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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.

For most parents and childcare providers transitioning from one activity to the next can be some of the most trying times 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 thing 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.

Keeping the same song for a certain transition will ensure that the children will know exactly what to expect when the song starts to play, or you start to sing it. I like to pair songs that share common interests or ideas with the transition I'm wanting the children to make. This helps the children to remember what we are going to be doing next.

Loving music time.

Loving music time.

5 Easy Songs for Toddlers:

These are the top 5 songs that I chose. You can pick your own songs or use the ones I have provided below. You can also mix and match with what you and your children prefer. You can also create your own songs, making up verses and putting them to the beat of another well known song. This is a great idea for older children as it will help them feel more involved in the transitioning process.

For 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 into certain toys that need to be picked up. This makes cleaning up fun and engaging for all involved.

Brown Bear Brown Bear: What Do You See?

A well known book by many 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.

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

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When I see a teacup, hear me shout

Tip me over and pour me out!

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 for three minutes as lunch is getting ready to be served, singing Itsy Bitsy Spider will keep them occupied and discourage them from getting up and leaving 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 other 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.

Wheels on the Bus:

This song works great for getting the children ready to go outside or to the car. The song 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 to the song 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 include:

  • Wheels on the bus go round and round
  • Wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish
  • The money on the bus go 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
  • Driver on the bus says move on back
Excited to sing wheels on the bus.

Excited to sing wheels on the bus.

Row Row Row Your Boat:

This song is perfect for transitioning to nap. Toddlers absolutely love this song and with the different verses you can sing, they can row themselves to bed and finish the song in their 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 if 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 5 popular 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 besides at 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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