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11 Simple Transition Games for Preschoolers

There are many times during the preschool day when children are required to transition from one activity to the next. 

Sometimes transition times involve tidying or washing up, sometimes they require settling down or changing from busy movement activities to calmer activities like circle time.

Young children enjoy having a predictable daily routine and can find moving from one activity to another stressful if they are not prepared for it. They may also be engrossed in an activity and need some time and warning to transition.

Drawing of children cleaning up their classroom

Transition games can be a great way to get the group’s attention, give an instruction or prepare children for the next activity.

Sometimes a game is not necessary or appropriate and a simpler, quicker strategy is required, such as singing a transition song. Preschool teachers can also help create smooth transitions in the classroom by following these tips:

  • Having a regular daily schedule (a picture schedule is preferable)
  • Using visual cues for upcoming transitions
  • Singing clean-up songs after busy activities or to pack away toys
  • Using short, catchy jingles to get kids’ attention, such as “One, two, three, look at me!”
  • Singing hand-washing songs while preparing for snack time or after going to the loo
  • Using a visual timer while tidying up, or to show how much time is left for a current activity
  • Making use of short brain break activities when children get tired or need to be refocused

Here are 11 simple transition games for when you want to grab the attention of your group:

1. Simon Says

Simon Says is your go-to game for the preschool classroom. It is simple and effective for calming a rowdy bunch.

Drawing of a group of kids raising their hands

If you want to get children ready for a new activity, just start giving commands like:

  • Simon says put your hands on your head
  • Simon says turn around
  • Simon says clap your hands

You can do this calmly, without raising your voice, as more and more children will join in with the actions when they see the others doing them. Eventually, the entire group will be following your commands. 

2. Silent Simon Says

For an even calmer version of Simon Says, play it silently. All you need is for one or two children to be watching you as you begin the movements, and soon the rest of the group will catch on and join in.

3. Do This, Do That

Do This, Do That is a similar game to Simon Says. You act out movements for the kids to follow, while calling out “do this”. If you call out “do that”, they must not follow your movement.

In the traditional game, if you follow the command on “do that” you are out and must sit down, but when playing as a transition activity, you don’t need to play a full version or have anybody go “out”. Simply continue giving commands until you have the attention of the children.

Here are some examples of movements:

  • Clicking fingers
  • Hopping on one leg
  • Clapping above your head
  • Folding your arms

4. Here, Catch!

The teacher starts by getting the attention of just one child and throwing a ball or beanbag to them while shouting out “Here, Catch!” That child must then shout “Here, catch!” to another child and throw it to them. 

The ball or beanbag is thrown from child to child until everyone is participating and concentrating.

5. Freeze Dance

Have some lively music set up and ready to play whenever you want to have a quick game of Freeze Dance – also called Musical Statues.

Warn kids that whenever they hear music playing in class, they should stop whatever they are doing and dance to the music. When the music stops, they must freeze.

Play and stop the music a few times until you have everyone’s attention and can calmly explain the next task.

Kids cleaning up their desks. Text reads, "11 simple transition games for kids."

6. Charades

When the children are tidying up after an activity, those who finish first could gather on the carpet or circle time area and play a game while waiting for the others to join.

Little girl with hands above her head, playing Charades

Charades is the perfect game for this. Choose one child to begin. That child must think of someone or something they can act out and then the rest of the children must guess who they are or what they’re doing.

Some examples:

  • Hula hooping
  • Getting dressed
  • A doctor checking a patient
  • A lion roaring

7. The Quiet Game

Sometimes, the transition from free play time or outside time to circle time can be noisy and challenging to manage, especially if kids are rowdy and full of energy.

Train them to enter the class, sit on the carpet and play the Quiet Game. The challenge is to see how long they can last without saying a word. They can even take turns being “in charge” and seeing if anyone breaks their silence. 

8. Follow the Leader

Play the classic game of Follow the Leader to round up the children and bring them indoors, or to physically transition them from one area to another.

Call out “Everybody follow the leader” and the kids form a line behind you, copying all your actions as you move with the row of children behind you. You can start this with just a few kids and allow the others to join in as they spot the line of children. 

9. Copy the Pattern

A quick way to get the class’s attention is to clap out a short pattern and have them copy it. An example of a clapping pattern is “clap – pause – clap – pause – clap – clap – clap”.

Do this a few times until the entire class joins in. You can also use your fingers to click a pattern, or mix clapping and clicking, as in “clap – click – clap – clap – click”.

10. Sing-A-Long

Sing the first line of a popular children’s song, such as “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. If any of the kids hear you, they can sing the next line. Keep going until all the kids eventually join in and you have everyone’s attention. 

11. I Spy With My Little Eye

I Spy with My Little Eye is another game that can be played on the carpet while waiting for the rest of the class to join. 

Group of preschool children on carpet for circle time

The person who is on must choose something in the class or area and describe it, while the group tries to guess what the object is.

Some examples:

  • I spy with my little eye something round, that helps us tell the time (a clock).
  • I spy with my little eye something that is green and drinks water (a plant).
  • I spy with my little eye something soft with blue stripes (someone’s jumper).

I hope you’ll enjoy trying out these games with your preschoolers.

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If you need more ideas, check out these quiet games or this list of the top 40 classic kids’ games.

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