Transition with Ease: A 7 1/2 Step Blueprint for Clean-Up Time

Last week I was coaching teachers in a Head Start program in New York. Today I spent the morning in a Pre-K in a Seattle public school. And I've been learning new great ideas. What's most on my mind? Transitions. Specially, supporting children to transition with ease. 

How do we support children to transition with ease?

Well let me tell you I have recently been witness to SEVERAL TEACHERS WHO ROCK THEIR TRANSITIONS. And today I learned two new things to make transitions go even smoother. So if you are struggling to wrangle your kids to put the toys in the buckets and baskets and put them on the shelf...if the whole thing takes more minutes then you can practice counting on your fingers...or if you are pulling your hair out about how badly your transitions go, then this is for you!

5 Ways to Help a "Sensory- Seeking" Child with a Short Attention Span

5 Ways to Help a "Sensory- Seeking" Child with a Short Attention Span

A preschool teacher recently wrote to me and asked,

“Do you have any suggestions for a 3-year-old child who has a very limited attention span? Unless an adult is playing with him (which we strive for as much as possible but can’t happen all the time) he never stays with anything for longer than 30 seconds. He loves to play in our outdoor water structure and he stays engaged for a prolonged period. This is the only time he is completely regulated. He also struggles with transitions.” - Shelby


Shelby, wow, this sounds exhausting! To start, I just want to say that it sounds like you are doing tons right with this child, in terms of prioritizing having an adult work with him 1:1 and playing with him to help him build his capacity to stay engaged.  I do think that’s precisely the way to help him build his attention span. Of course, I know it’s not always possible to have an adult working directly with him all the time. Also, the fact that you observed and noted that playing with water is the exception to the rule; the time he does sustain independent engagement in an activity. And, that you noticed this seems to help self-regulate him.

Let’s think about how we can build on his interest in water and build on the fact that water play seems to self-regulate him...

 9 Things You Need to Know About Play (and Challenging Behavior)

Many teachers say they are too busy to get down on the floor and play…others have been taught that it’s not appropriate to do so…some say they feel awkward or don’t know what to do.

Yet, helping children who exhibit challenging behavior to play creatively with materials, sustain engagement, and develop cooperative play skills can be transformative.

Over and over again I’ve seen examples of intentional support for a child’s play result in language spurts, increased attention span, social skills, friendships formed, and dramatic reductions or the elimination of the challenging behavior…sometimes even when the behavior was occurring at other times of the day.

 Curious? Read on…

What Does Storytelling Have To Do With Challenging Behavior?

It wasn’t until my late 20s that I realized how much storytelling had always been a part of my life. Like many cultures the Irish like to tell their stories. My mom and dad both had stories of their childhood years that they told me over and over. I would request them. My mom really looked up to her childhood friend who I called my Aunt Margie and I guess Aunt Margie was a bit more daring than my mom so my mom had stories of Aunt Margie galore – pretending to faint at a movie theater and doing other vaguely rebellious things! I relished the stories of Wild Aunt Margie and her sidekick, my mom.

When I reflect on these and other stories from my childhood I realize there were several things that captivated me.

The Power of a Single Word: A Strategy For Children Who Don’t Follow Directions


Let’s go to the beach…”

Let’s work together to create a plan to prevent Jasmine from hitting the other children during circle time.”

Let’s decide what your professional development goals are.”

Let’s hurry up and clean up the blocks so that we can go outside!”

“Honey, let’s figure out how on earth we can get the kids to ____________ (insert your challenge here)…”

What feelings did these sentences, questions and invitations bring up? Did you want to go along with the ideas in each of them? How do you think these offers would land with children you know?  What do you think the listener would say, do, think or feel?

Prevent Challenging Behavior at Clean Up Time and Other Transitions

Transitions are tough.

Not just for kids but for many of us as adults.

I still remember that when I was a new preschool teacher at the University of Minnesota Child Development Center in the early 1990s our Ed Director, Sherry, did a fabulous workshop on transitions. She pointed out that even for us as adults, transitions can be hard. She referenced packing for a vacation as an exciting yet stressful transition. How many of us get discombobulated or fight with our loved ones during transitions as small as getting out of the house in the morning….or as big as getting ready to move to a new home?

Oh yeah. I’m guilty...

Does This Child’s Behavior Warrant Hiring a Consultant?

Originally posted on Early Childhood Investigations.

Let’s consider Brandon. He’s four. He has his good days and his bad days, but the bad days are really bad. At center time he often rushes into the block area, smashing the other children’s towers while exclaiming that he is a knocking them down with his fiery dragon breath. If the other children tell him to stop, then he runs away. When his teachers try to redirect him to another activity things often escalate. He has thrown chairs. He often kicks and spits at his teachers. If this happens in the morning, the cycle often repeats at least once during the day. Naptime and transitions are daily struggles.

As a center director you may lose hours in your day because the teachers call you in for help once Brandon starts misbehaving. You are frustrated that the teachers don’t follow through with the preventative strategies you recommend. Maybe you’re at your wits end because the family doesn’t return calls, follow through, or show up for meetings. Perhaps you’re worried that other families will pull their children out of the program and stressed out because Briana’s mother has come to you for the third time this month angry that Brandon hurt her.

So you’re wondering, does Brandon’s behavior warrant hiring a consultant?