A Bridge Between: Enjoying & Smoothing Transitions

A few weeks ago at Dutton Island, the Hummingbird Forest class was out exploring the north side of the island and we found a big puddle of mud. The children were so happy to jump and slosh around in the muck. We stayed and played for a long time but soon it was time to go. Miss Natalie and I knew that waiting for the children was a dock they’d never seen before and perhaps some fishermen, but who would want to leave such a fun mud puddle? Certainly not our forest kids! So, Miss Natalie began singing ‘Come follow, follow, follow, follow….’ Many of the children raced off after Miss Natalie as her song pulled them along but a few remained behind, not quite ready to leave. I told them they had ‘this much time’ to jump in the puddles and pinched my fingers together to show just how much time. When I decided it was time to leave, I gathered the children around and exclaimed, How muddy your shoes are! I wonder if we can leave muddy footprints if we stomp, stomp, stomp with our heavy feet across the bridge. They all jumped in the puddle one more time to make sure they were good and muddy and then off we ran to leave our prints on the bridge. When we were done stomping and made it to the dock, our class was waiting for us and so was a fisherman with a big redfish caught on his line! Though we had to leave the puddle, we found a fun and silly way to enjoy the journey.

Transitions are often thought of as the thing you do to get to the next big moment of the day, but really they are just another wonderful part of your day. On a walk, a bridge is as lovely as the field you are leaving and the forest you are entering. On a bridge, you can see both your past and future, but you are still in the present moment between the two. Slow down in your transitions and enjoy exactly where you are without hurriedness. With children, transitions are a time to connect and bring them close to you.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t often difficult. It is hard for a child or anyone to leave something they are enjoying even for something that promises to be just as fun. I want to share a few ways you can make transitions meaningful and engaging for your little one

Set a clear intention. You are the author of your daily rhythm. You are not asking your children to decide what to do next, rather you are gently leading them to what you have decided on and prepared for. Since you are the adult, you must live in both the present moment with your child and in an awareness of where the day is heading. Having a clear intention and acting with that intention in mind is the foundation of a smooth transition. Your clarity will become your child’s clarity. As with everything, this will take time and repetition, but your child will eventually welcome the ease and certainty.

Everything we wish for our children starts with our own inner work. Remain steady, clear, and grounded during the transition. Focus on the present moment and know that you will arrive where you need to no sooner and no later than you should. There is time for everything in a rhythm, that is why it is not a schedule.

Know what the transition requires and be prepared for it. Think of what needs to be accomplished to leave the house (put away toys, go potty, put on a jacket, grab grocery bags, etc.). While your child is still playing, gather the bags and place the jacket by the door. If you are preparing for lunch, have the dishes ready to be set out and some vegetables ready to chop before you bring your child over to help set the table and prepare the meal. The more you can prepare the less time there is between steps and the more seamlessly you and your child can move through the transition. You want to stay connected and focused on them throughout the entire transition.

Remind your child of the upcoming transition ahead of time. You might do this as a verbal reminder: ‘It is almost time for snack’ or ‘This much time until clean-up time’ (show how much time by pinching your fingers together).

You might also let them know through nonverbal signals. Children experience the world through their bodies and one of the best ways to talk to children is through motion, both yours and theirs. Start cleaning up and preparing for the next activity before you invite them to begin the transition. Your motion will let them know what is coming next.

Remember to stay in the present moment and stay connected to your child. Transitions are the places in the day we can often feel the most tension and hurriedness. Already our thoughts are on the other bank looking toward the future. We can see this transition moment—putting on shoes, washing our hands, etc.—as something we must get through so we can go on to what is next. However, we leave our children behind when we get so focused on the future; they will always remain in the present moment. This feeling of a lost connection or being controlled can cause children to have a hard time transitioning. Before you begin the transition, find a way to connect with your child.

  • Before asking them to clean up, come sit with them and engage in their play.

  • Bring them close to you and tell a story or sing a song to signal what is coming next.

  • Once they feel connected, begin to lead them through the next steps.

Be consistent. If a child can predict what is coming next, they will have a feeling of confidence and participation in the event. Keep your sequence of events the same during your transitions.

Use materials, symbols, or nonverbal signals for a transition. Children will quickly see and recognize visual signs of a transition. Keeping these symbols consistent will help children move easily along in the transition.

For rest time, consider bringing out a specific blanket and pillow or dimming the lights and lighting a candle. For quiet play, consider bringing out a specific blanket and a basket of gnomes or other toys specifically for this time. Their arrival will signal the change and be a place the child can see and head towards.

Sing a song or say a verse to initiate the transition. At The Playgarden each transition is initiated by a little song or verse. As soon as the children hear the huck-a-buck song they begin to gather and follow the teacher to the table for bread baking. Songs and rhymes lift the children out of their activity and welcome them into something equally as delightful. In the song, you are connecting and engaging with your little one. The motion of the music and the story leads you together into the next moment.

Here are a few transition songs your child will likely be familiar with.

Hand Washing Song (used to signal mealtimes):

Wash hands now. Wash hands now.

If you want them nice and clean,

Bubble them up if you know what I mean.

Wash hands now. Wash hands now.

Clean-up Song

Tick-Tock goes the clock.

What does it have to say?

It’s time to put our toys away.

We’ll play another day.

It’s clean up time. It’s clean up time.

It’s time to put the toys away

Thank you, girls, and thank you, boys,

Thank you to our lovely toys.

A Bridge Between:

Enjoying & Smoothing Transitions

By

Landis Grenville

A few weeks ago at Dutton Island, the Hummingbird Forest class was out exploring the north side of the island and we found a big puddle of mud. The children were so happy to jump and slosh around in the muck. We stayed and played for a long time but soon it was time to go. Miss Natalie and I knew that waiting for the children was a dock they’d never seen before and perhaps some fishermen, but who would want to leave such a fun mud puddle? Certainly not our forest kids! So, Miss Natalie began singing ‘Come follow, follow, follow, follow….’ Many of the children raced off after Miss Natalie as her song pulled them along but a few remained behind, not quite ready to leave. I told them they had ‘this much time’ to jump in the puddles and pinched my fingers together to show just how much time. When I decided it was time to leave, I gathered the children around and exclaimed, How muddy your shoes are! I wonder if we can leave muddy footprints if we stomp, stomp, stomp with our heavy feet across the bridge. They all jumped in the puddle one more time to make sure they were good and muddy and then off we ran to leave our prints on the bridge. When we were done stomping and made it to the dock, our class was waiting for us and so was a fisherman with a big redfish caught on his line! Though we had to leave the puddle, we found a fun and silly way to enjoy the journey.

Image taken from Chant des fees

Transitions are often thought of as the thing you do to get to the next big moment of the day, but really they are just another wonderful part of your day. On a walk, a bridge is as lovely as the field you are leaving and the forest you are entering. On a bridge, you can see both your past and future, but you are still in the present moment between the two. Slow down in your transitions and enjoy exactly where you are without hurriedness. With children, transitions are a time to connect and bring them close to you.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t often difficult. It is hard for a child or anyone to leave something they are enjoying even for something that promises to be just as fun. I want to share a few ways you can make transitions meaningful and engaging for your little one

Set a clear intention. You are the author of your daily rhythm. You are not asking your children to decide what to do next, rather you are gently leading them to what you have decided on and prepared for. Since you are the adult, you must live in both the present moment with your child and in an awareness of where the day is heading. Having a clear intention and acting with that intention in mind is the foundation of a smooth transition. Your clarity will become your child’s clarity. As with everything, this will take time and repetition, but your child will eventually welcome the ease and certainty.

Everything we wish for our children starts with our own inner work. Remain steady, clear, and grounded during the transition. Focus on the present moment and know that you will arrive where you need to no sooner and no later than you should. There is time for everything in a rhythm, that is why it is not a schedule.

Know what the transition requires and be prepared for it. Think of what needs to be accomplished to leave the house (put away toys, go potty, put on a jacket, grab grocery bags, etc.). While your child is still playing, gather the bags and place the jacket by the door. If you are preparing for lunch, have the dishes ready to be set out and some vegetables ready to chop before you bring your child over to help set the table and prepare the meal. The more you can prepare the less time there is between steps and the more seamlessly you and your child can move through the transition. You want to stay connected and focused on them throughout the entire transition.

Remind your child of the upcoming transition ahead of time. You might do this as a verbal reminder: ‘It is almost time for snack’ or ‘This much time until clean-up time’ (show how much time by pinching your fingers together).

You might also let them know through nonverbal signals. Children experience the world through their bodies and one of the best ways to talk to children is through motion, both yours and theirs. Start cleaning up and preparing for the next activity before you invite them to begin the transition. Your motion will let them know what is coming next.

Remember to stay in the present moment and stay connected to your child. Transitions are the places in the day we can often feel the most tension and hurriedness. Already our thoughts are on the other bank looking toward the future. We can see this transition moment—putting on shoes, washing our hands, etc.—as something we must get through so we can go on to what is next. However, we leave our children behind when we get so focused on the future; they will always remain in the present moment. This feeling of a lost connection or being controlled can cause children to have a hard time transitioning. Before you begin the transition, find a way to connect with your child.

  • Before asking them to clean up, come sit with them and engage in their play.

  • Bring them close to you and tell a story or sing a song to signal what is coming next.

  • Once they feel connected, begin to lead them through the next steps.

Be consistent. If a child can predict what is coming next, they will have a feeling of confidence and participation in the event. Keep your sequence of events the same during your transitions.

Use materials, symbols, or nonverbal signals for a transition. Children will quickly see and recognize visual signs of a transition. Keeping these symbols consistent will help children move easily along in the transition.

For rest time, consider bringing out a specific blanket and pillow or dimming the lights and lighting a candle. For quiet play, consider bringing out a specific blanket and a basket of gnomes or other toys specifically for this time. Their arrival will signal the change and be a place the child can see and head towards.

Sing a song or say a verse to initiate the transition. At The Playgarden each transition is initiated by a little song or verse. As soon as the children hear the huck-a-buck song they begin to gather and follow the teacher to the table for bread baking. Songs and rhymes lift the children out of their activity and welcome them into something equally as delightful. In the song, you are connecting and engaging with your little one. The motion of the music and the story leads you together into the next moment.

Here are a few transition songs your child will likely be familiar with.

Hand Washing Song

(used to signal mealtimes):

Wash hands now. Wash hands now.

If you want them nice and clean,

Bubble them up if you know what I mean.

Wash hands now. Wash hands now.

Clean-up Song

Tick-Tock goes the clock.

What does it have to say?

It’s time to put our toys away.

We’ll play another day.

It’s clean up time. It’s clean up time.

It’s time to put the toys away

Thank you, girls, and thank you, boys,

Thank you to our lovely toys.

Goodbye Song (Might be used to leave the park or other fun place)

Goodbye now. Goodbye now.

Thank you for this day.

Goodbye now. Goodbye now.

We had such fun and played.

Rest time Verse

The moon is round.

The moon is round.

(circle your fingers around their face)

It has two eyes

(touch along their eyebrows)

and knows no sound.

(slide your fingers down their nose and touch their lips)

Tell or make up a story. Children love stories and what better way to bring them into something new than by telling them a story! Stories have the most wonderful way of transforming the energy in a room.

One day when my class was starting to get wild in their inside-play—lots of running and jumping—I brought out our little bridge and then I asked them if they could see the snoring troll underneath. Then I began to tiptoe around the room while I told the tale of the sleeping troll and how not to wake him. Then I began to stomp and told the story of how the troll woke up and grumbled, grumbled, grumbled until he fell back asleep. Play transformed into tiptoeing quietly so as not to wake the troll. Then occasionally we would stomp, stomp, stomp just to hear him grumble. Bringing the energy down was an important part of preparing us for clean-up time and Circle.

Here is an example of a cleanup time story written by Jerilyn Burke.

I sit by one of the children and engage her, pretending to pull out a little mouse from my pocket (this could also be a finger puppet or a tuft of wool).

‘Oh! Hello, little mouse!’ I quietly listen to the little mouse in my cupped hands. The children’s interest is piqued. ‘What’s that? You are having trouble finding your way through the house? Ah-ha! I see you need some help.’ Turn to the children. ‘It’s time to help this little mouse find his way by putting all our things away.’ Put the little mouse back in the pocket. ‘Alright mighty mice! Let’s get to work!’ (Children love pretending to be animals!)

Give your child simple and clear tasks throughout the transition. You may put on your jacket. You may go find your shoes. Simple tasks keep them engage and focused on the trajectory of the transition. Avoid too much waiting around in the transition, especially with young children.

If a child is refusing, continue to act as if and focus on the small things. If a child is refusing to go to the park, don’t focus on going to the park. Acknowledge that you hear them, but continue on by focusing on the immediate tasks. You may put on your hat. Continuing in your clear intention without arguing will help bring your child along.

Give simple either/or options. If your child is refusing to put on their jacket, give them the option to choose between two things. You may put on your red jacket or you blue. Again, they will feel part of the process and capable of control in what is happening.

Ask them for their help. Young children love to help and love to show you that they are capable of helping. Ask for their help carrying something ‘heavy’ or finding something you need. This gets them involved and invested in the next activity.

Leave enough time for the transition. If you know you have an appointment or a set time you need to arrive, leave plenty of time for your child to make the transition.

It takes time. Just like a rhythm takes time to take hold, smooth transitions take time to build. The repetition and predictability in your rhythm and sequencing of events will help your child relax into the transitions. Remember that every day is different and some days a transition might be very difficult or your child might refuse to do something you know they can do. In these moments, remember that your child is likely to simply be asking you to connect with him/her. Relax into that moment, be with them, find a song or story that engages them, and let the transition take the time it needs. What is next will be there if you arrive in one minute or ten.

A final note, experiment and look for what suits your child and what doesn’t. Some children might need transitions to be a game: Let’s see who can get their shoes on faster. Some children might need a little more space to show up when they are ready. Be flexible, but clear. Each day is new and each transition is also new.

Sources & Additional Reading:

The Magic of Transition Songs From the Wonder of Childhood

The Step-by-Step Guide to Smooth Transitions From Lavender’s Blue Homeschool

How to Help Young Children with Everyday Transitions from Meagan Rose Wilson

Living Arts Daily: Discipline Help with Effective Transitions From LifeWays of North America

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Created by the Lead Teachers at The Playgarden

Receive the children in reverence, educate them in love, and send them forth in freedom

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