How to Help Preschoolers Cope with Change [Printable Countdown Cards]

“The only constant is change.”

It’s a famous saying because, well, it’s just so true. For young children, change can be especially stressful. Life is filled with unexpected events. Sometimes plans must change. This can be hard for adults and even more difficult for young children. Even little transitions throughout the day can cause a young child stress.

A transition is a shift from what is currently happening to something new and unknown. This can be scary and risky to children. Coping with change is part of developing flexibility, an essential skill needed for success in learning. Try 3 approaches to help preschoolers cope with change:

  • Prepare children for a change that is about to happen.
  • Sing it instead of saying it.
  • Introduce Movement Sticks.

 1. Prepare children for an approaching change. 

Give warnings and explain the upcoming sequence of events. Help build their sequencing skills by explaining that they have three more minutes to play with blocks, then you will start to sing and next, you will go outside to play.

“By using “first/then” statements throughout the day,

the child’s brain begins to predict

what comes next in a variety of situations.”

2. Don’t say it, sing it!

Use music to create a positive tone around transitions. Sing a favorite tune but invent lyrics that explain what needs to be done. For example, sing to the tune of “Row Your Boat.”

Clean, clean, clean the room

Let’s pick up the toys

After we clean, we’ll eat some lunch

Please come help me clean

3. Introduce Movement Sticks. 

Write movement prompts on craft sticks, such as, “Jump like a frog.” or “Hop on one foot.” After your child has completed a desired task (e.g. putting away the blocks), encourage her to choose a craft stick and move in that way to the next activity (e.g. washing up for lunch).

Nurturing confidence!  When toddlers learn to manage change, they become independent and confident children. The transition process requires a child to switch his attention, give up something he is currently doing and focus on something new. As brain development and self-regulation mature, children get better at making this switch.

Each time we guide a child through a transition, he is building a foundation of life skills:

1) the flexibility to shift attention

2) how to plan what comes next

3) how to manage emotions

4) how to sequence

Use the Flower Petal Countdown Visual Aid to help children prepare for when one activity is about to end and another is about to begin. Start 6 minutes before the end of an activity time and remove one petal at the end of each minute. Count down to change. This visual aid helps children see and prepare for the transition.

How do we use nature to learn about change?  Celebrating change is at the core of why Mother Goose Time features the theme Bees and Butterflies.  Throughout the theme, children learn many examples and participate in a variety of projects that help them see how nature changes and how they too can grow, change and become strong and confident children. Enjoy your Petal Countdown Cards and share your experience in the comment section below!

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 What is Inspired Learning? Inspired Learning is the blog written by the Experience Early Learning Co. – publishers of the Mother Goose Time preschool curriculum – to support all early childhood educators. In addition to preschool curriculum, the Experience Early Learning Co. publishes * children’s books * preschool music & dance and * authentic assessment tools. These materials have been serving child care directorsfamily childcare providers, preschool teachers, homeschoolers and parents of young children since 1984. All materials are crafted to inspire both the educators and the children to experience learning through creative expression, play and open-ended discovery. Mother Goose Time preschool curriculum supports a child’s social-emotional, physical and cognitive development.


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