues in children. Children with separation anxiety often have time to pause and think about how much they miss their family when there are not planned transitions, and therefore periods of waiting, causing them to become upset again.

Through planned transitions you can have the following benefits:

  • Getting additional learning into your program.
  • Assessing children’s skills in a range of areas.
  • Children are busy and engaged so less behavioural issues/anxiety.
  • Children are sent in small groups to the next activity to avoid chaos or queues.
  • Transfer skills/knowledge into a different context.


Some suggestions of transition activities are:

  • Singing songs like 5 cheeky monkeys, 3 jelly fish, 5 speckled frogs, 5 grey elephants etc and having the children act out the role and when they are eaten, or fall/jump off, they are sent to the next activity. 5 elephants
  • Have the children recognise shapes/patterns etc and seeing whether they pay attention, and sending children based on what they are wearing. You can pick basic things like colours of clothes, or patterns/pictures like stripes, stars, trucks, letters, numbers etc, or even increase vocabulary by the type of shoes etc. Just make sure if you are sending onto something with a number limit (like the bathroom) you pick something that isn’t very common and will only see 3 or 4 children go at a time.
  • Have the children recognise their names in more challenging ways as they become more capable. Start with just saying their name. Then people who’s name start with a letter, or rhymes with something (“wibbly wobbly wessica, an elephant sat on Jessica”), then move on to spelling names. It is surprising to see how many children know how to spell other people’s names.
  • Have children pay attention, remember and recall information through activities like 5 currant buns, but switch it up to 5 sandwiches or 5 ice-creams as examples. The children who are the items get to pick what flavour they are, and the children who come up to pick one have to remember what flavour the child is that they pick. To be inclusive you can allow the children who are still developing skills in this area be the ice-cream etc and they just need to think of a flavour, not remember who was what.
  • Use felt board stories or similar for children to come and add a piece to the board as the story is told. A good transition for children who are moving to another activity in the room, such as lunch, so they can still hear the story. Hungry Caterpillar

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