Transition Activities At Your Fingertips

Transition activities are those quick ideas you do during those "in-between" times! Do you have a lot of transition times in your day? Do you find the children seem all over the place during transitions, even though they know what they should be doing? Of course! Welcome to Preschool!

Of course, our first thought should be to reduce the number of transitions during the day. Too many “stops and starts” are confusing and somewhat frustrating for children. Their whole day begins to feel like a series of transition activities rather than the natural flow of interst learning center activities.

They need routine. They “tell time” by knowing what comes next. A consistent daily schedule will help those transitions to become predictable for the children and not so confusing.

However, there are transitions that happen. Your transition activities can be routine as well! Take a look at your daily schedule. Do you plan for your transitions? If not, consider re-writing your schedule to include them. You will then be planning for changes and will have some great opportunities for extended learning in mini time spots!

Here’s an example:

No Transition Activities Planned

9:00-9:15 Arrivals

9:15-9:30 Circle Time

9:30-10:45 Interest Center Time/Clean Up 10:45-11:00 Wash hands and prepare for snack

11:00-11:20 Snack Time

11:20-12:00 Outside Time

Transition Activities Planned

9:00-9:10 Arrivals

9:10-9:15 Clean Up Song

9:15-9:30 Circle Time

9:30-10:35 Interest Center Time

10:35-10:45 Clean Up Time

10:45-11:00 Transition Activity While Children wash their hands 11:00-11:20 Snack Time and activities for children who finish snack early (puzzles, legos, etc.)

The additions in the second column are already what you do, they are just not intentionally planned. Doing this will save you a lot of time, frustration and wondering why, for example, you only have 10 minutes to play outside most days!

Think about how much time your transitions take and then add transitions to your planning sheets. Some do not need to be planned. Clean up time most likely happens after an already established cue in your classroom. In our class, one of the children’s jobs each day is “Bell Ringer”. It is a favorite job! When the bell ringer rings the bell and says “CLEAN UP TIME” the children stop playing (ok, most do—others need to be encouraged to stop playing and start cleaning up!) and clean up. You already help the children to see what needs to be done: “There are still a lot of blocks on the floor. Let’s all pick up 3 blocks and put them in the bin.”.

However, washing hands lends for idle time while the children wait (there are only so many sinks available!). We have a large mat near the bathroom. We all go to the black mat and play a transitional game while 4-5 children wash their hands. There are many transitional activities you can do during these predictable transition times! Here are some ideas:

What’s Missing?

Bring 5 or 6 items with you. Show them to the children. They all close their eyes (or you cover the items with a paper towel!) and remove one item. The children open their eyes and as a group, say what’s missing. Do this with 2 items, and then send a set amount of children to wash their hands. Continue playing the game until all the children have washed hands and had a turn.

Place these items in a clear, Ziploc baggie and write on the baggie “WHAT’s MISSING”

I Spy

Of course! I Spy with my little eye, someone wearing a shirt that has Mario on it. Who is that? Yes, it’s Joey! I Spy……etc!

Write different ideas for I Spy games on a large index card (so you don’t run out of ideas!) such as “shoes, sneakers, shirt colors, hair color, eye color, square items, circle items, etc.). On the other side of the card, write in LARGE CAPITAL LETTERS I SPY GAME. Place the card in a Ziploc baggie.

Guess the Pattern

Bring 10 items that with you. We use blocks, bristle blocks, sorters/counters, crayons and markers, anything from the classroom! Bring 5 of each item. Begin a pattern: crayon, marker, crayon, marker, crayon…what comes next? Keep creating patterns until all children have washed their hands and had a turn.

In a large Ziploc baggie place many items to use such as: 5 markers, 5 crayons, 5 each of blue, red, yellow and green bristle blocks, etc. On the outside of the baggie, write GUESS THE PATTERN

Our Favorite Song

Our kids love when I shuffle the cards while saying “Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle…….” and then they all yell “STOP”. Whichever card is on the top is the one we sing. Then do the next one.

Make an index card for each of your favorite songs with a simple picture on each so the children can “read” it also! Make at least 5 cards. Laminate them for durability. Place the cards in a Ziploc baggie and, yup, you guessed it, write on the outside of the baggie FAVORITE SONGS.

Some to get you started:

Itsy, Bitsy Spider

Twinkle, Twinkle


Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Hokey Pokey

Mystery Bag

Show the children 4 or 5 items. Place one in the bag. Have one child feel in the bag and try to guess what it is without looking. Let each child have a turn while others wash their hands.

We made a bag out of extra fabric and cut out and glued on a fabric question mark. Place about 15 items in this bag and store in your transition box or bin. You’ll never run out of items for this great feely bag!

Make a Letter

Bring a large piece of paper and some markers. Practice making either a specific letter together or they can make and name their favorite letter. You can also practice number making!

Place paper in a folder that is labeled LETTER AND NUMBER MAKING and place the folder and some loose markers into your transition box or bag.

Counting Practice

Give 4 children a paper cup. Ask 4 of the children to count 5 pom poms into a cup. They then wash their hands. Empty the cup and choose a different number for the next group of children to count into the cups. Time filler, one-to-one correspondence practice and counting practice all rolled into a 4 minute transition time!

Place 8 cups in a large Ziploc baggie (in case a few break) and a large amount of pom poms. Label the baggie COUNTING and place in your transition box or bag.

These are just a few ideas. You most likely have some other fun items to do.

Now, to organize them! Decorate a shoe box or large box or large canvas bag. This is the place to permanently keep your transition activities in. When you have a transition time, just grab the box or bag, reach in and choose one!

The items needed for each activity should be in a separate baggie or box (see instructions for the above activities for examples) so that you can find it quickly in your Transition Activities Box or Bag and not have to search for pieces.

Moving from One Area to Another

Thank you Missy from Salinas, CA for this transition idea!

After mid-morning snack, my preschoolers walk through the hallway,then sit on the carpet for circle time.

To help in the transition from A to B, I throw a rope from the snack to the beginning of our classroom (appr. 10ft).

I then tell the kids we're walking on the bridge over hot lava or a swamp filled with alligators. They really go along with balancing and getting to the otherside without falling off the bridge. The carpet is the "safe" zone.

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