Last Updated on September 11, 2021.
Transitions are a big deal for toddlers. They can be hard to understand and even harder to accept. But transitions happen, whether your toddler likes it or not. And transitions are important because they help children understand the idea of change and what will happen next in their lives. This blog post will give you 10 tips for helping your toddler through transitions – but first, let’s talk about transitions for toddlers!
What are toddler transitions?
Transitions are simply changes in routine. They can happen at any time, and they may be sudden or gradual. Transitions could happen when a parent transitions from one activity to another, like getting ready for bed instead of playing. Or transitions can be with the environment and other people – say your toddler gets dropped off at daycare in the morning and you pick him up after work.
Examples of transitions
- Being separated from mom at daycare
- Moving from one play space to another
- Nap time or bedtime
- Moving from outdoor playtime to indoor playtime
- When it’s time to sit at the table for a meal or snack
- Cleanup time
- When it’s time for nana to go back home after visiting for a week
Why transitions are challenging for kids
Like any change or adjustment, transitions are hard on toddlers. They may resist or refuse the transitions and have a hard time understanding why they are happening.
It boils down to brain development. In order to understand transitions, kids need a certain level of cognitive development. They also have to be able to comprehend abstract concepts and care about what will happen next.
This is why transitions are so hard for children – they can’t see the reasons behind them or know how it relates back to themselves. In addition, transitions can make toddlers feel like they have lost control over their lives.
10 Tips to Help Kids Through Transitions
Keep transitions short
Keep transitions short and sweet. Don’t let the whining and crying carry on. Instead, distract your child with another activity or something they like (such as a snack, a stuffed animal, etc).
Make transitions predictable and routine-based
Kids will have a much easier time with transitions if they know what’s coming ahead of time. Create a predictable routine that your kids could follow even if you weren’t there!
Rituals offer a sense of control for kids. Spend a few minutes before transitions to do things like making sure your child has had his hugs and kisses from mom or dad, or say one more prayer together.
Offer your child a choice of transitions. For example, if you’re going to drop your toddler off at daycare and he’s resistant, ask him what he wants to do: “Do you want me to walk you inside the classroom or wait outside while you walk in by yourself?”
Remind your child of transitions before it happens. Show him the outfit you want to wear and tell him what time he needs to get dressed. Warnings can help children prepare for transitions and will help them feel more secure.
Music can be soothing and might help your child relax before transitions. Make this a ritual or part of your routine for the best success!
Engage before disengaging
One of my favorite tricks to help a toddler transition from one activity to another is to engage in the activity with him just before it’s time to move on. For example, if your toddler is building with blocks, say “We have to eat lunch in 5 minutes, but could I build a castle with you until our lunch timer goes off?”
Take a break between activities
Sometimes kids just need a break. Where it’s a body movement break, an outdoor break, or a sensory break, they all make great transition activities. Taking a break will help your child pace his or her transitions and will help them feel more in control.
Offer fun (or funny) transitions
Kids love to be silly. Help your toddler move from one activity to another by inviting them to be silly with you. You might say “It’s time for a bath! Let’s hop to the bathroom like a bunny rabbit!” or “We have to go to your doctor’s appointment now. Let’s count how many steps it takes to get to the car!”
Do the unpleasant activities before the pleasant ones
Transitions are particularly hard when you’re moving to an activity that the child doesn’t like. An easy solution is to put the not-so-fun activities first, so the tot has more fun activities to look forward to. For example, if it’s time to start the bedtime routine, say “I know! Let’s get our teeth brushing done fast so we have more time to read funny stories in bed!”
The Bottom Line
Transitions can be difficult for toddlers to understand and cope with, but they are manageable. With some patience from parents, transitions will become easier as kids grow more mature. Here we have outlined the main points of transitions, what they mean for developmentally young children, and how families can help their young ones deal with them!
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