Common Transitions and Routines

What are early childhood transitions?

In early childhood, the term “transition” refers to situations in which children need to move from one environment, activity, or experience to another. These transitions typically include a shift in daily life, expectations, and relationships, which can create challenging feelings of anger, sadness, worry, or confusion in young children.

Although life changes can be difficult, and there will be times where children express frustration, there are plenty of opportunities for parents and caregivers to help their young children prepare.

Common Transitions

Common early childhood transitions include:

    • stopping one activity to begin another,
    • shifting from a state of energized excitement to a state of sleepy calm before bed,
    • moving to a new house, neighborhood, or location,
    • moving from home-based parental care to child care,
    • moving a child from a bassinet to a crib to a toddler bed,
    • starting kindergarten or the first day of school,
    • starting and finishing potty training,
    • losing a loved one through death, divorce, or separation,
    • new additions to the family through birth, adoption, fostering, or marriage,
    • speaking multiple languages depending on the setting,
    • changes in schedule or routine due to holidays or special circumstances,
    • changes in health that may require medication or healthcare services, and
    • staying at an adult’s house who is not the primary caregiver.

Common Routines

One way to help children cope with life changes is by setting consistent, reliable routines. Although it may not always seem like it, children crave predictability and consistency. In fact, they thrive when they have them. Common early childhood routines include:

    • waking up and getting ready in the morning,
    • getting ready for a nap or bedtime,
    • preparing meals and eating together,
    • doing after-school activities like sports, hobbies, or homework, and
    • doing chores such as setting the dinner table or helping with laundry.

What can you do?

As a parent or caregiver, there is a lot you can do to support your child through transitions. Your approach will vary depending on the transitions, but consider the following questions:

    • What transitions have I experienced and how did they make me feel?
    • What types of support have I needed in the past?
    • What will this transition mean for me, my child, and my family?
    • How can I communicate these changes?
    • What questions might my child have?
    • Can I create opportunities for them to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions?
    • How can I make this transition as clear, easy, and fun as possible?
    • How can I incorporate playfulness into this transition?
    • Is my approach developmentally appropriate?
    • Are there special circumstances that I need to be aware of or consider?
    • How can I maintain predictability and consistency even as things change?
    • What current routines does my family use? Are they successful? What could change?

Learn More

For more information, check out the following resources:


A young boy runs around the playground happily.

Series Navigation

The Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series highlights several early childhood topics to support parents and caregivers who are caring for young children. Use the list below to navigate through each series topic:

Learn more about the series.

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Picture: A young baby looks up at the camera.
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