heiping children gather projects

Transitions for
Infants and Toddlers
Emily J. Adams and
Rebecca Parlakian
It is the end of the day in the
Sunflower room. Miss Lisa sings
the good-bye song to each 2-yearoid as his or her family member
arrives. Miss Pauia is at the door
heiping children gather projects
and personal items to take home.
After the good-bye song, each child
has a siightiy different routine for
leaving. Some children want a hug,
some say good-bye to the fish, and
others simply wave and leave.
During their time with this group.
Lisa and Paula have created endof-the-day routines with each child.
With August approaching, they
want to make the iarger end-of-theprogram-year transition out of their
room feel as individualized and
supportive as the children’s daily
good-byes have become.
sound familiar to people who work
with infants and toddlers and their
families. There comes a time when a
child leaves your care to move into
someone else’s care. Planning ahead
for transitions supports everyone
involved—children, parents,
caregivers. Whether a transition is
anticipated and planned or comes as
a surprise, such as when a teacher
leaves the program, it’s important to
understand the effects It has on children and families.
Why do we support transitions?
Infants and toddlers ¡earn best
when they feel safe and can trust the
adults who care for them (Zero To
Three 2008). Building a trusting relationship between a young child and a
teacher takes time. If that relationship
must end, even very young children
may feel sadness, confusion, fear, and
even grief. Infants and toddlers may
express emotions through withdrawal,
irritability, crying, tantrums, aggression, and/or disruptions in their routines. Caregivers and families can help
very young children by responding
sensitively to them during transitions.
Planning can reduce the negative
impact of transitions.
What can you do to support
The Sunflower teachers in the opening vignette are on the right track.
They reflect on how they have come
to individualize many of the daily routines for each child. For example, they
know that Keyaun needs a few minutes and a couple of offers before he
is ready for his diaper to be changed.
Lisa and Paula have learned a lot
about the different temperaments,
personalities, and preferences of the
toddlers in their care. Using their
knowledge will help them best support each child and family at the end
of the program year.
Caregivers can help to prepare children and families in a variety of ways
for leaving a classroom. Programs also
have a role in creating policies and
procedures to support transitions.
In the program where Lisa and Paula
work, each step in the transition is
clearly defined and explained:
• Plan a conference with the family.
This is a time to find out how the family feels about the upcoming changes.
Often, parents too feel a bond with
their child’s teacher. Whether the
transition is from one room to another
or out of the program, families may
find the change difficult.
• Create an opportunity for the child’s
new teacher to meet the child and
family. Encourage parents to share
information, either verbally or by
completing a brief questionnaire, with
the teachers in the child’s new classroom. Suggest that the parents visit
the new classroom, if possible.
• Set up a meeting with the new
teacher to share caregiving strategies
that seem to work best for the child.
• Plan for the child to make a series of
visits to their new classroom. The first
visit should be short, and subsequent
visits can each be a little bit longer,
The child’s current teacher should
stay with him or her in the new classroom for at least the first few visits.
In addition to the supportive plans
above. Lisa and Paula have another
idea. They want to create good-bye
books for each child who is leaving.
The books will include pictures of
Emily J. Adams, MA, is a writer and
training specialist for the Early Head Start
National Resource Center. She has been
an infant teacher, a toddler teacher, and
an education supervisor for Early Head
Start, [email protected]
Rebecca Partaklan has developed written and Web-based resources and curricula for both parents and professionals
at ZERO TO THREE, in Washington. D.C.
Most recently she codeveloped online
resources for child care providers that
explore five challenging infant/toddler
behaviors. [email protected]
This column appears in an online
archive at
Illustration by Melanie Hope Greenberg.
54 Young Children May 2010
the child doing daily activities with
friends and teachers. These books will
be a great place to point out a child’s
strengths and mention skills they are
still developing. Lisa and Paula believe
the books
will help children remember
and feel connected to the peers and
the classroom they are leaving behind.
Here are a few ideas for making
good-bye books:
• If only one child is leaving the classroom, make a similar book for the
peers who
will miss their friend. You
might be surprised at how children
seek out and “read” this book about a
friend who moved on.
The child’s book can include photos
of the new classroom or program,
teachers, and children. A special
photo of the child’s new cubby (with
his or her name and
picture displayed
prominently) is also a nice welcome.
What kind of transition plan do you follow when children leave your room? Does
your program have policies to support families before, during, and after transitions?
Hold in your mind the Image of each
child who is leaving you. Think about
how he or she is likely to experience this
change. Consider how each child handles
daily transitions; this can give you clues
as to how the Individual children might
react to a bigger life change, like shifting to a new room, new teacher, and
new classmates. Now think about what
soothes and comforts each child during
difficult transitions—how can you apply
those strategies to support a classroom
Some ideas for saying good-bye:
• Make a good-bye book for each child
who is leaving and a copy to keep in the
classroom. Read the books before the
child leaves. Explain to the family how
the book might help their child remember
the fun she had with her caregivers and
• Create a good-bye gift for children. This
can be as simple as a handmade card, a
chunk of homemade playdough, or a laminated photo of you and the chiid together,
• Talk about upcoming transitions. Long
before children can speak, they are experiencing emotions. Even for very young
infants, respectfully telling them about
what is coming next can help them gain
the ability to feel safe and trusting through
the experience.
• Remember the family! Sometimes parents who have come to know and trust you
as a caregiver will have the hardest time
with a transition. Talk to family members
and be available to listen to their concerns.
Transitions are part of everyone’s
life. Helping parents and children
through them is an important part of
being a competent teacher and creating a quality program. Developing
nurturing transitions also helps children begin to understand the notion
of healthy good-byes—a life skill they
will take with them as they grow.
Alton. C M. Mizukami. M. Banks, M. Quick, &
L. Dziadu!. 2003. Helping children make transitions. Exchange 154: 38-^3.
Jervis. K., & B.K. Polland. 2007.
Supporting children in their preschool transitions.
Rev. ed. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
McCracken, J.B. 1997. So many goodbyes: Ways
to ease the transition between home and
groups for young children.
Brochure. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
Wittmer. D.S.,
& S,H, Petersen. 2009. Infant and
toddler development and responsive program
planning: A relationship-based approach.
2nd ed. Upper Saddle River. NJ: Pearson
Zero To Three. 2008, Coring
for infants and toddlers in groups: Developmentally appropriate
2nd ed. Washington, DC: Author.
Rocking & Rolling is written by infant/
toddler specialists and contributed by
ZERO TO THREE, a nonprofit organization working to support the healthy
development and welt-being of infants,
toddlers, and their families by informing, educating, and supporting adults
who influence their lives. The column
appears in January, May. and September issues of
Young Children and
online at www.naeyc.org/yc/columns.
Copyright©2010 by the National Association for Sie Education of Young Children, See Permissions and Reprints
online at www.naeyc.org/yc/permissions.
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