5 Transition Activities + Tips For Your Preschool Classroom!

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 you do!!

Welcome to Preschool!

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.

Transition activities are those quick ideas you do during those "in-between" times, and we usually have several of these each day.  

Preschoolers need routine. There is a sense of security that comes from their days being somewhat predictable and, therefore, not so confusing.  The order of the activities during the day is how they tell time.  They “tell time” by knowing what comes next. 

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 the changes that will happen anyway and this will provide some great opportunities for extended learning in mini time spots!

Transition Activities Sample of Scheduling

Schedule With NO Transitions 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

Schedlue WITH Transitions 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.)

See The Difference?

The additions in the second column are what you already do, they are just not intentionally planned and in writing.

Putting it in writing is more realistic--and makes it real!  Doing so 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 adjust your preschool schedule to reflect them.

Need help planning your daily schedule?  Click here to read my article on how to plan your preschool schedule. It includes downloadable worksheets to help you plan a realistic schedule that will actually work for you!  

Visual Cues That Show Your
Daily Schedule Help Children To
Plan For Changes Throughout the Day!

Once you know when your have transitions each day, add them to your lesson planning sheets so you can plan activities for them where possible.  Some do not need to be planned for. Clean up, for example, requires nothing more than perhaps a 5 minute warning that clean up time is coming, an announcement that it is clean up time and perhaps a classroom clean up song!

However, washing hands before snack may require some planning!  What do children do while they are waiting for an open sink to wash their hands?  What do children do after they have washed their hands and are waiting for their friends to wash their hands?

Hand washing can take between 8-10 minutes of your day.  Plan for that time!  It's a great time to perhaps have a song can where you have index cards with the names of the children's favorite songs.  Pull one out and sing!

Hand washing 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.

While your children are washing their hands, here is a song to sing with them! 

Thanks Sharon N. for this activity idea!

Hand Washing Song   

Wash, Wash, Wash your hands,
Wash the germs away,
Wash, Wash, Wash your hands,
Wash them everyday!

***sing 2 times to equal 20 seconds.  required by licensing.

5 + Transition Activities You Can Use Today!

There are many transitional activities you can do during these predictable transition times!

Here are some to get you started!

On Our Way Outside!  Thank you Sharon N. for this song!

This could be sung to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell:

It's fun to play outside. 
It's fun to play outside.
With all the other boys and girls
It's fun to play outside.

Miss Cheryl's note:  You could change the word outside to whichever "destination" you are heading to!

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.

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.

Tong Time! Thank you Rebecca from Watervliet, NY for this idea!

I purchased small tongs for clean up time. Instead of telling the kids to clean up I just turn off the lights and put out the basket of tongs.

Once they each get a pair of tongs, we start singing our favorite songs while they use them to pick up the toys and put them away.

This is great for fine motor and the children don't even realize they are cleaning and not playing!

When we have a few extra minutes, after the kids get all the blocks cleaned up I will dump it out and we do it again, naming the color of the blocks as they drop them in the bucket!

The kids absolutely love this and it has made cleanup time so much easier!

Circle Time Transition Fun! Thank you to Barb from Gilbert, AZ for this activity!

For transitions or children struggling to sit still, I use positional words and have the children stand up to act them out.

Say "Shake your hands above you. Shake your hands behind you Shake your hands under you(that is their favorite).

Sometimes I have the children jump up and down and count to a certain number. This helps to get the wiggles out while still learning important words as well as practice counting.

They love it and always laugh when we put our hands under us! I also have the children touch their body parts such as, "Touch your nose, elbow, ear" etc. We like to do this slow and fast as well and they think it is really silly! 

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