20 Transition Activities for Elementary Age Kids

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Transition Activity Ideas

Use these transition activities for preschoolers when you when children need to move somewhere as a group, such as down a hall to a cafeteria or to the playground.

The logistics of a line seems to create opportunities for children to talk with one another and poke and push the student in front of them. The longer they wait before the line actually moves out the door, the more prone they are to get into mischief.

Table of Contents

What are transitions and activities

Young kids have trouble handling transitions, for example, when you need to transition from playground to going back to class, many children will be upset, and some will actually act out or cry.

This is not their fault. Young kids are still developing and learning. At a young age they just don’t know how to react to these transitions yet like adults do.

Transition activities help them learn and handle these transitions better. For example, if you have an activity to do while you need to go back to class, the kids will learn it’s not a bad thing to end playground and do something else for a while.

Why are transition activities important for children

Transition activities help kids cope with the emotional and practical phase of transitioning from one activity to another.

It also help the children be proactive with their schedule and give them the sense of helping and also teach them the concept of time.

These activities will help the kids learn to better control their emotions when transitioning from a favorite activity to a less liked one. Here are a few examples of transitions that could be emotional for kids:

  • Separating from mom when dropping off at kindergarten
  • Cleaning up time
  • Need to stand in line and wait
  • Coming inside from the playground ( this is a big one )

Transition and Lining Up Activities

1.  Walking quietly

Try having children act like their favorite animal: have them be a mouse— and then ask them to walk as quietly as mice down the hallway.

You can also ask them to tiptoe down the hallway. Pretend there is a family of sleeping bears in the hall. Tell the children, “We don’t want to wake the sleeping bears. Let’s tiptoe very quietly!” These are good activities to use as you go to specials and walk past open classroom doorways.

2. Fun Make Believe Transition Idea

You could wave a “magic” wand and turn them all into butterflies, or perhaps horses. Maybe you have some “fairy dust” (a tiny bit of glitter) in a bag to sprinkle around the children that cause them to be airplanes or to ride motorcycles. Maybe they are “walking on clouds” or “swimming” in the playground.


3. Split the Group in Half

Send half of your children to line up and then have a teacher/caregiver take them to wherever they are going. As soon as they begin to move out of the classroom, tell the rest of the students to line up and then follow the others. This step eliminates having children waiting and decreases their opportunities for getting in mischief.


4. Follow the Leader

Play a follow the leader game where a child takes a turn doing a physical movement such as hop on one foot or touch a wrist to an ear, and the other children copy him/her.

  • You can sing a song with it to the tune of “London Bridges”.
  • Tyler, show us what to do, what to do, what to do. Tyler shows us what to do. Tell us when to stop.
  • Tyler then demonstrates an action such as jumping. When he says, “stop”, all the children are to stop, and Tyler chooses the next person to take a turn.
  • This works really well as a self-esteem builder and can be used to move children outside or down a hall.

5. Form Two Lines

Have children line up in two lines near your door. One line can face the door directly and the other line can run perpendicular to the first one. Designate a name or color (such as red and yellow) for each line and alternate as you ask students to line up.

Call on two children and send one to the red line and the other to the yellow line. You also can place some colored tape on the floor to give students spatial and visual clues. Shorter lines mean that students have less time to wait before they can start moving out of the room.


6. Fun Transition Activity with Kid Involvement

Plan transition themes that meet the needs and interests of children in care. Continue to use the transition theme until the children tire of it. Then think up a way to carry out transitions in a new manner when the old one grows uninteresting.

An idea from the book, Transition Magician–is to use themes in a box or basket.

For example, have children each draw an object out of the box, and then line up by type of object. If it’s shaped, all Circles line up–now all squares line up, etc.

Example:      

Shapes           Colors
Circles              Red
Triangles          Green
Squares            Blue
Rectangles        Yellow


7. Marshmallow Toes

Tell children to line up quietly like marshmallows.

Walking through the hallways,
Everyone quietly goes…
Being respectful all the way…
Walking on our Marshmallow Toes…


8. Line Up 

  • By Color: Line up if you’re wearing the color red; line up if you’re wearing blue, etc.
  • By anything: Line up if you have a tooth missing; line up if you have brown hair, etc.
  • By birthday month: Line up if you were born in August; line up if you were born in September, etc.

9. Random Selection

Randomly CHOOSE NAMES FROM A BASKET to send a few children at a time to line up. Reverse the order the next time so that children who were called on last will be called on first the next day.


10. Name Recognition Transition Idea

Spell students’ names aloud and allow them to line up when they recognize their names.


11. Line Up with a Hopping Challenge

This can be played in a circle, a line, or as a “Bunny, Kangaroo or Froggie Says____” game.
Give children a variety of “hopping” commands such as:

  • Hop in one place.
  • Hop and turn in a circle at the same time.
  • Hop on left/right foot.
  • Hop backward, sideways; make a square or circle.
  • Hop over a line.
  • Hop with a partner.
  • Hop quietly to line up.

12. Quiet Circle

To start Circle Time, appeal to children’s imagination.

Example: There’s a little bear that lives in a cave (a puppet in a paper sack).

  • When it’s time for group time, go to the circle area and quietly announce that Little Bear is about to come out.
  • Kids hurry over, but they know he’s shy and will only appear if everyone is quiet.
  • When Little Bear comes out, he has a math problem to solve and asks kids to help.
  • It’s the perfect segue.

13. Songs and Fingerplays

  • Write simple fingerplays and songs on 3″ x 5″ index cards.
  • You can hole- punch a corner and hook them onto a key chainring. They will fit easily into a pocket so that you can pull them out and lead the children in a finger play or singing activity.
  • Fingerplays and songs are not only fun, but they also enable children to practice playing with language and rhythm.

14. Sing the ‘STAND IN LINE’ SONG

To the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”

If you’re ready to move along-stand in line (clap , clap)
If you’re ready to move along-stand in line (clap , clap)
If you’re standing in the line then be (whisper) very very quiet
If you’re standing in the line be (whisper) very quiet.

With the next verse use body movement.

If you’re standing in the line blink your eyes (blink, blink)
If you’re standing in the line blink your eyes (blink, blink)
If you’re standing in the line then be (whisper) very very quiet
If you’re standing in the line be (whisper) very quiet.

Continue with different movements such as touch your toes, turn around, etc.


15. Transition Music 

Music is a very effective tool in providing transitions for kindergarten children. Play some sort of silly song such as “The Chicken Dance” to signify a transition is coming. Children are naturally drawn to music. They enjoy singing songs they know have a specific meaning when it’s time to pick up toys or other things.


16. Music and Movement Activities

  • These can include different forms of dancing, such as the Mexican hat dance, the Hora, an Irish jig, salsa, line dancing, and hip hop, etc.
  • You can also engage students in circle games, such as The Farmer in the Dell, Bluebird, Ring around the Rosie, and London Bridge, etc.
  • After moving about for a few minutes, students can be asked to sit right where they are on the rug to listen to a story or engage in a lesson. (pre-K-1)

17. Rubber Band Ball 

Something a little different from Teaching Ideas -good for ages 5 to 8

Many teachers struggle to get their students quiet in the hallway.
I started a rubber-band ball and anytime we get a compliment from an adult in the hallway, we get to add a rubber band to the rubber band ball.

They LOVE it and it is very inexpensive. I now have the quietest classroom in the hallway! (Comment: You may need to alert other teachers of your method-so they will give compliments as earned!)

Directions

  1. Give each child a sheet of aluminum foil; have them crumple it into a ball.
  2. Take 1 rubber band at a time and twist it around the foil many times to cover the aluminum foil; the more rubber bands the bigger the ball.
  3. Continue until the ball is the desired size and no more rubber bands will fit on the ball.
  4. When the ball is complete, the kids will have a high bouncing ball!

18. Sunscreen station 

This is especially helpful when transitioning from the classroom to the playground. If allowed in the school, have a sunscreen station where the kids need to put on sun screen.

This will be a fun activity for them to do and will make the transition smoother.


19. Cue Cards 

this is a great idea. Prepare cue cards in advance with visuals and words that will describe and show the kids what is coming next.

Kids love knowing what’s going on and be in the loop. So having these cards will help them feel more comfortable and ganged with the transition coming.


20. Timer 

This might not work for every transition, but you can try and have a timer that the kids can see and know that is counting down.

This way they will actually see how much time they have left, and it will also strengthen their sense of time.


Here are a few preschool transition tips to share with the kids

It is recommended when dealing with transition times with kids and students to keep a regular schedule.

We all know kids love routine and this will help you and them have a better transition from preschool to lower school etc. Here are a few tips to try and keep on top of mind:

  1. Have balance
    Don’t just do the important things with the kids. Have set times for fun activities and just goofing around so that kids can look forward to these times as well and not only wait for important tasks.
  2. be visual
    Kids ( and adults too ) love visuals. They respond much better when they can point and see what they need to do instead of just reading all the time.
  3. Routines are everything 
    As we mentioned, kids love a schedule, and routines are no different. Routines enforce the sense of independence in children and you can start by having very simple rituals the kid do on a daily basis, like a morning routine for example.
  4. Give sneak peeks
    Kids don’t love it when they are in the dark, share the schedule with them ahead of time and work with them together to built it. This way they won’t be surprised and they will know what’s next.
  5. Don’t overkill with transitions
    IF possible, try and limit the transitions as much as possible so that the kids won’t be overwhelmed.
  6. Not every kid is the same
    You have to be ready to provide extra attention to kids who might take a little longer to follow the schedule or routines. Kids are very different from one another, and you need to make sure everyone of them gets the attention they need.
  7. Prepare for unexpected 
    Your day might not go as planned all the time. It’s good to have a few backup plans lined up incase you need to improvise.
  8. Be repetitive 
    We all know kids sometime needs to be told the same thing a few times before they listen or it sinks in. Give verbal ” warnings ” before transitions. For example ” Five more minutes in the playground, after that we go back inside ” This way the kids know what’s going on, and when.
  9. Provide positive feedback
    Kids thrive when you give them positive feedback, when the kids follow your instructions, praise them, give them positive feedback to reenforce the good things they do.

Conclusion

We hope these transition ideas help you lead your kids from one spot to another. It can be hard and challenging to get kids to cooperate and keep their voices down.

Try a variety of these transition activities to see which one works best for your group. Depending on age, different ones will work better than others.

A Pinterest image of two pictures. One of a teacher with several young students playing musical instruments. Another picture of several young students holding hands in a circle with the teacher. The text reads transition activities for preschoolers.

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