A Thoughtful Plan Can Diffuse Power Struggle
Does thought of asking your child to move on to their next activity unnerve you? Picture this: Your child comes home from school and heads straight for playroom, excited to spend some time with their new Star Wars action figures or Barbie Doll. They play for an hour; you can hear their squeals of delight from kitchen as you’re preparing dinner. And then, moment you dread… it’s time to call your child to dinner. The battle begins.
You call once, no reply. You call again only to be greeted with “In a minute, Mom!” and then “Just a sec” or worse, an exasperated “Okay – I’m coming!” and no hungry child appearing at table. As food grows cold, your internal temperature rises until you swear you could reheat soup just by sticking your finger in it – and still no hungry child at table.
In childcare, transition times are when you are trying to help children finish an activity or daily routine and move on to another one. During free play, children will often be very engaged in their chosen activity and they will find it difficult to abruptly stop what they are doing. The same holds true for any favorite activity – playing piano, talking on phone with friends or even listening to new Green Day CD.
Transitioning from one activity to another is often a difficult time in child care settings. But there’s no reason to throw in towel and admit defeat. Transitions can be transformed into positive experiences by a solid upfront plan. Preparation is your best friend in engaging your child in transition activities.
Transitional activities can be positive and exciting ways of moving children from one activity to another. They can make finishing one activity and moving on to another activity a learning experience and an adventure.
Let’s look at our free play example and incorporate a simple technique to smooth your child’s transition from playtime to dinner time. You may find it helpful to give them a warning that playtime will soon be over. Instead of calling out "five more minutes,” ensure your child has heard you by going directly to them and saying “You have time for one more checkers game. Dinner is in five minutes.”
The warning serves two purposes: 1. It clearly sets a plan for your child to follow (only one more game) and 2. It shifts your child’s focus from current activity to new one.
Some children may take longer to stop one activity and move on to next. Even with fair warning, many children will be reluctant to stop playing in favor of doing homework, having dinner, or taking a bath. If your child is unable to switch gears quickly, it is helpful to give this type of child ten-minute, five-minute and one-minute warnings before a change. This allows them to gradually prepare for shift.