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Change is hard. For small children, this includes the small changes that happen daily—getting ready for school, cleaning up after lunch, getting into the bath...getting out of the bath.


These daily transitions are frequently the times that result in meltdowns and power struggles. For whatever reason, children often resist the little tasks that must be done to move from one activity to the next (I just want you to wear pants! Is that so much to ask?).

While the struggles are often small, when they happen 10 times a day, they can be exhausting.

Through my work with 3-6-year-olds as a Montessori teacher, I’ve learned a few strategies to make these transitions easier. If you think about the challenge of encouraging one small child to put shoes on and multiply it by 25, you’ll see why.

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These simple strategies can make daily transitions easier and help you avoid these common battles.

1. Be consistent

Toddlers and young children need and crave consistency. Doing things the exact same way every day makes things predictable, and that helps children feel comfortable and safe. When so much of life seems incomprehensible, being able to anticipate daily routines helps children to feel calm.

Of course, it is much easier to keep things predictable at school than at home. Life happens. Family comes to visit, parents travel, babysitters come. Every day doesn’t need to be the same to make children feel comfortable. Working to establish consistent routines for things like dressing, eating, cleaning and bedtime will go a long way in making children feel some level of predictability.

For example, to establish a consistent routine for getting dressed, make sure your child gets dressed before breakfast, in his room every day. It doesn’t have to be at the same time but does need to be at the same point in the routine.

Make sure his clothes are always in the same place, whether in his closet or laid out the night before, so he knows what to expect. Have a clear place where he should put his pajamas when he takes them off. Have a spot by the door or in his room where he can always find his shoes.

This type of structure provides comfort and helps alleviate the struggles that often arise with transitions.

2. Slow down

No one likes to be rushed and, quite frankly, rushing young children simply doesn’t work. If we’re stressed and in a hurry, they pick up on it—it makes them feel anxious, which often leads to a meltdown rather than speeding things up.

Think about how long it will realistically take your child to do something and add some buffer time. This is especially important in the morning or when you’re trying to get out of the house on time. It helps to think of these transition times as quality time with your child, rather than something to get through. Changing a diaper or helping a child get dressed can be a great time to connect throughout the day if you slow the process down.

3. Involve your child

Try doing things with your child, rather than to him. It may seem like encouraging him to choose his own clothes, or put on his own shoes, or carry his own plate to the sink after dinner would take longer. Sometimes it does, but often involving your child in the daily routines helps him take ownership of the task at hand. This helps him feel like a capable partner, making him less likely to resist.

Try letting him choose his own clothes, offering two or three options so it’s not overwhelming. See which parts of getting dressed he can do by himself. Parents are often amazed when they see their child at school changing clothes independently or putting his shoes on by himself.

If you involve your child in the process, he can often help, doing part of it by himself. This makes for a much more positive experience for both you and your child.

4. Give cues

Experiment with different cues to let your child know that one part of the day is ending and it’s time to transition into the next activity.

At school, we sometimes sing a song to indicate the end of the work period, we may clap a certain rhythm to let the children know that playtime is over, or we may simply give a visual cue like sitting on the circle time rug to show that we’re ready to read a story.

Try different visual and auditory cues and see how your child responds. I sometimes sing a lunchtime clean-up song to remind my son of the things we need to do to clean up (wiping the table, sweeping the floor, washing hands, etc.). You might lay a diaper out to signal that it’s almost time for a diaper change, or turn on the water in the bathtub so that your child hears the sound and realizes bath time is near.

5. Give a warning if a change is coming

Some children are more sensitive to change than others, but it is generally a good idea to tell your child ahead of time if a major change in routine is coming.

This may include things like one parent traveling, having friends over for dinner, or picking your child up from school at a different time than usual. Even small changes in routine can throw children off, so it helps to talk about it beforehand, even if your child is too young to fully understand.

Transitions can be hard for children, especially if they’re tired. Because of this, we often try to rush through them to get to the fun stuff, but slowing down and giving your child a few tools to make the transition easier can make these daily tasks more enjoyable for both of you.

You might also like:

  1. How to manage anxiety during life-altering transitions
  2. What is Montessori? 10 key principles all parents should know
  3. Montessori at home: How to raise a polite child

You are rocking this new-baby learning curve, mama! Even if you never changed a diaper pre-parenthood, you can probably now do that with one hand, in the dark and still half asleep.

While these early days can feel like you're just going through the motions of feedings and diaper changes, take heart, mama: You and baby are developing a strong, special bond—as those early smiles go to show. (Did you have to pick your heart up off the floor when your baby cracked a grin for the first time?)

As your baby continues to adjust to life outside the womb, you might start feeling more confident with this new chapter in life, too. Making the transition to "mama" for the first time is full of sweet moments, and you really should take heart that you are doing an incredible job.

As you continue to adapt to parenthood, here are some of the items we swear by (for you and baby) for the 2-month mark:

To introduce nursery naptime: Infant Optics video baby monitor

baby monitor

You know that nursery you designed and decorated during pregnancy? It's probably been sitting unused while baby is bunked up in your bedroom per the AAP's recommendation. If you're now ready to put them down for naps in their nursery crib, a good video monitor can help ease your mind.

$165.99

To free up your hands: Infantino 4-in-1 carrier

baby carrier

As you and your little buddy get into a comfortable rhythm, a carrier that is also comfortable for you both is priceless. We love carriers that allow babies to face inward for snuggling and snoozing while you take care of things around the house, or outward as they get older and want to observe.

$29.99

To take on tummy time sessions: Fisher Price play dome

Fisher price on the go dome

Now that your baby is awake for longer stretches of time, a colorful and comfortable play space is a must-have. Make it even more fun by getting down on baby's level to serve as a cheerleader during tummy time sessions!

$59.99

To look and learn: High-Contrast Books Cluck and Moo

baby books

During the first three months of life, infants have an easier time focusing on shades of black or white and can only see a few inches beyond their faces. That makes a high-contrast book that you can read with them a perfect source of visual stimulation.

To soothe with lullabies: Hatch Rest sound machine

Hatch Rest

It's no coincidence your little one drifts off to sleep better when there is some soothing background noise. After all, they spent months and months listening to ambient noise in the womb!

$59.99

To keep it comfy + stylish: Ingrid + Isabel postpartum leggings

postpartum leggings

Simply put, high-waisted leggings are a gift to postpartum mamas during that limbo period when maternity clothes are too loose and pre-pregnancy clothes aren't quite right. We are so grateful to live in an era when leggings are considered stylish, no matter how long you choose to wear them.

$34.99

To help the nursing mama’s wardrobe: Ingrid + Isabel nursing tanks

nursing tanks

For breastfeeding mamas, feeding baby requires some easy access to the milk supply. Our pro tip is to stock up on nursing-friendly tanks and tops so you can feed your baby without halfway undressing.

$24.99

To get a sharable diaper bag: Eddie Bauer backpack

backpack

Where baby goes, so too should supplies—even if it's just a neighborhood stroll. We're partial to backpacks that are roomy and comfortable to carry.

$64.99

To give yourself a little TLC: Honest Mama soaking salts

honest mama

Put an at-home spa session on your schedule, mama. Draw a bath, add some aromatic soaking salts and an eye mask—and enjoy this important moment of self-care.

$14.99

To put a little pep in your step: A New Day sneakers

new day sneakers

When life means constantly balancing all the things, slide-on sneakers are both practical and super cute. We'll take a pair in each color!

$24.99

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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