In a childcare or daycare setting, transition times are when you are trying to help children finish an activity or routine of the day and move on to another one. Because we are often asking a large group of children to do the same thing at the same time, (known to be as easy as herding cats) transition times can often be the most chaotic. There is also a higher risk for children to be injured. Fortunately there are some effective stratagies for keeping control of the group and making this time a learning time as well. The main goals for terrific transition times are to; to capture and hold the children's attention, maintain a secure and preditable routine, move children from one activity to another in a safe and organized manner, and to have fun. Here are some strategies to meet these goals during major transition times.
During free play, children will often be very engaged in their chosen activity and they will find it difficult to abruptly stop what they are doing. You may find it helpful to give them a warning that playtime will be over soon. It is best to avoid simply calling out "five more minutes". Rather go directly to each child and tell them, "You have time for just one more turn at the art easel, cleanup is in ___ minutes." or " You may not want to start on that puzzle, cleanup will be coming before you have time to finish it."
Even with fair warning, many children will be reluctant to stop playing to cleanup. It is helpful to make cleanup a fun time as well. Select a special signal to alert the children that play time is over. This may be a song, flicking of the lights or ringing of the bell. You may wish to allow a child to do this fun task. Many programs have a special cleanup song that the children enjoy singing while they cleanup.
Your direct supervision will insure compliance in the children. Rather than standing in the middle of the room giving orders like a drill sargent, direct children invidually. "Susie, I need you to put that puzzle back on the shelf, it is cleanup time." "Anntiqua, would you help me get these green blocks off the floor?"
You can also make cleanup time fun by engaging the children's imagination. "Let's pretend we are squirrels gathering up our nuts (legos) for winter."
Everybody Line Up
A simple announcement to "Get in line!" or "Go get your coats on.", can often cause chaos with groups of young children. It is best to guide them to do so in a orderly manner, often by taking turns. There are many ways to maintain order while also keeping those waiting engaged. You may wish to ask children to line up or complete a task according to a certain criteria. "If you are wearing red, please get in line." "Anyone who is wearing boots can go to the lunch table." You can also incorporate motor skills and fun during this time by asking children to make the transition in a very special way, "Hop to the bathroom like a frog". will also make this transition time go smoothly
Let's All Get Together
The transition to a group or circle time has two stages, getting children to the area and getting children ready to participate. Many daycare or childcare programs use a special signal to let children know it is time to gather. Again this could be a bell, hand clapping or a special song. You may find it helpful for each child to have a special place to sit designated by a chair, mat, or carpet square.
Once the group is together, your goal is to capture their attention and get them ready to listen and participate. Some providers use a magic wand that is used to caste a spell of listening. Other providers or teacher have a magic fairy dust or spray that sets the tone for calm. There are some great songs and fingerplays to make this a terrific transisiton time too!