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Transition songs are one of my favorite parenting tools when getting my daughter to more easily move from one activity to the next.
Case in point, our recent trip to the mall. As we wrapped up our search for some post-holiday steals at a department store, my daughter discovered the bedding department. She climbed up the side of a queen size bed and laid herself right in the center. A fluffy down comforter with mounds of blankets and squishy pillows; all luxuriously soft and all varying shades of white (the girl’s got taste). As soon as I announced it was time to head home my daughter’s protest began to echo throughout the store. I froze. What to do? I quickly ran through my options: lift her out of the bed screaming (not ideal), let her stay in the bed (the store would close eventually), or try singing her goodbye song from mommy & me class (bingo!).
I bent over and softly sang in her ear ‘Goodbye, bed. Goodbye, bed. Goodbye, bed. We’re glad you came to play!’. She recognized this song as our cue to leave. Instantly she jumped into my arms and we happily exited the store – heads held high. Phew.
Educators have been using transition songs for ages. Songs or music can create a cue that help toddlers more easily move from one activity to the next. My first introduction to transition songs was in a new moms class that I took when my daughter was three months old. Over the coming months, I integrated just a couple songs into our routine. We had a song for diaper changes, brushing teeth, cleaning up, and before sleep times.
The power of a few simple songs have showed their effectiveness time and again. Our established nap and bedtime routine songs have helped my daughter shift from playtime and peacefully prepare for rest time, at home, in the car, or on vacation. She will often stop mid-activity to come have her diaper changed when she hears our familiar tune. And singing “goodbye” to anything and everything (inanimate objects like beds included) has been beneficial in helping my daughter to part more easily.
While there are a lot of other options for helping a toddler with transitions: visual timers, reminders, choices, and visuals, we found songs to be the best option for us. They helped keep the moment light, became a part of our routines, and a tool that helped avoid some tantrums. It’s not always easy to burst into song when battling the emotions and growing independence of a toddler, and yet, I’m always glad that I did.
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This article was originally written and published in 2015. Chris Baptiste is Chief Growth Officer at Sleep Wise Consulting. She is a certified in adult and pediatric sleep and majored in Communications at Stonehill College. Chris has two daughters who both enjoyed transitions songs as a part of their day from infant phase through toddlerhood.