What is a Transition?

In the preschool and childcare world, a transition is any time children are switching between activities. This could include moving from the classroom to a gym space or the bathroom. It could also include changing from free play to circle time or snack time. Arrival and departure times are transitions as well.

These parts of the schedule are often difficult for young children because they have to leave something they are enjoying (such as free play) or they have to wait. Waiting is hard. It is a skill for young children to learn.

So how can we make transitions smoother? Check out the tips below.

1. Give a Warning

Two minutes before you need to transition, briefly get everyone’s attention to let them know that they have only two minutes left in the current activity.

Typically this can be done for the group as a whole, but some children need to be individually told. Get down on their level, touch their hand. Make sure they’re listening when you tell them.

2. Explain What’s Next

Children don’t want to leave the fun thing they are doing, therefore, give them something to look forward to. Briefly tell them what’s next. If the next activity is not one they enjoy, mention the following thing as well. For example, “First we will go to the bathroom, then it’s gym time.”

3. Praise Good Behaviour

What can we adults do to help transitions go smoother? Do you see a child doing what you want? Let them know with a quick high five and a “Good job.”

At times we get so caught up redirecting undesired behaviour that we forget to praise the good behaviour. Not only does this lead to the children not knowing what you want them to be doing, but it also can result in even more undesired behaviour. Why? Because children need attention. When they aren’t getting attention for good behaviour, they begin to mimic the undesired behaviour because that is what gets them the attention they crave.

Sometimes, though not always, ignoring undesired behaviour while praising desired behaviour can work wonders in making transitions smoother.

4. Sing a Transition Song

Preschool age children tend to respond well to songs. Using a song to let them know it is time to transition rather than simply telling them is a long standing strategy that works.

The classic example of this is the Cleanup Song.

Other transition specific songs can include:

  • Line up songs
  • Stand up songs
  • Sit down songs

5. Sing General Preschool Songs

If your transition includes waiting or lining up and walking to a different room, singing regular preschool songs can be a huge help in keeping the children focused and in line.

These songs could include:

6. Assign a Job

Some children respond well to responsibility. It makes them feel important. Therefore, give them a task to do.

When walking in a line-up, tasks could include:

  • Leader of the line
  • Caboose of the line (their job is to make sure no one gets left behind)
  • Hold a younger child’s hand
  • Carry something for you

When cleaning up, tasks could include:

  • Look around for any pieces of toy food that need to go back to the kitchen
  • Hold the bucket so the other children can put toys in
  • Clean up a certain area of the room

7. Play a Game

When waiting, simple games can help everyone have a better day, even the teachers. Some of these can be done while walking as well.

Try one of these games:

  • I spy
  • Find the Body Parts (pat your head, etc.)
  • Pretend to be… (can you walk like a giraffe?)
  • Stretch (copy me while I touch my toes)

8. Smile

As you are transitioning, don’t forget to smile. If you are uptight and irritable, the children will sense it. If you are smiling, everyone will enjoy the experience better.

I hope these eight tips help make your transitions smoother. What are your favourite transition strategies for preschoolers, toddlers, or other young children?

Need more help with clean-up time? Check out the article: 3 Clean-up Strategies for Toddlers and Preschoolers

A child and many toys behind the title: 3 Cleanup Strategies

 

Do you have young children? Have you ever struggled to get them to help clean up? If so, you are certainly not alone. First off, children must learn the skill of cleaning up as most of us are not born with it. Secondly, it can be challenging to motivate a child to clean up, especially when they want to keep playing.

To help you out, I’ve collected three cleanup strategies for toddlers and preschoolers as well as a handy list of tips.

3 Cleanup Strategies

  1. Sing a Cleanup Song

  • Using a cleanup song can be a great strategy for helping young children know it is time to switch gears from playing to cleaning up. There are many different cleanup songs you can find online. Feel free to spend some time searching for one you like.
  • Here is a classic cleanup song you may already be familiar with. As far as I can tell, this song originally came from the Barney TV show. The words are simple and you can sing it as many times as needed.
    • Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere,
    • Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.

  2. “Who Can Clean Up the Fastest?” Game

  • Some children are competitive. This can be used to your advantage. Try making cleanup time a competition. The competition could be:
    • Between two children: “Sam, you clean this side of the room, and, Jane, you clean that side and let’s see who can get their side cleaned up first.”
    • Between a child and yourself: “Let’s see if you can clean up the cars before I finish cleaning up the paints.”
    • Between a child and a timer: “I’m going to start the five minute timer. See if you can clean up this whole room before it goes off.”
    • Between the child and themselves (for older children): “Last time you cleaned up all the blocks in 1.45 minutes. Let’s see if you can do it faster this time.”
  • Here is a visual five minute clean up timer you could try using:

  3. Find and Clean Game – I Spy

  • Here’s another cleanup game you could try. This game may be especially effective for those last few toys that still have not been picked up.
  • Invite your child to join you and tell them you have a challenge for them. Be direct and specific. “Tommy, I spy a blue car that needs to go in the white bin. Can you find it?” “Mary, I spy a purple doll dress hiding under the cupboard. See if you can figure out where it belongs.”
  • Praise each child when they find the item you named and have put it in the correct place.
  • For more advanced children, consider naming multiple items. “George, I spy seven triangle blocks that need putting away. Can you find them all?”

Tips for using Cleanup Strategies

  • Follow through
    • With all the tips I am about to share, it is important that you follow through. If you don’t do what you say you will do, your child may be tricked the first time or two, but it won’t take long for them to stop taking you seriously and soon it will be nearly impossible to get them to help clean up. They will ignore what you say, since past experience tells them that you don’t mean what you say, and they’ll keep right on playing.
  • Give a warning
    • Give your child a heads up at least two minutes before it is time to clean up. You could even set a two minute timer and explain that when the timer beeps, that means it is time to clean up the toys.
  • Explain what’s next
    • One of the biggest hesitations of children, when it comes to cleanup time, is not wanting to clean up because playing with toys is fun, and they don’t know if the next thing will be fun. Therefore, explain to your child what they will be doing next. When you give the two minute warning, it is a good time to briefly mention what’s next. “Two more minutes to play and then it’s snack time.”
    • You don’t have to be super specific.
    • If the next thing is something they don’t like. Try mentioning the next two things they will be doing. “Next we will go for a diaper change, and then we can play outside.”
  • Give plenty of time
    • Young children are not very fast at cleaning up, especially when it is a new skill they are just beginning to learn. If you want your child to be involved in helping clean up, be sure to give you and your child enough time to get everything cleaned up without being frantic and rushed.
    • Afraid you will be done cleaning up too early? Find a few engaging books or learn some fun and simple preschool songs to sing with your child while you wait. Here are a few of my songs that are great for helping smooth over those waiting transition times.
  • Be specific (which areas of the room need cleaning)
    • Remember that your child is still learning how to clean up. It will take time and teaching for them to learn which things go where. Therefore, be patient. Take the time to explain how you want things put away. You may have to explain several times.
  • Lead by example
    • Young children learn best by watching your example. Do you want your child to be cleaning up? Then get down on their level and help them do the cleaning. (As an added bonus, cleanup time goes a lot faster when there is an adult helping!)

Well, there you have it. Three cleanup strategies for you and your toddlers or preschoolers. I hope these are helpful as you go about your day. Don’t forget to smile and enjoy the time you get with your youngsters. Cleaning up is more fun when you’re smiling.

Looking for more classroom management tips? Check out the following links:

Children with backpacks behind title: Free 4 Fantastic Preschool Field Trips in Calgary

 

While this article is specific to preschool field trips in Calgary, it may give you ideas of free field trips you could find in your area. 

Not a preschool teacher, but want to take your child on a field trip? Consider going together with a handful of other moms with preschool-aged children.

Free Preschool Field Trips

1. Pisces Pet Emporium

https://piscespets.com/

  • This pet store is among my favourite field trips for preschoolers as they offer guided tours for free.
  • Think of Pisces as a preschooler-sized zoo! They even have little monkeys!
  • Tip: Even though you booked it a while ago, call Pieces a day or two before your field trip to remind them.
    • Pros:
      • get to see various animals including small monkeys, fish, cats, dogs, bunnies, birds, etc.
      • It’s harder to lose kids because the store is not crowded and only has one exit.
      • The tour guide may allow the children to feed the fish and will likely pull out a couple of animals for the children to see up close or even to pet.
      • Typically only about an hour long – a good length for many preschoolers.
    • Cons
      • Only one class can go at a time.
      • The aisles can get crowded, especially if you have lots of adults along. Consider limiting the number of volunteers you take.

2. Fire Station

https://www.calgary.ca/csps/fire/fire-stations/fire-station-tours.html

  • See the fire trucks up close and personal. Maybe even get to climb inside one.
    • Pros:
      • Children love firefighters! Getting to be inside the fire station is thrilling for them.
      • Encourages a positive attitude toward community helpers.
    • Cons
      • The firefighters giving the tour are on-call. Therefore, if a call comes in, off they go. This means your tour may be cut short.
      • It’s my understanding that a lot of Calgary kindergartens visit the fire station as their field trip.
      • The minimum age for fire station tours in Calgary is 4 years old.

3. Fish Creek Provincial Park / Inglewood Bird Sanctuary / Prairie Winds Park

https://www.calgary.ca/csps/parks/locations/all-city-parks.html

  • There are many lovely parks in Calgary. Some, like the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, are wildlife areas, while others, like Prairie Winds, are more cultivated including playgrounds.
    • Pros:
      • Outside – Many children these days don’t spend enough time outside. A field trip to the park gets them out of doors and in the sunshine.
      • You are in charge of this field trip, not dependent on a tour guide who may or may not be good with preschoolers.
    • Cons:
      • Weather dependent – being outside means you have to adjust your plan based on the weather.
      • You have to plan it. Because there is no tour guide, it is up to you to plan activities, games, etc. that will engage your children.

4. Library

https://calgarylibrary.ca/connect/babies-and-toddlers/early-learning-centres/

  • The Calgary Public Library system has been adding play areas to several of their libraries.
  • Also, some of their branches can be booked for storytime where a librarian will read books and sing songs with your class for 30 minutes. (I do not know whether this is a paid or free event.)
    • Pros:
      • Encourages early literacy and interest in reading.
      • Some librarians are excellent at storytime, or you could find a corner and read stories to your own class in which case you have control of the quality of storytime.
    • Cons:
      • Need to keep the children relatively quiet and have to watch them closely as there are many aisles to hide in.
      • Some librarians are used to doing storytime for elementary children and may not adjust well to the preschool age.

Regardless of whether you live in Calgary or not, I hope this article has given you some great free preschool field trip ideas to enjoy with your children.

What are your favourite free preschool field trips?

A bright preschool circle time set up

 

I’ve heard many people asking about curriculums to use with their preschooler(s). While there are preschool curriculum options available for sale, it may be easier than you think to create your own curriculum customized for your children and your schedule.

While there is no one way to create a curriculum for your children, here is the process I typically follow as a preschool teacher.

Step 1: Overall Learning Goals

  • Determine what overall learning goals you want your children to reach.
  • Academic suggestions include topics such as:
    • ABCs
      • It often works well to focus on teaching one letter per week, though they will need lots of review along the way.
      • Here are some fun ways to teach the letters: Teaching the ABCs
    • Numbers 1-20 (counting and recognition)
    • Shapes and colours
      • Focusing on one colour or one shape per week could work. Alternatively, you could have “Shapes” as your fun theme for a week.
    • Calendar
    • Science
      • Some people love integrating science into various themes. If that’s you, here are some ideas for simple science experiments to do with children: Preschool Science Ideas Board
    • Sight words
      • Wait until your child has a very good comprehension of the alphabet sounds before introducing sight words.

Step 2: Fun Themes

Choose fun themes and make a schedule of them.

  • Here’s a great list of preschool theme ideas to get you started: Exciting Preschool Themes
  • Decide how often you want to change up your theme.
    • Depending on how often and how deep you dig into each theme, you may want to change it up frequently.
    • I typically lean toward having a new theme every week, but I know others who change their theme once a month.
    • For some themes, such as Under the Sea, there are so many songs, crafts, and activities that can be done that I often extend it to cover two weeks.

Step 3: Weekly Goals

Decide how much curriculum you want to do per week or per theme.

  • Do you want to have a letter and/or a number per week?
  • Do you want to have a specific learning goal per week?
    • Weekly learning goals could include:
      • Rhyming
      • Identifying patterns
      • Taking turns
  • How many organized crafts do you want your children to make per week?
  • Do you want to do crafts related to each letter or number as you teach them? Or will your crafts be more connected to the fun theme?
  • How many songs do you sing each day?
    • I recommend trying to find at least one new song per theme while continuing to sing familiar songs.
    • Here are some unique and easy song ideas: Preschool Songs
  • Do you have organized gym times each day?
    • If so, consider finding a new game or a new variation of a familiar game per theme.
    • Here’s a versatile gym game that can be adapted to nearly any theme and adjusted for different spaces whether indoor or outdoor, at a school or at home. 4 Sides – Gym Game

Step 4: Brainstorm and Research

  • Now that you have your overall topics, your fun themes, and you know how many crafts, songs, and activities you’re looking for, it’s time to start filling in the blanks. Use your theme and overall learning goals as a springboard for your creativity. At the same time, remember that not every activity needs to connect to the theme.
  • Your planning might look something like this:

Sample of Preschool Lesson Plan

  • Fun themes could inspire:
    • Crafts
    • Songs
    • Stories (public libraries are a great resource)
    • Games/Activities
    • Decorations
    • Field Trips (I might do 1-3 field trips per year)
    • Snacks (if you’re ambitious)

Need a Lesson Plan Template like the one above to organize your ideas? You can print this one for free when you join my email list.

Step 5: Collect Supplies and Implement the Plan

Have fun and don’t be afraid to be flexible with your preschool curriculum. Sometimes new topics or opportunities pop up that are worth switching to. Other weeks the plan simply doesn’t happen. That’s okay. Try again next week.

Remember that the preschool curriculum is meant to serve you and your children. You do not need to serve the curriculum.

 

How young should we teach a child to call 911? That’s a good question. Many preschools will dedicate a week to teaching 3-4 year olds how to call 911 and other safety information they might need in case of trouble.

If you do a quick search on Google, such as “4 year old calls 911” you will likely find various news articles and recordings of humorous reasons young children have called 911 along with tales of heroic children who knew just what to do when the only adult with them passed out, such as this news clip on YouTube.

Yes, a preschooler might needlessly call 911, but they may also be in a situation one day where calling 911 saves someone’s life. With this in mind, I encourage you to teach your child how to call 911, but be sure to tell them that it is only if there is an emergency.

The following song is a great way to start teaching your child about calling 911.

If you have a different emergency number in your area, this song may still work, just switch out the number as you sing.

*As this is an original song, please be sure to include my name as the songwriter any time you share this song.

9-1-1 Song

Original song by: S. J. Little

Tune: If You’re Happy And You Know It

If you need the ambulance, call 9-1-1.

If you need the ambulance, call 9-1-1.

If you need the ambulance, if you need the ambulance,

If you need the ambulance, call 9-1-1.

 

If you need the police, call 9-1-1.

If you need the police, call 9-1-1.

If you need the police, if you need the police,

If you need the police, call 9-1-1.

 

If you need the fire truck, call 9-1-1.

If you need the fire truck, call 9-1-1.

If you need the fire truck, if you need the fire truck,

If you need the fire truck, call 9-1-1.

 

Actions

Every time you sing “9-1-1” hold up the correlating number of fingers – 9 fingers, then 1 finger and then 1 finger again.

If you want, find pictures of an ambulance, police car, and fire truck and point to each one as you sing about it.

Other Safety Tips to Teach Preschoolers

There are many other safety tips you can teach a preschooler. What follows are a few I recommend. If you know others, feel free to mention them in the comments section below.

  • Teach your child their own first and last name
  • Teach your child their parents’ first and last names
  • Teach your child their parents’ phone number
  • Teach your child “stranger danger”
    • If you aren’t there with them, a stranger, no matter how nice they may seem, might want to hurt them. They should never go anywhere with a stranger, unless you give them permission, even if the stranger offers candy or a chance to see puppies.
  • Teach your child who is safe
    • Explain to your child that if they ever get lost in a crowd, they should look for either someone who works there or a mom with kids as these are more likely to help them find safety. Next time you’re out at a large store or venue with your child, practice spotting employees or other safe people your child could go to if they need help.
  • Teach your child what to do in case of a fire
    • Stay low and go outside. You could even practice having a fire drill.
    • Show your child pictures of a fireman with his mask on. Teach your child that this is what a fireman might look like if he was coming to rescue them from a fire.

Let us pray that our children never need to use any of these safety tips, but, just in case, the preschool years are a good time to begin teaching these important things.