Easing a Toddler's Daily Transitions

How to avoid a battle when it's time to change activities.

Transition Struggles

Transitions -- putting the brakes on one activity and starting right up with another one -- are tough on toddlers. Bedtime may be one of the hardest, but others, such as leaving the playground, having to stop playing to get in the car for errands, or being left in a babysitter's care as Mom and Dad walk out the door can also elicit tears and tantrums. After all, toddlers live in the moment, don't have a real concept of time, and are only just beginning to understand that separations don't last forever, says Gail Reichlin, executive director of the Parents Resource Network in Chicago.

On top of that, they don't have the language skills to say, "I'm right in the middle of something. Just give me five minutes." Instead, they often resort to tears or tantrums when told it's time to stop what they're doing. Temperament also plays a part in how your little one handles transitions. Some children, just like some grown-ups, oppose anyone who wants them to make a change.

Yet learning how to make transitions is an important developmental step. Everybody needs to learn how to bring one activity to a close and invest attention in something else, says Kathleen Grey, a family development specialist at the Center for Child and Family Studies at the University of California at Davis.

Of course, not all transitions call for the same plan of attack -- the solution for the stalling depends on the specific situation. Here's a roundup of strategies for trying to get your toddler moving when he digs in his heels.

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