In a preschool classroom, transitions between activities can be one of the most challenging times. Transitions are the periods between activities, for example, when the children are have finished one activity and need to clean up, wash hands and physically move into the next activity. Most people find transitions stressful. This is particularly true for preschool children. If children are unprepared or confused by the transition, they may "act out."
Using a game that calms and focuses children can be helpful when transitioning from a noisy activity to a quieter one. For these types of transitions, a simple song may be helpful. Use a song that the children already know, such as "The Farmer in the Dell," inserting your instructions as the lyrics and a gentle reminder about what the next step is. For example, "It's time to sit in a circle." Clap your hands along with the song, and the children will follow suit. As they move into the next activity, slow the song down and make it quieter. This is a natural cue to them that it's quiet time. They will slow down and give you their attention.
Organizing games can move children in groups and are a good way to include skills the children are trying to learn. For instance, if children are learning colors, announce that all children wearing blue can get ready for lunch. You can also do this using letters, where children whose names begin with the letter "M," for example, can get ready for lunch.
Cleaning up can be a challenging transition. Integrating a "clean- up" song can be helpful, particularly if this song is used every day. The children will learn that the singing of the clean-up song means a transition is coming, and it turns the task into a game. Another way to clean up, with a smaller group of children, is to become "human vacuums." Children can make noises and pretend to "suck up" toys with their hands. You also can choose to use a "secret" game. Whisper in each child's ear a "secret" that it's time to clean up. Go around the room and do this with each child.
Lining up and traveling can be difficult transitions for young children. Whether children are moving around the school or are on a field trip, staying together is a matter of safety. Songs can be helpful to keep children focused and together. Playing "Simon Says" can similarly help focus children, keep them together and keep their focus on you to prevent wandering off. You can also try having a contest in which the child who walks the quietest or is best at staying in line "wins."
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