How does cleanup unfold with your group? Is your handwashing routine always smooth sailing? Are children quick to line up when outdoor playtime is over and it's time to go inside? It is likely that these transitions are challenging (I know they are here). Transitions often rhyme with confrontations, tantrums and disagreements. This is particularly true with children going through a self-affirmation phase. I must confirm that it is normal for children to refuse to pick up their toys, wash their hands, or get ready for naptime or bed. Children live in the moment and are very self-centered. This means that if they want to finish their game or activity before moving on to the next task, per their logic, others share this need and desire.
Even if this way of reasoning can be considered "normal", there are a few tips and tricks that may make transitions easier for everyone. They are good to have on hand.
Inform children ahead of time. 10, 5, and 2 minutes before the end of an activity, warn children, and tell them what is coming next. Use a timer to signal that the time is up. Constantly applying this method will help children understand that when the alarm rings, it's time to move on to the next task or activity.
Use the if/then technique. This technique is very simple. In fact, it consists of helping children understand how acting right away can be advantageous. This does not mean you must reward children with material objects. Instead, simply demonstrate the logical advantage that comes with promptly doing what they are asked. For example, you can tell a child, "If you wash your hands quickly, you will get to pick your spot at the table faster." As you can see, this technique is easy to use. It is also very efficient when used on a regular basis.
Use positive reinforcement. Congratulating a child or placing a sticker on his hand once his toys are cleaned up is always a good idea. Positive reinforcement helps children understand how they must conduct themselves. For this reason, it represents an intervention technique that can have a great impact. It is most definitely worth experimenting.
Be lenient. For example, if a child wants to set the house he was building with blocks on a shelf so he can finish it later in the day, you might want to accept. Compromising can make transitions easier for everyone.
Beware of compromises and establish limits. You must nonetheless make sure children do what you ask of them. If, for example, you ask them to pick up their toys, they must do so. Above all, avoid executing a task for them. Otherwise, they will quickly understand that if they resist, they will be relieved from their responsibilities.
Keeping these tips and tricks in mind and using them consistently can make transitions enjoyable for everyone involved!
Maude Dube, Specialized educator