Managing Transitions: Visual and Auditory Techniques

Topic Progress:

Foundations 1, Part 3

Lesson 3: Managing Transitions

with Visual and Auditory Cues

Transitions can be tough.

  • Do you ever feel like days with young children can feel a little chaotic?
  • Do you ever feel like you need to keep repeating directions?
  • Do children have trouble switching from one activity to the next?

Sometimes children come to you crying because they need help to feel:

  • Secure by making their world more predictable.
  • Comforted by creating a sense of belonging to a group.
  • Confident of what is expected, so that they can follow directions and gain cooperation skills.

In this lesson, you will learn techniques for helping children manage transitions and change throughout the day. We will focus on both visual and auditory methods for giving children cues to help them anticipate the change

VISUAL SUPPORTS for Transitions

A Picture Schedule can help you find a rhythm to your day and provide security, comfort, and clarity to a young child.

We often hear, “One picture is worth a thousand words.”  This is very true for young children. By adding pictures to support your words, children follow routines more smoothly, with greater independence and fewer behavior problems.

Diminish Power Struggles

Children have opinions. So do adults. How do we allow children to have opinions without encouraging a constant power struggle between what the child wants and what we need to accomplish with them in our programs?

A Picture Schedule acknowledges a child’s developing sense of self, while also encouraging routine, focus and respect. A Picture Schedule is an agreement between everyone that we are committed to staying on-track. It becomes an invisible “police officer.”

We can say, “Oh, look! What is next on the schedule?”

This reduces power struggles by adding this “third” point of view. It’s amazing when you see it in action. Simply ask a child to check the schedule to see what is next, or remove the picture from the wall and take it to show them.  United by the Picture Schedule, you and the children will walk together through the day

Need your own picture schedule? 

Download our Picture Schedule and follow these 3 steps to start using it today.


Step 1: Print the schedule.

  • Print one for your classroom and consider printing one for each parent as a gift to use at home.

Step 2: Teach the schedule.

  • Before using the picture schedule, teach it. Try pulling the pictures randomly out of a bag and ask children to share what they think each picture represents.

 Step 3: Use the schedule.

  • When it is time to move to the next step in your routine, invite a child to take the picture off the wall and show it to the other children. Invent a special movement or chant to celebrate that you completed one part of the day and are ready to move to the next.
  • A Picture Schedule might feel confining at first. However, with consistency comes the freedom to play and learn with your children instead of constantly “putting out fires.”

Consistent routines are comforting to young children and create an environment where they can learn and grow.


Do you ever find it difficult to get a child’s attention when he is in deep play? It’s tempting to break through by increasing the voice volume. For an even more effective attention-grabber, try using one of these two powerful sound techniques:

1) Sound Cues

Use a special sound for each type of routine activity. The sound announces that it is time to clean up, go outside, or have a snack.

For example, teach your children that when they hear a certain drum beat, it is time to pick up toys. Or play a few notes on a recorder to signal that it is time to stop what they are doing and look at you.

Using sounds and instead of words breaks up the monotony of hearing the same phrases or instructions every day. It also saves you from raising your voice or repeating a shushing sound that, as all educators know, easily become “white noise” to children.

2) Call and Response

When you need to signal the beginning or ending of an activity, create a musical game, like the ones in these downloadable Transition Cards that children can play with you. Invite children to join you as you repeat a chant or clap a rhythm. Try clapping as a call and response.
For example, teach children at the beginning of the year that when they hear you clap 3 times (or any other rhythm) they will stop what they are doing and clap 3 times back to you. Continue to clap until all children are participating.

You can also clap the syllables to a question prompt, such as (clapping five times), “Are you lis-ten-ing?” Children respond (clapping three times), “Yes, I am.” Repeat the clap and chant in a softer voice each time until the room is quiet.

The call and response will engage children and capture their attention.

3) Sounds for Security

As adults, we sometimes forget how much children love repetition. Repeating the same predictable sound or chant like the examples in these Free Chant Cards each day helps them develop self-confidence surrounding that routine. Children like to know what is coming next. Sound or musical triggers can give children a sense of security and reassure them about what to expect within the daily schedule.

Take the quiz for Foundations 1 here:

Next: Foundations 2 Skills and Assessment


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