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5 Songs for Easy Toddler Transitions

Cholee has worked in childcare for over ten years and has taken several early childhood development classes.

Transition songs are fun

Transition songs are fun

Transition Songs for Young Children

For most parents and childcare providers, transitioning from one activity to the next can be the most trying time of the day. Whether you work in a daycare, babysit, or are looking for help with your own children, songs and predictable schedules are two of the easiest ways to make transitions easier for your toddler.

Younger and older toddlers alike will understand that when certain music plays, it is time to transition from one activity to the next.

The best way to use songs for transitions is to choose simple songs that most toddlers know or can learn quickly. Having a different song for each transition throughout the day keeps the toddlers not only engaged, but more ready to transition to new activities when needed.

Assigning the same song to a particular transition will ensure that the children will know exactly what to expect when the song starts. I like to pair songs that share common interests or ideas with the change I'm wanting the children to make. This helps them to remember what we are going to be doing next.

5 Easy Transition Songs for Toddlers

These are the five songs that I use in the classroom. You can pick your own songs, use the ones I explain below, or create your own songs by making up verses and putting them to the beat of another well-known song. This is a great idea for older children as it helps them feel more involved in the transitioning process.

For the transition from free play to learning circle, I like to improvise the story Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See. I turn the book into a song and change the words to draw children's attention to certain toys that need to be picked up. This makes cleaning up fun and engaging for everyone involved.

1. "Brown Bear Brown Bear: What Do You See?"

A well-known book by parents and early education teachers alike, this book can be easily transformed into a simple clean-up song. Transitioning from free play to learning circles can be made easier with this simple song.

  • Child's name Child's name, what do you see? (Most children can identify all the toys they play with at this age, so they can tell you what they see.)
  • Child says: "Blocks!"
  • I say: Blocks are looking at you, let's pick them up please.
Picking up trucks.

Picking up trucks.

2. "I'm a Little Teapot"

This song is a great transition for moving from learning circles to art or music. It gets the children up and moving and allows them to release some wiggles and giggles. Toddlers cannot sit for very long without getting antsy and "I'm a Little Teapot" is a great way to get some motion and wiggles in. This song is rather short, but you can easily sing it two or three times or even make up your own verses if you would like.

I'm a Little Teapot Song:

I'm a little teapot short and stout

Here is my handle, here is my spout

When I see a teacup, hear me shout

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Tip me over and pour me out!

3. "Itsy Bitsy Spider"

This song is a great table song. Whether you are trying to do art with a group of toddlers or wanting them to sit patiently for a few minutes as lunch is getting ready to be served, singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" will keep them occupied and discourage them from trying to get up and leave the table.

Itsy Bitsy Spider Song:

Itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.

Down came the rain and washed the spider out. (Make sure the children are far enough apart that when they wash the spider out they don't hit their friends.)

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.

And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.

Spider climbing the water spout.

Spider climbing the water spout.

4. "Wheels on the Bus"

This song works great for getting the children ready to go outside or to the car. "Wheels on the Bus" has so many verses you can mix and match them depending on what each child wants to sing. It also makes a good table song, as the motions don't require large movements. However, the motions keep the toddlers busy and focused so they are not running around getting out toys or making messes.

Different verses to include:

  • Wheels on the bus go round and round
  • Wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish
  • The money on the bus goes clink, clink, clink
  • People on the bus go up and down, up and down
  • Babies on the bus go wah, wah, wah
  • Mothers on the bus go shh, shh, shh
  • Fathers on the bus say, "I love you"
  • The driver on the bus says "Move on back!"
Excited to sing wheels on the bus.

Excited to sing wheels on the bus.

5. "Row Row Row Your Boat"

This song is perfect for transitioning to naptime or bedtime. Toddlers absolutely love this song and, with the different verses you can sing, they can row themselves to their beds and finish the song in bed, while using it as a boat.

"Row Row Row Your Boat" song:

Row row row your boat

Gently down the stream

Merrily merrily merrily

Life is but a dream.

Other verses: Row row row your boat gently. . .

  • down the brook, if you catch a little fish, let it off your hook.
  • down the river, if you see a penguin there, don't forget to shiver.*
  • down the stream, if you see a crocodile, don't forget to scream.*
  • out to bay, if you see a pirate's ship (ARRG*), go the other way.
  • to the shore, if you see a lion there, don't forget to roar.*

Note: Words with an asterisk are ones that are great for the young toddlers to participate in if they don't know all the words to the rest of the verses.

These are the five songs that I use, but you can definitely find others that your toddler loves and use those instead. Toddlers love music and incorporating it into their day outside of a designated music time, is a great way to keep them engaged and focused on the transition at hand.

© 2012 Cholee Clay


Sally Branche from Only In Texas! on December 11, 2013:

Cute classic songs to get you and your toddler through the day! Voted up, useful and awesome! ;D

Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on May 18, 2012:

cardelean-I completely agree!:) Throw in dance movements or flashcards and the kids will really catch on quick too.

cardelean from Michigan on May 18, 2012:

Singing not only brings joy to people but really is a great learning tool. These are great songs!

Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on May 16, 2012:

Robin-Thanks for commenting. Yes they do! The movement really helps get those wiggles and giggles out, so they can concentrate better:)

Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on May 16, 2012:

I love the brown bear song to encourage clean up. We sing a lot when we clean up; Mary Poppins is perfect for cleaning up! Music and dancing seem to always help with transitions.

Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on May 13, 2012:

Thanks for sharing missolive! The pictures took awhile to get, but were definitely worth it. I agree music is so important for little children. It's a great learning tool too.

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on May 12, 2012:

These songs are some of my favorites and I shared them with my own children when they were toddlers. You brought back many memories and the photos are just adorable! Thanks for advocating music for our little ones. Great info!

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