Transitions can be a hard time for toddlers. When they move from something they are deeply engrossed in or comfortable with to something new. When they get engrossed in play for example it can become their whole world, their only focus.

toddler transitions

Why toddlers struggle with transitions.

Often though we know an impending transition is coming – dinner, going to school, bedtime – we let our toddler know so close to the change, so it feels sudden and unexpected. This is especially so when it comes to things like leaving the house and getting ready for preschool. When it feels sudden and unexpected our toddlers get upset and fight the transition.

If we change the way we look at transitions and how we handle them we can help them go more smoothly. That doesn’t always mean we’ll have no protests or tantrums because toddlers are toddlers after all. But we increase the chance of smoother, more enjoyable transitions for everyone.

toddler transitions

Have routines throughout the day.

Routines help toddlers feel a sense of control in their world. Without routines, change tends to happen to them, not with them. Routines help them predict what happens next during the day.

toddler transitions

Provide tangible warnings.

Saying in 5 minutes, or even using a visual clock is hard for a toddler as they have no concepts of time and how slow/fast a clock moves. So, instead of “in 5 minutes” try “after you’ve stacked 5 blocks”.

toddler transitions

Gently bring them back.

Bring them back gently by sitting next to them and connect.  Talk about what they are doing and even join in for a minute. After this a child will be more open to listening. You can then tell them what will be happening next.

toddler transitions

Validate feelings.

Let your child know that you see and hear how hard it is to transition. Validating feelings not only helps a child feel understood but it can help diffuse their big emotions so that you can keep moving.

toddler transitions

Celebrate success.

Celebrate small and big successes when transitions go well. When we celebrate the behavior we want to see we encourage toddlers to do more of that behavior.

child behavior coach
Toddler transitions