By Susan A. Miller, Ed.D.

Classroom transitions can become smoother with these "refresher" tips to help you continue moving in the right direction.

  • Send a Signal! Gently remind children when it's time to begin to complete their activities. Five minutes later, try a series of tambourine shakes or blink the lights for them to know it's clean-up time.
  • Move Along With Song. Have fun with theme-related transitions — waddle like ducks or gallop like horses! Use favorite categories ("Do you like mustard or relish on hot dogs?") to facilitate moving in small, manageable groups. Action songs, such as "The Wheels on Your Bus," and made-up songs (personalized with the children's names) send them rapidly on their way.
  • Plan Ahead. Put out art supplies so children can start projects right away. Have clean-up materials ready, including damp sponges to wipe off the snack table.
  • Be Enthusiastic! Make transitions exciting. Pick up blocks with elephant-like trunks, then lumber over to circle time. Get started right away with an interesting activity.
  • Keep Moving. Try setting a timer to keep turns moving on favorite playground items, like the swings and trikes. Provide numbered tags for children to wear and then hang up to show activity availability. This will help children move easily through special small-group activities or use a limited number of popular items, such as prisms at the discovery table.
  • Create Rituals. Involve children in simple rituals. As children finish activities, have small groups wash their hands, pick up their placemats and mugs, then sing a welcome-to-snack song. After snack, they might throw the trash in the basket, wash their hands if messy, and move on to the next project.
  • Personalize Naptime. Some children need the security of their own space. Make nap mats easy to reach. Help children gather "snuggle" items brought from home, such as quilts and teddy bears. To help children settle in, provide physical comforts — calming back rubs, soothing music, low lights.
  • Wake Up Gently. Not all children wake up at the same time. Provide flexibility with an available adult to help as children wake — giving warm hugs, offering sips of juice, tying shoes, assisting with toileting needs, and engaging in quiet conversations and activities.
  • Prevent Pile-Ups! Avoid door pile-ups while putting on boots and snowsuits by sending ready groups out with an assistant. Take care of physical necessities such as bathrooming, wearing hats and mittens, and obtaining drinks before going out so children don't need to constantly run in from the playground.
  • Wind Down. Help children move toward closure by sweeping up and helping to put things away. Then, move into circle-time activities to recap the day's events. In a full-day program, close down centers gradually as children leave.


For more transition-time ideas, try Circle Time Activities, by Susan A. Miller, Ph.D., Marilee Robin Burton, et al (Publications International Ltd., 2001).