Transitions are one of the most difficult times in a child care provider’s day. When you are able to master the fine art of smooth transitioning, your day becomes infinitely easier. Here are a few tips to help keep you above water when you feel like you are drowning with out-of-control children:
1. Limit the number of transitions you have during the day. Take a close look at your classroom schedule. How many times during the day are you asking the children to stop what they are doing in order to do something different? When you really examine what has to be done during each change in the schedule, the transition rate skyrockets. Take mealtime for example: most providers have the children stop playing, clean up the toys, go to the carpet, wash their hands, sit down at the table, eat their food, wash their hands, go back the carpet, and then select centers once again. In that one “mealtime block”, there are nine transitions. That is nine opportunities for chaos in the classroom. Remember: that example was one block of time out of a whole day. Usually there are at least five or six blocks of time during the day, and that would equate an average of 56 total opportunities for chaos in the day. Think about ways to eliminate steps to a process to shave off some of the unnecessary transitioning. Could you let the children wash their hands and go directly back to the activity they were engaged in before it was mealtime? It would look something like: stop playing, wash hands, eat food, wash hands, and then play. Changing that part of the daily routine took the transitions from NINE to FIVE, nearly cutting the number in half.
2. Combine verbal directions with other sensory cues. Give the children plenty of warnings before a transition is about to occur; when the time comes, add another cue such as dimming the lights or sounding a chime. Just like adults need alarm clocks or reminders to pop up on their phones, children also need prompts. Use a variety of cues to make changing activities more interesting such as hand bells, wind chimes, a soft drum, or kitchen timer. Having a variety of modes of getting their attention will also help avoid the conditioning effect that using the same noise every time could have on the children. Some children require more warning time than others when it comes to transitioning. Approach those children and have a specific conversation with eye contact and possibly a loving touch on the shoulder, letting them know how much time they have left and what the final cue will be for them to begin clean up.
3. Try a day without herding the children. Look at the structure of your activities and classroom set up. Is it clear what the children are supposed to do in their environment? If the answer is yes, let them do it! Stop making the children wait on everyone to be quiet before picking, one at a time, where they are going to go play; or for everyone to be seated on the carpet nicely before moving on to the next activity. When we do this it is as though we are herding the children like animals on a farm from one pasture to the next. Just let them play: if there are too many children in a center they will self-select to choose to play somewhere else. Use your time to assist the children who have a difficult time making choices and becoming engaged.