7 Tips for Helping Your Child Transition Between Activities

child playing with blocksBy Caitlin Silliman, MOT, OTR/L

In honor of National Occupational Therapy Month, Connecticut Children’s Occupational Therapy department is sharing some information on what we can do for your child, and offering some strategies to try out at home.

Difficulty transitioning between activities is a common complaint we often hear from caregivers. Children who have difficulty transitioning between activities may exhibit challenging behaviors which can result in families avoiding certain activities or experiences all together. While it is not always possible to prevent transition troubles, nor practical to avoid all difficult situations, there are some strategies that could help make transitions easier for your child.

Here are some tips for troubleshooting transitions:

  • Give your child a “heads up” about when a preferred activity will end. If you know a certain transition is difficult (e.g. the end of screen time and the start of dinner) tell your child what is planned.
  • Consider use of a timer (visual or traditional auditory timer). This might help the child to understand how long they have, and prevent any misunderstanding later when time is up.
  • Try role playing or practicing transitions. You can even switch roles with your child in play to help them understand what is expected.
  • When possible, build a routine to foster predictability. This could be especially helpful with daily transitions such as bedtime (e.g. dinner, quiet play, change into bed clothes, brush teeth, toilet, story time, lights out), so that the child has clear expectations.
  • Communicate clearly to avoid confusion. Make sure your child can see and hear you (as they are able) so that instructions don’t slip through the cracks. You could even ask your child to repeat back instructions if they are able. You can also use pictures or words to sequence the steps to help your child understand.
  • Praise behavior during smooth transitions (“I like how you put your toys back in the box when I asked you to clean up, nice job!”).
  • Consider use of transitional objects that can occupy a child during a tough transition.

Sometimes extra practice can be helpful if difficulty transitioning between day to day activities becomes difficult to manage. If you feel you need additional support, talk to your child’s pediatrician about next steps, and if occupational therapy could help.

Learn more about Connecticut Children’s Occupational Therapy services

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