Transitions can be difficult for kids (and parents!) at home, and for us, that’s often exacerbated when traveling. It’s hard to move away from an exciting and engaging activity!
Here are a few tips that have helped us and our 6 kiddos. I hope they’re helpful to your family, too!
I know for me, it can be really tempting to use the last few minutes when my child is focused on doing something to do my own thing. They’re occupied! They’re distracted! They’re not vying for my attention! But often, that is exactly the thing that makes it so difficult for them to transition away from whatever activity they’re doing.
Instead, I’ve found that by actually engaging and interacting with them during those final few minutes encourages them to move through the transition process more easily. It gives them my attention – which is often what they seek most. So instead of feeling like they’re LOSING or finishing an activity, they’re GAINING interaction and attention. It’s replacing one interest with something else they crave.
As a side note, this is also why I don’t love using distraction as a tool to move away from activities. To me, it sends the message that what they’re doing is not important or valid, and can just be interrupted and left behind. Instead, I like to validate their activity and purposefully rather than unintentionally move away from it. That’s not to say distraction doesn’t ever have its place – it can certainly be helpful, especially with young toddlers – but as a habit, I like to move toward more intentional transitions.
Try A Visual Timer
We love using these at home (we have two of these visual timers and love them for everything from clean up to instrument practice) to give a visual reminder of how much time is left. They can be helpful for travel, as well! I also love using a visual timer app while traveling – it serves the same purpose without having to carry another thing while traveling. (This one is free and works well for us!)
Show A Photo
Kids sometimes have a hard time visualizing the next activity, even if it’s something great. Try showing a photo of something fun to come – just one on your phone will do just fine. Maybe it’s a pool at the hotel once you get off the airplane. Maybe it’s a fun treat to enjoy together. Maybe it’s a playground after getting out of the house. And remember that the smallest things are really fun for kids – even going to a grocery store or on the subway is exciting!
Have A Consistent Signal
One of my children has a really difficult time waiting their turn when they need to tell me something. So I asked them to squeeze my hand when they need to say something instead of yelling to interrupt. This lets me know they have something to say, and it lets them know that I am aware.
Similarly, having a consistent signal to end an activity and move to the next can be helpful. Maybe it’s a hug or eye contact (or engagement – see number 1!). Maybe it’s a song or dance. You get to choose!
Yep, transitions are like most other things in that they get easier with practice. Some kids will naturally do better with them and some kids will naturally find them more challenging. That’s okay. Just keep working on it!
I hope these tips were helpful to you – I’d love to hear some things you do, as well!