Teacher Tips: Transition Activities for Young Children

Transition activities are key to a successful dance class or early childhood program. Not only will they help you move from one activity to another seamlessly, transition activities can be your most powerful classroom management tool as they keep the momentum of the class moving forward and ensure that young children remain focused and engaged. Remember, idle time opens the door for distractions and off task behaviors.

Clean Up:

Clean up time can be very difficult for some young children. They may not want to give up the prop or toy they have been exploring which can cause distress. By establishing a positive routine, clean up time becomes a fun activity within itself.

During clean up time try to sing the song below until all props/toys have been put away. Some children can be very enthusiastic and want to clean up all the props leaving others without any which can lead to hurt feelings. Be sure to indicate how many of each item you want each child to clean up before singing the song. For example, “Can all my dancing friends pick up one hula-hoop from our obstacle course? That way we all get a turn!”  By giving the tots and kids control over the situation you are empowering them.

Action Rhymes and Songs

Action rhymes and songs are an excellent transition as they actively engage children while continuing to work on early language and literacy development. Not only will this act as a transition from one section of the lesson to another, but can also act as an anticipatory set when introducing a new concep or activity. They also work well when transitioning from an active activity to a seated activity.

For example, when introducing the concept of size,I start with the song The Itsy Bitsy Spider, varying the rhyme to include the Teeny Tiny Spider (small) and the Great Big Spider (big.).

When exploring the concept of body parts, I use the song This is the way we Move to transition from the standing to a seated activity or vice versa. To transition for seating to standing start with body movements that children can do while sitting and end with movements they need to stand to perform. When transitioning from standing to seated reverse this or end with:

This is the way my body can sit, 

My body can sit, 

My body can sit.

This is the way my body can sit, 

At dance class!

When I  transition into the playing with intruments or parachutes I like to us this song:

Let’s get out the instruments!

Play them! Play them!

Let’s get out the instruments and all play along!

Let’s get out the parachute!

Shake it! Shake it!

Let’s get out the parachute and all shake along!

Once the parachute or instruments are out keep the play going by singing the following song:

(Sung to of The Wheels on the Bus)

The parachute goes up and down,

Up and down,

Up and down!

The parachute goes up and down,

At Intellidance class!

The parachute goes round and round,

Round and round,

Round and round!

The parachute goes round and round

At Intellidance class!

You can add other ways of moving the parachute (big and small, fast and slow, high and low, smooth and sharp, etc.)

The instruments go play, play,

STOP!

Play, play, STOP!

Play, play, STOP!

The instruments go play, play,

STOP!

At Intellidance class!

You can add other ways of playing the instruments (up, and down, fast and slow, loud and soft, etc.)

Rhythmic Play Transitions

Passing out props can sometimes take a few minutes in larger classes. This can easily become a time when tots and kids will become distracted and caregivers begin to chat, making it more difficult for you to regain the classes’ focus when you are ready to begin your next activity. Using a rhythmic play transition can keep the play going while you pass out sensory props.

When passing out Egg Shakers, I like to use the Shake and Stop transition:

Can you show me two hands?

Can you make your hands…

Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake and STOP!

Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake and STOP!

Continue this as you pass out the shakers. You can try adding different concepts (faster shakes, slower shakes, etc.) or movements (taps, rolls, etc.)

When passing out Rhythm Sticks, I like to use the Sit with Sticks transition:

You can tap this beat on your lap?

Slow, slow, quick, quick, quick!

Slow, slow, quick, quick, quick!

Can you say…

You gotta sit, sit, sit with sticks!

You gotta sit, sit, sit with sticks!

Continue this as you pass out the rhythm sticks. Once tots and kids have sticks they can keep the slow, slow, quick, quick, quick beat with the sticks. You can also try adding different speeds (slow beat, fast beat) or different ways of moving the sticks (buzzing, rolling, etc).

When passing out Drums, I like to use the Drum Bum transition:

You can tap this beat on your lap?

Slow, slow, quick, quick, quick!

Slow, slow, quick, quick, quick!

Can you say…

When you drum, drum you sit on your bum!

When you drum, drum you sit on your bum!

Continue this as you pass out the drums. Once tots and kids have drums they can keep the slow, slow, quick, quick, quick beat on their drum.

Try adding different speeds (slow drum, fast drum) or dynamics (quiet drum, loud drum). I like to end with the drum roll:

Drum rollllllllllllllllll (playing fast drum roll)

Stop! (hands come up off drum)

Wait, wait, wait.

Repeat a few times. End with:

Drum rollllllllllllllllll (playing fast drum roll)

Stop! (hands come up off drum)

Wait, wait, listen. (Touch fingers to ears)

Sitting Transitions

Sometimes you will need to simply cue children to sit. Here are a few fun ways to encourage sitting:

Criss Cross Apple Sauce

Lets all sit and make our legs go

Criss Cross Apple Sauce
(sit cross legged)

And put an apple in your lap! (put hands together to make an apple shape)

Sticky Bums

I have some magic glue! Can you rub it on your bum? Make sure you cover the whole thing!

Now find your own place to stick your bum down. Once it sticks you can move.

My glue is magic because it wont let you un-stick until I say your name!

Balloons

Blow your body up into a big balloon! (Stretch bodies big)

Oh no your balloon has a leak! (Slowly make body smaller and sink to a seat position)

You can also adapt this transition to creating a group circle.

Let’s all work together to make a balloon. Can we all hold hands? Make sure the bubble doesn’t have any holes. Now lets all come in close together.

What happens if you put too much air in a balloon? It Pops! Let’s try not to pop our balloon while we slowly blow it up.
(Blow into the middle of the circle and slowly spread out to create a large group circle)

Can you Find a...?

While these activities have been developed for classroom use they can easily be modified for at home use. When my girls were toddlers I would start to sing The Clean Up Song and they would stop whatever they were doing and help me pick up their toys without any fighting or tears. I also modified the This is the Way We Move song for bathtime and teeth brushing " This is the way we brush our teeth!" or "This is the way we wash our arms!" When you approach any kind of activity transition in a playful way your children are less likely to resist and more likely to jump right in!