Category Archives: Transitions

Early Birds and Night Owls {Simple Kids Guest Post}

“Music creates order out of chaos: for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous.” – Yehudi Menuhin

Routines are wonderful for creating continuity and a predictable rhythm in your family life.  But what happens when the internal rhythms of individual members of one family are drastically different?  Perhaps nowhere is this difference in personal rhythm more striking than at bedtime.

One Room, Many Sleep Patterns

 We have three boys sharing one room.  While our oldest is often hammered from the day’s activities, our middle son remind us almost nightly that he is “noctownal” and doesn’t actually need sleep.  (Sometimes we almost believe him.)  Our youngest still naps, so depending on how that goes each day, he may be out as soon as his head hits the pillow or he may still be winding down for a while.  I’m certainly not ready to spend three hours in a revolving door of three separate bedtimes.  So we had to come up with a routine that would fit different rhythms. 

Slide on over to Simple Kids to read the full post!

 :: And don’t forget that the HUGE Simplify Your Family Life sale ends tomorrow at 2pm EST.  Don’t miss out on 90% off of some of the best resources for you and your family! ::

Top photo by popofatticus.


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Time Timer Giveaway!

As I’ve been writing about routines and transitions, I’ve thought back to an interesting product I discovered not long ago.  This product, called the Time Timer, displays time visually with a red segment that gets smaller as time progresses.  This is a great way to help children understand the concept of time.  Instead of verbal reminders, which often sound arbitrary to young children who can’t tell if 20 minutes is longer than 5 minutes, time becomes a visual concept. 

The Time Timer could be useful for routines at home (“We have 30 minutes to get ready for bed.  If there’s time left, we can read an extra story.”) as well as at school (“We will have snack time in 20 minutes.”).  It can also be useful for making transition times and time limits more tangible (“Five more minutes until clean up.”  or “You have 15 minutes of computer time.”).  You may even want it for car rides to answer that constant “How much farther?” question.

When I contacted Time Timer to let them know I would be featuring their product, they were kind enough to offer an 8″ Time Timer to be given away to one of my readers.  That’s You!

So here’s the deal:  Leave a comment here with at least one way you would be able to use the Time Timer in your home or classroom.  (One comment per person, please.  New commenters take time to be moderated, so don’t panick if it doesn’t show up right away!)  On Monday morning I will announce the winner, randomly drawn from those comments, and Time Timer will ship you your prize.  Easy enough, right?  Well then, get on with it!  Time’s a wastin’!

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Filed under Transitions, Uncategorized

Smooth Out Daily Transitions for Your Preschoolers

Woodrow Wilson once said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”  Transitions are all about change, and that is why they can be so challenging.  While asking a child playing with legos to “please put on your shoes” may sound like a simple request to us, from a child’s perspective we are suddenly barging through the door into the comfortable world they’ve created through their play.  We are not just asking them to put on their shoes, we are asking them to immediately stop something gratifying, something unfinished, and to reject their own desires and impulses and obediently comply.  Not such a simple request anymore, is it?

Some children are quick to change gears, but others require more time and space to warm up to your ideas.  Similarly, “Let’s go get some ice cream” may meet with much less resistance than, “Let’s clean up our toys and get ready for bed.”  Here are a few things to keep in mind to make all your transitions a little bit smoother.


The biggest key to smooth transitions is to prepare your children.  We often refer to transitions as “shifting gears”.  If you’ve ever driven a stick shift, you know that you can not move immediately from first gear to second gear.  You have to push in the clutch to take the pressure of the gears, shift, and then ease into the next gear very gradually.  Trying to jam into another gear too quickly will cause them to grind, jolt, and even stall.  (Trust me, I tried far too many times as a teenager!)  In a similar way, we need to avoid abrupt changes in favor of easing into them with the children we love and teach. 

Prepare your children by talking about the upcoming schedules.  Let them know what to expect.  When they know what comes next, it is a bit easier to understand why they need to change what they’re doing.  They will understand that you are not just arbitrarily asking them to stop doing something fun, but that there is something else to move on to.

Give warnings before the actual transition time.  Different children have different needs, but generally I give a five-minute warning with young children.  This is like pushing in the clutch to release the pressure as you shift gears.  It lets children know what’s coming and allows them the courtesy of finishing up.  Sometimes, particularly with my own children, when I know leaving a particularly fun activity will be hard (or that they were to too giddy to actually register my reminder)  I walk them through a script as I give that five-minute reminder.  (“It will be time to leave in five minutes.  So, when I come back in five minutes and say it’s time to go, you’ll say…..”  “OK, Mom.”  “Thanks, Buddy.“)

Offer Choices

Reduce power struggles by finding ways to give children power through decision-making.  If you ask a child if she’s ready to leave the park and go home, she’ll probably say no.  If you let her choose between leaving now and leaving in five minutes, she will probably choose to leave in five minutes.  After five minutes have passed, she will be much more likely to comply because it was her choice.

Create Routines

Plan for transitions and build them into your routines.  For example, always cleaning up before story time, always putting on shoes and coats for outside time after putting snack dishes in the sink, or always brushing teeth and having stories before bed.  This not only creates order in your day, but the task of transitioning becomes an internal and automatic part of your child’s day, leading to less resistance.  When the transition is expected, change becomes part of the comfortable constant.

Instead of nagging, use signals to remind your children of the transition.  Many parents and schools use a clean-up song as a signal for a transition.  You may also want to have a wake-up song, or a hand-washing song.  Clocks and timers can also be great signals.  I’ve found that if I say that five minutes have expired it is somehow negotiable, but when the timer goes off everyone moves right along, as though the beeping had some sort of hypnotic element.

When you’re transitioning a group of children, remember to give the children something to do as they transition at different rates.  A group of children will not usually all finish a snack at once or put on their shoes and jackets at the exact same moment.  Children will rarely sit perfectly still and wait for you.  They will find something else to do, and sometimes that “something” includes taking their shoes and jackets off again!  Plan and prepare for the next step.  Let them know where to go and what to do once their task is complete.  You may need to provide open-ended activities like dancing, building with blocks, doing puzzles, or coloring to keep everyone engaged until the entire group is ready.

Change may be one way to create enemies, but usually only when that change is forced.  When we include children in the process of change by using smooth transitions, we stay on the same team!

Top photo by mrgoose.

Gear shift by mattze.

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Filed under Article, Transitions

Don’t Wake the Bear!

Here’s a combination of hibernation activities for your preschoolers that fit nicely together for a story time or large group activity.

Bear With Me.  Start out by getting the children’s attention.  Bring them to your story area or large group area by telling them they have to be very, very quiet (whispering yourself, of course).  Using a bear puppet or toy bear, tell them that the bear is sleeping and we do not want to wake him up.  Once everyone has settled in, tell them very briefly about hibernation.

The Deep Sleep.  Hibernation can be a very complicated science topic, but preschoolers just need the basic concept.  When I present it to a group of young ones, my explanation would go something like this (still whispering, of course, so you don’t wake up the bear):

When it gets cold outside, we put on our snow clothes, like coats and mittens and hats.  Many animals do something similar by eating more food and having more fat and fur grow to keep their bodies warm.  It’s kind of like wearing a coat!  (This could be a topic of exploration for quite sometime, in and of itself.  If you’ve already explored that, make some quick connections there.)  Some animals, like bears, eat lots and lots of food, and then they go into their caves or “dens”, the places where bears live, and they curl up and they just sleep.  All winter long!  It’s called, “hibernation”.  Can you say “hibernation”?  It’s a big word, isn’t it?  We use the word “hibernation” to describe when an animal sleeps all winter long.  They don’t even wake up in the day time!  They just sleep and sleep until the snow starts to melt and it’s warm outside again.  Their bodies are designed to hibernate as a way to survive the winter when it’s so cold and the food is hard to find.  Isn’t that crazy?  Do you hibernate?  No, people don’t hibernate.  In the winter, we go to sleep at night, and then we wake up every morning.  These animals that hibernate, they don’t wake up until spring time!  That’s a long time to be asleep!  I have a song about a hibernating bear that I want you to learn with me!

Here’s the song.  I usually have the words written on a song chart or sentence strips and point as we sing, so that the children can make the association with the written word to increase langauge and literacy skills.

Mr. Bear (Tune: If You’re Happy and You Know it)

Mr. Bear says all he wants to do is sleep!

Now that winter’s here and snow is cold and deep!

He is curled up in his den,

And we won’t see him again,

‘Till the spring when all he wants to do is…eat!

It’s fun to hesitate as you sing this song, to allow the children to come up with the rhyming words.  Recognizing those rhymes helps build phonological awareness, a critical pre-reading skill.

I’ll often talk about why the bear wants to eat when he wakes up.  I ask the children if they ever wake up in the morning and they’re so hungry for breakfast.  Then, I challenge them to imagine that they’ve been asleep for one hundred days.  How hungry would they be then?

Bear Snores On

Bear Snores On.  After this discussion and song, I love to read the book, Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson.  It’s written with such great rhythmic and rhyming text, a perfect combination for preschoolers.  It’s about a bear sleeping through a winter storm while several animals seek shelter in his den, turning it into a big party.  The bear sleeps through the raucous gathering until a tiny fleck of pepper lands on his nose and he sneezes.  He’s angry, and then sad, to realize that he wasn’t included in the fun.  The animals comfort him and assure him that the party’s not over, and they have a great deal of fun together.  That is, until morning when the bear is still wide awake, but the other animals fall asleep!

Sleeping Bears.  As you finish these activities, you can use the same concepts you’ve just covered to make a smooth transition to your next activity.  Have the children curl up like sleeping bears.  Really get them into it.  Have them yawn and curl up, and encourage them to snore (some will imitate the bear in the book, and feign a huge sneeze).  Tell them that when you tap them they can stand up and move to….wherever the next activity is.  This is particularly useful if you need to divide into smaller groups, or put on coats to transition outside or home.  By keeping the children busy and sending one at a time, there’s usually less chaos in the transition.  Usually.

Enjoy some or all of these activities as you explore animals in the winter time with your little ones!

For more wintry activities, click here!

Top bear photo by cece.

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Fingerplay, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, science activity, Transitions

Stuff the Snow Clouds!

Here’s a quick activity to do as part of your music and movement time, after reading a great wintry book, or any time you just need to work some wiggles out!  You don’t even need any supplies, so it’s ready to go whenever you need it!

Have the children help you make a snowstorm by first, reaching up high, as high as they can, to fill the clouds with snow.  Reach with alternating arms and really get into the action, stuffing those clouds full of flakes!  Then, once they’re “full”, the snow begins to fall!  Wiggle your fingers and sway slowly from side to side, all the way down to your toes for a gentle snow storm.  Reach up again and repeat several times.  If a bigger storm is in the forecast, speed it up and wiggle wildly to make a blizzard!  Change up the speeds to keep it fun and to teach the concepts of “fast” and “slow”, as well as giving opportunities for children to develop motor control and impulse control.  

Have fun, and let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! 

For more wintry activities, click here!

Top graphic by Kriss Szkurlatowski.

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Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, Transitions

Falling Leaves Parachute Activity

Leaf Parachute 1Parachute activities are always enticing to kids.  They’re great for building motor strength and control, as well as self-control.  They also strengthen the child’s ability to listen to and follow directions and to work with others as a group,  all great social skills.  Parachutes don’t have to cost much.  I picked up a small, 6 foot version, to be used in small spaces and with groups of 10 or less children for about $10 (see where to order it here).  You could also just use a bed sheet instead of a parachute.

Whichever type of parachute you use, begin by explaining that it is very important for the children to listen carefully, follow directions, and work together to make the parachute activities work.  Start out with the parachute spread out on the floor.  Have the children find a handle and pull the parachute out flat.  Have everyone slowly touch their toes, then stretch up to the sky.  You could also have them all turn to their left and do a variety of locomotor moves (walk, tip-toe, hop, etc.) to make the parachute spin.  Then practice shaking the parachute.  First softly and slowly, then more quickly and wildly.  Practice intermittent stopping to check for listening and control. 

Once you feel the children are getting the hang of the directions, tell them you are all going to be moving the parachute like the wind.  Sometimes the wind is calm, soft and slow (move parachute accordingly), sometimes it is wild and fast, and sometimes it stops altogether.  Now, in the fall, something very interesting happens when the wind blows.  The leaves fall from the trees and dance in the wind! 

leaf parachute 2

Having the children hold the parachute still, place some leaves in the center of the parachute (I used artificial leaves so they can be reused throughout the month).  Have the children move the leaves about in the wind by moving the parachute as before.  They will have to listen very closely to your signals and work together.  As the wind blows gently, the leaves should stay on the parachute.  Stronger winds will send the leaves flying and the children giggling!  After a big stormy, strong wind, stop and have the children “rake” up the leaves that have blown off of the parachute.  The children will love doing this activity over and over again!

After a parachute activity, you can easily transition to circle time.  Have the children stretch the parachute out flat  and and then sit down.  Have the children set the parachute down and you pick it up from the center.  Abra-cadabra, the kiddos are already in perfect circle formation for the next activity!  You may want to follow up with the Autumn Leaves Song and a great book like Leaf Man.

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, Transitions

Give Me Five! Getting Your Preschoolers’ Attention


It is a common misconception that preschool children know what it means when you ask them to “listen”.  Grown ups constantly ask them to “listen” or “pay attention”, but a young child can’t comply with those requests until you explain what that will actually look like.  

I teach my little ones the “Give Me Five” signal.  When I need my very best listeners, I hold up my hand and say, “Give Me Five…Four..Three..Two..One” as I slowly count down with my fingers as well.  At “One” I put the single finger in front of my mouth for a quiet “shhh”.  The children usually follow along, shhh-ing as well, bringing us all to a quiet spot.  But listening is more than just being quiet, so I teach how  to listen using the FIVE.   The first time I use it, I tell them there are important parts to being a good listener, that they can remember as we count down.

5…Your eyes are looking.

4…Your body is still.

3…Your hands are to yourself.

2…Your ears are listening .

and 1…Shhhh. Your mouth is quiet.  We’re ready to listen!

(I’ve even made a big poster drawing of a hand and put pictures of eyes, bodies, etc. on each finger as a visual reminder.)

I’ll repeat this long version the first few times I use “Give Me Five”, often changing it up to reinforce those behaviors (5…Danny’s eyes are looking, 4…Oh, wow, Jill’s body is so still….), then I shorten to just counting, but pointing out children that are doing the specific behaviors once we finish counting, thanking them for being good listeners.

I don’t use this every time I want someone’s attention, I think they would tire of it.  But I use it frequently at the beginning, to teach listening skills, and then I use the “5-4-3-2-1 shhh” when I need to get everyone’s attention during a busy time (while they’re talking during snack, or a project for example).  I also use it as a quick reminder at times such as large group, using my hand as a signal and saying, “Who’s giving me five?  Oh wow!  Yen is such a great listener!”  Try this out with your little ones, and see if teaching them how to listen will help them to listen!

Photo Courtesy StillSearc.


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