Preschool Transitions Between Activities


3-5 minute warnings.

This is a very important step for young children. It is very difficult for them to stop an activity when they are at the height of their creativeness!!!

Try to always give them a warning that a transition is about to happen.

For example, if you will be going outside for 10 minutes, shut off the lights and tell the children that there are 5 more minutes until clean up.(When we shut off the lights the children usually get instantly quiet from the surprise of it. We then softly sing “Stop, look and listen” before we give the warning.

In five minutes, do the same thing, only tell them that it is clean up time.

For older preschoolers, the above can be a classroom helper job–lights!

Another way to clean up is to give one warning and then we ring a wrist bell and sing the Barney Clean up song or other clean up songs.

Pick a song that will always be used for a specific transition. One of my colleagues uses the Circle of Life song from Lion King for the cleanup song. When the children hear it, they know what “time” it is.


I run a Playcentre which caters for 3-5year olds. We use this fingerplay as a transition from group to morning tea. 2 little children sitting on the floor 1 named (Alice) and 1 named (Steven). Fly away Alice Fly away Steven Wash your hands and collect your morning tea.

Using actions for Two Little Dickie Birds and pretending to wash our hands and eat. morning tea.

We keep changing names until all children have left.


When children need to move to another area have them listen to directions about how to move. Some examples are “with 3 body parts touching the floor”, ” on tiptoes”, or “like a skater”.


To get children into listening position at circle time I use the words “BUBBLE GUM”. On the first day, we pretend to chew a piece of gum. We take out a piece and stick it to our bottoms. Then we chew some more and stick a piece to our crossed legs. We chew some more and take a piece and stick it to our folded hands. Next, we pretend to blow a big bubble and have it pop on our face, sticking our mouths shut and our eyes on the speaker. Now when I want the children’s’ attention at circle I just say “Bubblegum”. Presto we have a listening position. We also keep a drawing of a bubble gum jar near our circle. I give a colored round sticker (bubble gum) for good listening and other good behaviors. The children put the stickers in the jar and when the jar is filled we have a party.


At a recent workshop, I learned two excellent transitioning strategies! One was for transitioning into naptime, which can be one of the toughest transitions of the day! Go to Toys R Us, or even to a dollar store and pick up a play wand, something fun with lots of glitter and sequins! At naptime walk slowly around the room and find the children that are resting quietly, say something like ” Oh, I like how Mandy is resting quietly, I think she is ready for the naptime wand!” Then rub the child’s back gently with the wand and sing “Goodnight Mandy, Goodnight Mandy, Goodnight Mandy, It’s time to rest right now.” The other children will want to be next for the naptime wand and will quiet down! It works very well in my class. It makes the child feel that they are really receiving something special, and the one on one closeness that you will share with each child for those few moments help them to calm down.


An excellent way to transition a class from one area to the next, such as from center play into circle time is to play “What’s in the sack?” Little ones LOVE secrets and surprises and this offers some of both! Just get a sack, either made of fabric or just a brown paper sack, then put something really neat in it, like a koosh ball, or a finger puppet! Now just walk around the room, muttering, “Gee, I wonder what’s in this sack?” Eventually, the children will begin to flock over, one by one, wanting to find out, what is in the sack! Allow them to each reach in and feel the object, without being able to see it. Now tell them that you are going to show them all what’s in the sack, but first “Let’s all go to circle time and sit down, so that we can all see.” or “First let’s go line up at the door and be very quiet, so I can show everyone what’s in here!”. If you put something really fascinating in the sack the first time you do this, it will work like a charm every time!! =)


To the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle

My students sit on circles at group time, thus the “circle” mentioned in the song.

Let’s see who is here today . . . who has come to sing and play? Find a circle on the ground. Find a circle and please sit down. Let’s see who is here today . . . who has come to sing and play?


Transition Songs

To “She’ll be coming round the mountain”

Any transition event will fit this tune. For example,

If you’re ready for a story, please sit down, If you’re ready for a story please sit down, If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story please sit down.


I teach 3 and 4-year-olds and I made up this clever little poem to help the children know when it’s transition time and also when it’s time to line up! “If you have on red then you heard what I said. (You heard me say that it’s time to line up.) If you have on blue then you know what to do. ( You know that it’s time to line up.) If you have on green then you know what I mean. If you have on pink then you know what I think. ( I think you should be getting ready to line up.) If you have on white then you know what’s right.(It’s right to go to the end of the line and not in front of someone else.) If you have on black then your name must be Jack. If you have on purple then you like to eat Slurple.(a pretend drink that is like the 7 Eleven Slurpee) If you have on Grey oh what a wonderful day! If you have on brown then you better get down. If you have on yellow then you’re a nice fellow. If you have on orange, well that’s just orange.”

Ever since I have been using this poem it has really helped my class learn its colors and it has really cut down the time I used to spend repeating what we were getting ready to do. It has worked so well that should I ever just say that “It’s time to get in line,” then someone in my class will always say,”Well Miss Tonya you forgot to say red I said, blue you know what to do, etc.!


I teach preschool, and am always trying to teach something in secret ways in the form of a game. A transition that I have used all year to get the children from our first group time to our activity tables: I have something called puzzle pals. Each child closes their eyes and I give each of them a card that is in the shape of a puzzle piece. I often use letters or numbers. After everyone has a card we go around the circle and everyone has a chance to tell us what they have. Two children match (Both have the letter E) Once everyone finds their “pal” I call them to the tables by letters. I originally did this at the beginning of the year for the children to get to know each other. They enjoyed it so much that I have done this using different topics. (numbers, colors, shapes) I have also used capital letters to lower case letters once the children are familiar with all the letters. The children love this game, and it reinforces their learning.


I work in long day care & we have this favorite song at transition times. 1 or 2 staff stand at the door if we are outside or on the mat if we are inside clapping our hands & singing; Over here, over here Hurry up, hurry up Boys and girls together Boys & girls together Lets line up (or wash hands/sit down etc) Lets line up

The children clap & sing for us now, they like to feel in control!

Share an idea you have used in your classroom or at home that pertains to this theme.