Smart Transition Strategies for Kids

Smart Transition Strategies for Kids

To assist reduce meltdowns and unpleasant behaviour in children, consider transition tactics and calming techniques. Transitions in preschoolers and transitions in the classroom are both addressed in this article. These strategies for dealing with transitions in children are priceless.

Transitions are difficult for many children.

And this is especially true if they’re busy playing with their fancy T-Rex dinosaur that makes extremely cool roaring noises while you’re begging with them to come over for a plain old meal.

You’d think that a move like relocating from Alaska to Mexico would be difficult, but even something as easy as switching from TV to brushing your teeth may cause a meltdown.

The resultant behaviour can range from mildly irritating (such as whining or complaining) to a full-fledged meltdown.

Transitions are especially difficult for children with autism, sensory difficulties, and/or ADHD.

There are numerous ways for parents (and teachers) to assist children with changes, and I’m going to share fantastic transition strategies for children with you.

This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

Want to learn how to get your kids to listen without nagging, yelling or losing control?
–>check out this free parenting class<–

Smart Transition Strategies for Kids 1

What Do I Mean By Transitions In Kids

Perhaps you’ve never heard of children’s transition techniques.

So, when we mention transitions, what precisely do we mean?

When your youngster needs to transition from one activity or location to another.

They must quit doing one thing and begin doing another. Consider:

  • Getting dressed 
  • Cleaning up toys
  • Turning off screens
  • Taking a shower or a bath
  • Going to school
  • Getting ready for school
  • Coming down for dinner
  • Leaving a play date at the park

Why Transitions Are Tough For Kids

(While the resulting behaviour may appear to be similar, the underlying reason may be quite different.)

Flexible Thinking

Transitions necessitate shifts in flexible thinking, which many young children find difficult (and even adults).

Consider the following scenario:

At school, Johnny fantasised of spending the entire day at the park. His attention was drawn to the purple slide. After school, when mom says, “Sorry Pal we have to head home and start dinner.”

Instead of making a “new plan,” such as “I’ll just play in the backyard,” he is having trouble thinking in a flexible manner. When things change unexpectedly, he is unable to rapidly shift gears and find a new solution.

Many transition-related meltdowns can be caused by this restrictive cognitive process.

Inflexible thinking is particularly common among children with autism. These children want predictability, and any variation from the pattern can be extremely perplexing to them.

This is known as cognitive inflexibility, and it throws their entire system out of whack.

Small Kids Love To Have Fun

Isn’t it amazing how toddlers live in the moment?

However, there is a problem:

They have no notion of time and do not comprehend that separation and change do not last indefinitely.

This creates a slew of transition issues for parents.

…thank heavens for the below-mentioned transition options.

Underdeveloped Language Skills

Young children lack the necessary linguistic skills to express their emotions clearly.

Kids may throw a tantrum instead of compromising and saying, “Hey mom, just give me five more minutes.”

Lack of Self-Regulation

Temperament is also important; some children are strong-willed.  Some children are impatient, while others are ferocious. Self-control is something that children have to learn, it’s not something we are born with.  Children with ADHD have a harder time managing their emotions, and it’s difficult for them to shift their focus from something they enjoy to something they’re supposed to accomplish. 

It Might Be Anxiety

In today’s world, a large number of children suffer from anxiety. Many children are afraid of the unknown and would prefer to remain in their familiar surroundings.

The same inflexible thinking that we addressed earlier produces a lot of anxiety in children.

Transition Strategies To Ease Those Triggers

Provide Warning

You can’t just say, “Hey, let’s leave,” if your child is absorbed in a make-believe world of wizards and monsters.

For toddlers, time is a hazy concept.

We need to issue a lot of warnings, so much so that you could assume you’re turning into a weather reporter.


It’s critical to prepare your child for what’s to come.

And don’t limit your warnings to when you’re transitioning from one activity to the next; give a summary of the entire day!

Use Charts and Timers

Visual clues help children tremendously.

A visual schedule provides predictability by showing what will happen next.

Mornings and evenings are notoriously difficult transition times, but by using visual plans, you can prepare your child for each upcoming activity. Remember to draw your child’s attention to the timer, and go a step further by telling him or her when there are five minutes remaining, two minutes left, and so on.

We have a toddler sleep clock that helps with bedtime transitions and morning early wake-ups too!

Slow Down

Do you find yourself cramming too much into your child’s day?

Perhaps you should spread out our activities or mark the calendar with a red marker.

We, as parents, are frequently guilty of believing that our children must be entertained at all times of the day.

Mom, you aren’t perfect; you don’t have to try to be perfect, and neither do your children.

Downtime is essential for children, just as it is for adults. They need to unwind, play pretend, be silly, and just be kids.

So think twice before scheduling a piano lesson and a swimming session on the same night.

Do you have unrealistic expectations for your child’s age?

Make It Fun

This transition tactic is also known as the “magic art of distraction.”

Distraction mastery will be your magic secret weapon.

This is probably my favourite transition strategy for kids out of all the ones I’ve tried:

“Let’s jump like a kangaroo to the car,” I’ll often suggest, or “let’s sing this entertaining song while we put on our coats and mittens.” We pretended to be butterflies fluttering to the car more lately.

The smoother and less anxious your child will be, the more pleasant (is that a word?!) the adjustment will be.

Another fantastic technique to make transitions more enjoyable is to emphasise the good aspects of the shift; this can help them focus on something other than what’s bothering them and get them enthusiastic about what’s coming next.

Here are several examples:

  • We have to hurry since we’re going to Suzy’s birthday celebration, where a clown will be there!
  • On our drive to school, why don’t we play eye spy?
  • Hey, I’ve got a major secret to tell you once we get in the car.
  • Let’s turn off the television for dinner, and then we’ll make ice cream cones.
  • You have three options after we brush your teeth.

You might also employ the first-then transition approach, in which you tell your child what they need to accomplish first (typically the least favourite activity), then give them a second assignment that is more motivating.

After getting ready for school, we can play five minutes of hide-and-seek before heading to class.

The first-then technique is employed by therapists all around the world when it comes to transition tactics for children.

Time Your Transitions

Parents frequently overlook this one, but don your Nancy Drew cap because it can make a big impact.

Can you interrupt your child’s activity and suggest the transition you’d like during a natural break?

Consider the following scenario:

-Can you wait till your child’s show is finished before inviting them to lunch?

-If your youngster is playing with dinky cars and refuses to get ready for school, give them a few extra minutes until they tyre of smashing them together. (I’m sure they’ll get tired of it and move on to something else at some point.)

Provide Sensory Breaks

Kids, especially those with sensory difficulties, autism, and/or ADHD, are prone to feeling overwhelmed.

You might as well put a lion in an elephant’s den if you’re trying to transition an overwrought toddler. There will be a squabble.

Transitions will be more difficult for your child if they are overwhelmed, and they will be more prone to meltdowns. At this point, no amount of transition techniques will work!

Don’t wait until your child is in the midst of a red volcano eruption. Take a sensory break when you see they are becoming frustrated, goofy, exhausted, and/or argumentative (all signals they are rising to the red zone).

Stay Calm

Maintain as much consistency as possible in your regimen.

Consistency and routine are beneficial to children. Structure is something they enjoy. (Even if they aren’t aware of it.)

Routines can pay off big time for parents when it comes to transitions that must happen every day, such from turning off the TV to brushing teeth.

As much as possible, try to make the same set of transitions at the same time each day.

Most crucial, maintain your composure.

How are you going to keep things moving along quietly if you’re increasing to the red zone (think yelling, stomping, arguing)? World War 3 is about to break out.

Offer Choices

Giving your youngster options can encourage cooperation. Control is appealing to children, and I’m sure it is to you as well.

Is it feasible for you to relinquish some control and allow your child to make more choices?

You might be astonished at how their desire to work with you changes over time.

Is it truly the end of the world if your daughter goes to school dressed in a purple tutu and a fluorescent green top?

When giving them options, don’t give them the opportunity to fully ignore the request; instead, be creative.

“Do you want to put on your mitts?” instead of “Do you want to put on your mitts?” “Would you want your fuzzy mitts or your bear mitts?” you can ask.

Our small ones are intelligent, but we are even more so.

Provide Praise Not Threats

If children believe they are performing well, they will seek to improve. Despite how it may appear at times, children genuinely crave your approval.

Try to stay away from threats! Bullies use threats as a form of intimidation.

Instead, consider employing incentives as a motivator.

Stickers, snacks, or a point system that leads to a reward are some ideas. After your child has become accustomed to transferring, you can begin to phase it out.

Getting to the car to depart for school has always been one of our major challenges. In the car, we have a big green bucket full of snacks and small toys. My son chooses one item from the large green bucket on good days.

It is quite effective.

Smart Transition Strategies for Kids 2

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe To My Parenting Newsletter

Sign Up For My Parenting Newsletter for tips on creating a happier home and becoming a more positive parent. As a bonus when you subscribe you’ll get a copy of my FREE Growth Mindset Printout For Kids which is the KEY to raising resilient kids with a growth mindset.

2. Register For A Pretty Awesome FREE 60-Minute Class:

Register for a free class called GET KIDS TO LISTEN THE RIGHT WAY; an exclusive FREE class from nationally recognized parenting coach, Amy McCready.

3. Sign Up For A 7 Step Positive Parenting Course

Enroll now in the most in-depth parenting class. After discovering these common sense, easy-to-implement, research-based tools you can learn how to:
  • Easily get kids to listen – the FIRST time. No yelling or reminding…not even once!
  • Put an end to daily power struggles. Bedtime became a breeze, and all the dawdling, chore wars, sibling rivalry, and mealtime meltdowns disappeared.
  • Reduce backtalk by HALF! It’s simple once you know the secrets of these two ‘buckets.’
  • Say goodbye to punishments that DON’T work. There’s a 5-step formula that works WAYYY better than time-outs.
  • Feel amazing, confident, and empowered as a parent, every day. I NEVER go to bed feeling guilty anymore! (Okay, well maybe sometimes…’ mom guilt’ is still a thing.)
Got a threenager? You want this class. Got an actual tween or teen? Then what are you waiting for? Sign up for the webinar right NOW and watch the BEST, most life-changing parenting video ever.