Toddler Transitions

This week Merle started preschool. We knew about two weeks in advance, so I had time to mentally prepare myself and encourage Merle to do the same. She started daycare about eight months ago and that was our first experience transitioning her to an environment outside the home. Toddlers are notoriously difficult when it comes to change both small and large. Going from at home care to daycare wasn't the smoothest transition for us, but we learned a lot through the process. Using what we learned during the first go-around made the switch to preschool much easier. We also use these principles for smaller changes like vacations or when one parent is away.

1. Talk up the change

This is the key. Getting the child excited about the change will make day one, and any bumps in the road that day, easier on them. Excitement will help push some of the anxiousness out of their minds. 

2. Exposure

Take the child to the new school and talk through what the first day will be like. Show them the areas that will be important to them, whether it's the art station or the sand box. If the transition entails being away from parents, do a short practice run through by having mom and dad away for a couple of hours before a more extended trip.

3. Through the eyes of others

At bed time I make up stories about characters Merle relates to like Merle Mermaid, Magician Merle, and Merle Moon. Leading up to a period of transition, the stories focus on what the tranisition is (like starting preschool),  how the character feels about it (nervous, scared, etc), and ultimately a resolution (meeting new friends, learning new things, etc). By talking about the experience through the eyes of someone else, Merle's own feelings are validated, but she's also given the opportunity to think about the experience in a more logical manner.

4. When all else fails, a little bribe goes a long way

I feed Merle what I like to call a whole foods diet, which means a lot of raw fruits, veggies, whole grains, and meat with almost no processed foods. No sweets, no junk food, and no simple carbs. In general I'm against food bribes and I definitely would not encourage it for toddlers. I go for small, high impact gifts for bribes like a new lunch bag, paints, or other craft supplies. They are relatively inexpensive, but are used frequently to constantly reinforce the benefits of listening/good behavior. 

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