Toddlers live in the moment. They like what they like and they don’t like change. They fight any and all limits. They hang on to control, because in reality they have so little of it. Making any transition—from leaving the playground to getting into the bathtub—can be stressful for child and caregiver alike.

Magination Press’s Terrific Toddlers series, written by Carol Zeavin and Rhona Silverbush, covers the day-to-day dramas most experienced by toddlers and the adults who care for them. This revolutionary and unique series is the first ever to handle the topics in carefully researched, developmentally appropriate ways for toddlers.

Here’s an adapted excerpt from the Note to Parents and Caregivers in Terrific Toddlers’ Time to Go!, providing tips to ease transitions with your toddler.

Give a head’s up when possible. It’s helpful to signal to toddlers that their current activity is coming to an end. You can use “toddler-time” phrases like “after one more song,” or you can use a term like “five more minutes.” (“Five more minutes works” in this context, but not in a situation when you are leaving and your toddler needs a more concrete understanding of when you’ll be returning.) Toddlers don’t know how long five more minutes is, so your five minutes can be as long as you need it to be… The important thing is to give the signal that it’s almost time to switch gears.

Have a routine. Have a “first this, then that” routine which can guide them through a transition. For example, when getting ready to go to the park, your routine could be “first put on shoes, then have a snack.” That’s the routine to get ready to leave for the park. Toddlers can express their need for control by learning to do parts of the routine themselves.

Use transitional objects. These are the things they’ve been playing with and don’t want to leave behind. For example, your toddler is playing with a toy train and doesn’t want to leave it to get in the bathtub. Encourage your toddler to “drive” the train into the bathroom. Carrying along a transitional object can help ease your toddler’s transition.

Be matter of fact. Be patient but firm. Tell them you wish they could keep playing, because you do, for their sake. Label what is happening (“You really like the playground, but now it’s time to go”), so they can understand themselves and feel understood.

Give a choice… Offer two choices, both of which are okay with you. “Do you want to carry your shovel or should I?” “You can walk or I will carry you.” They can choose, exercising their control, and you can achieve the transition you need.

…and then go. Endless negotiations will not get the job done and toddlers feel more secure when a grown up actually takes charge (in a benevolent way, of course…). Take a breath. Explain that since they are having a hard time, you will help them—and pick them up and go.

Battles will ensue. Tantrums will happen, but if you stay clear and firm, yet understanding, you will both have an easier time when it’s time to go.

by Carol Zeavin

This Article's Author

Carol Zeavin holds master's degrees in education and special education from Bank Street College, worked with infants and toddlers for nearly a decade as head teacher at Rockefeller University's Child and Family Center and Barnard's Toddler Development Center, and worked at Y.A.I. and Theracare. She lives in New York, NY.
by Rhona Silverbush

This Article's Author

Rhona Silverbush studied psychology and theater at Brandeis University and law at Boston College Law School. She represented refugees and has written and co-written several books, including a guide to acting Shakespeare. She currently coaches actors, writes, tutors, and consults for families of children and teens with learning differences and special needs. She lives in New York, NY.

Related Books from Magination Press