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Terrific Transitions for the Preschool Classroom
By Penny E. Warner, Ph. D.

Transitions are powerful tools. They guide children gently through the day, provide special attention to individuals, and help children move from one area of the room to another smoothly. The following transition ideas will help you reduce the number of interruptions and encourage activities to flow from one to another with ease.


Cues for Moving From Free Selection to Organized Activities

  • Flash the lights.
  • Strum an instrument.
  • Play music on a tape recorder.
  • Sing a song that tells children what they are to do or where they are to go.
  • Move to the area where you would like the children to gather and talk quietly, they will notice and come to see what you are doing.

Preparing the Environment

  • Place carpet pieces on the floor to designate a personal space for each child.

  • Write each child’s name on a piece of tagboard and position it on the floor to create a personal space for each child. (Children are more connected to their name plate if they decorate it themselves!) By personalizing the tagboard, you can manage the environment more closely because you are not only designing the space where children sit, but also by whom they sit.

  • Put a blanket on the floor and invite children to sit around it. The blanket makes a great rectangle for large group time. If you want the children to be closer together, ask the children to sit on the blanket instead of around it.

Grabbing Children’s Attention

  • Decorate a bag or box and place various props inside. As you use the box on a regular basis, the children will look forward to seeing what you have brought along for the day’s activities.

  • Gather boxes of various sizes. Place an object that is a clue to the activity inside the smallest box. Place that box inside of the next smallest box. Continue to nest the boxes, so that only the largest box is visible. As a child or pair of children open each of the boxes, the excitement about the planned activity will build.

  • Introduce the planned activity with an interesting puppet. Be sure to allow time for the children to “meet” the puppet.

  • Pose a problem or challenge to the children by using interesting questions and riddles. They will try to figure out the answer by the clues you give them with your voice and the smile on your face. The answer will smoothly “lead-in” to the planned activity.

  • Sing new or familiar songs and fingerplays to capture the children’s attention. By placing the words on a poster in the classroom, you can reinforce the words of the songs and the children’s concept of print. Change the words to a familiar song to fit the theme. Some children may begin to create songs on their own.

Excuse the Children

  • According to physical or clothing characteristics.
  • According to their likes and dislikes.
  • By asking them to answer a question or create a rhyme individually.
  • By the initial letter of their name or telephone number.
  • By inviting them to say “good-bye” to a puppet.
  • By giving them each a turn with an interesting gadget.

There are endless ways to guide children through the day, yet both beginning and seasoned teachers constantly think about ways to make the day go more smoothly. The ideas in this article make transitions easy. Simply provide clear directions for the children to follow and present your ideas in a manner that is interesting and meaningful to the children and you will make every day terrific!

Penny Warner, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of early childhood at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She currently teaches the preschool methods course as well as the mathematics curriculum course.


Further Reading
Feldman, J. (1995). Transition time: Let’s do something different. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House.

Larson, N., Henthorne, M. & Plum, B. (1994). Transition magician. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.