Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

June 28, 2021

Successful Transitions: Daily Routines

Parent Tips for Daily & Routine Transitions

Children, just like adults, experience feelings as they anticipate or react to transitions. Sometimes children will engage in challenging behaviors as a result of this anticipation. Parents may observe their child struggling to transition between activities, or from a preferred activity to a non-preferred activity. Adults can promote successful transitions by helping children feel safe and secure during these times.

Strategies to Support Daily Transitions 

  • Set realistic expectations based on your child’s developmental stage: Remember, children have limited life experiences and do not understand the world like adults. Consider the developmental level and unique characteristics of your child. Being mindful of this will help you adjust your expectations and offer individualized supports.
  • Create routines: Establish predictable routines and set clear expectations. Be sure to teach your child the expectations for the routine. It might be helpful to practice the routine outside of the expected time.
  • Provide a snapshot: Give your child a preview of the activity and make it clear to them how long the activity will last.
  • Use visual cues: Get your child’s attention and help them anticipate and prepare for what is coming next by using gestures, visual aids (like a visual timer and/or visual schedule), and other nonverbal communication to signal that the activity is about to end.
  • Offer countdowns: Remind your child of how much time is left with the current activity. Try using a visual timer or other visual cues: “Look, we have 2 minutes left!” It’s important to make sure you have your child’s full attention before proving this reminder.
  • Turn transition times into games: Use music, songs (like the clean-up song), timers or predictable noises to signal transitions.
  • Use a transition object or toy: Try to use a special toy, book, or other object that can be designated for use only during difficult transitions.
  • Rewards: Provide verbal praise for good transitioning or offer tangible rewards. These can be things like stickers, snacks, or a point system that leads to the tangible reward. As your child learns to seamlessly transition, you can phase out tangible rewards.

The above suggestions were compiled by the C&FD psychology team and were adapted from:, Head Start ECLKC, The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL), National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDC-ASD)