Transition Ideas to Use Between Activities at Preschool

Do your preschoolers get distracted or out of control when it’s time to transition between activities? Preschoolers aren’t very good at waiting yet, and losing their attention during transitions can lead to behavior problems all day. Keep reading to learn a few transition activities for preschoolers that teachers use to make things go smoothly during the day.

teacher and preschool students transition activity teacher and preschool students transition activity
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Ideas for Transitions Between Activities

When preschoolers don’t want to stop one activity or have to wait for the next activity to start, they often act out. This is frustrating for both preschool teachers and parents of preschoolers. But here are a few transition ideas for preschoolers:

  • music
  • exercising
  • reading
  • playing a simple game, like Simon Says
  • dismissing the students as each one answers a question
  • dimming the lights and having them close their eyes while you help them "imagine" something for a minute or two
  • signal phrases

Some kids respond to certain activities better than others. Try everything out to find out what works best for them and for you — you’re already improving the situation!

Music: Songs for Transition Time

Preschoolers love to sing. They only need a few words of a familiar song before they join right in. Transitions are a great time for educational songs, such as the alphabet song, a counting song or classic nursery rhymes set to music. You can even make up your own transition song set to a tune the kids already know!

Try out this transition song for cleaning up, set to “I’m a Little Teapot”:

We’re all finished playing (or another activity)
Time to move,
Clean up our area,
Get in the groove!

When we are all cleaned up,
We will start,
Our next activity
And it is (name the activity)!

If you need preschoolers to sit down and pay attention, sing this song to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”:

Quiet fingers,
Quiet feet,
Quiet body,
Quiet seat.

Hands on tables, everyone,
So we can do something fun,

Quiet fingers,
Quiet feet,
Quiet body,
Quiet seat.

Another important transition activity is getting ready at home. Parents (and teachers) can try this song out when preschoolers need to get ready to leave, sung to the tune of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”:

It’s time for us to go now,
What do we need?
Coats on our back,
Shoes on our feet.

Lunch box and backpack (or other supplies they need)
All ready to go.
A hug and a kiss —
Now let’s hit the road!

Soon, preschoolers will associate the song with stopping what they’re doing and moving on to the next activity. You won’t even need to remind them to clean up if it’s part of the song! This activity works well at home and in the classroom.

Exercise Through Transitions

Moving their bodies is a great way for preschoolers to change activities. End the first activity by having preschoolers start an exercise, such as jumping jacks or running in place. The kids who are still working will want to transition just so they can join in the fun. By the time they’re done with the exercise, they’ll forget what they were just doing and they’ll be ready to move on.

Reading as a Distraction

A reading teacher is like a magnetic pull for preschoolers. If they’re waiting in line for the restroom or to get a drink of water, take out a picture book and start reading. They’ll be so invested in the story that they won’t even notice when it’s their turn at the front of the line.

Playing a Game

You know the feeling: you’re trying to get preschoolers’ attention, but they are giving you none of it. All you need is one or two kids to listen to a game like Simon Says. Announce “Simon Says … put your hands on your head!” When the preschoolers who aren’t listening notice that they’re missing out on a game, you’ll find that you get their attention pretty quickly! Other games to play include:

  • 20 questions
  • I Spy
  • Musical Chairs
  • Paper, Scissors, Rock
  • Duck, Duck, Goose
  • Solving Riddles
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Answering Questions

When preschoolers are eager to move on to something fun, it’s hard for them to stay patient. Help them learn this important skill by having them slow down and answer questions. The questions can be about a lesson you’ve taught, preschoolers’ favorite things or details from a story you’ve just read.

Not only do they need to listen to their peers quietly before being dismissed, but they also have to think about their answers. Parents can use this transition activity to learn more about their preschoolers’ days.

Imagination Time

It’s easy to mistake preschoolers’ high energy for fun, but often, they’re feeling anxious during a transition. Provide a moment of quiet time by turning off the light and leading them through a guided meditation with their imagination.

As preschoolers close their eyes, describe a peaceful scene with gentle, soothing characters for them to imagine. It’s a great way to bring in more creative activities while calming preschoolers during a transition.

Signal Phrases

For quick transitions, teach the children signal phrases and responses where you clap or say something and they respond. For example, you could say, "Clap two times" and then clap two times. Then say "Clap four times," clap four times, and the children will join in.

This engages them and pulls their attention away from any undesirable behavior they are doing or thinking about doing. Preschool teachers are masters at this strategy, and parents can learn it effectively too.

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Making the Most of Preschool

Learning how to wait patiently and transition well is an important skill. It helps preschoolers feel more in control of their surroundings, which calms down their behavior. For more preschool activities, check out these three-letter words for four-year-olds.