4 Tips for Transitioning Children Outdoors
If you are an educator, homeschooler, parent, or caregiver you have likely earned the “transitions are tough” badge. It’s one that we wear with the plethora of experiences under our belts of having helped children move from one activity to another. What about transitioning children outdoors? Given varying developmental stages, temperaments, and environments, each child will respond in their own way to a shift in activity or setting. Though we cannot control how a child will respond, we can do our best to control how we present the outdoor transitions to the child. The following tips may be helpful:
TIP #1: Observe
If you are having a difficult time transitioning to your outdoor space, take some time to observe the children. Can they zip their own coats? Can they tie their shoes or buckle their sandals? Such small details can result in big behaviors when a child doesn’t feel sufficiently capable of moving along with the group. Dressing is just an example ~ use the tool of observation to really home in on anything that might be particularly difficult for the child.
TIP #2: Be prepared and consistent
The more prepared you are the better equipped you will feel to focus your energy on the children. Last-minute shuffles can make you feel flustered so have those “curriculum on the go” packs ready!
TIP #3: Create meaningful routines that work for your group
If you have a younger group that loves song and dance, incorporate that into your transition! If your group loves playing 20 questions, go ahead and play it during a waiting time. I have always loved to think of each group as its own little community. Create a culture within your community by tuning in to each other and consistently doing what works and tweaking what is not helpful.
TIP #4: This is a lifelong skill ~ help them develop it!
When a child is struggling with something difficult like a transition, they will often look to an older child or adult for reference. These moments provide beautiful opportunities to model what we want the child to learn. So, if someone is having a particularly difficult time, model empathy and compassion by getting down to their level and calmly saying “I will help you”. Children will learn from your modeling to check in with friends who are having a hard time. Ultimately, it is a culture of compassion that we want to cultivate.
In addition to the above, it’s always important to develop and maintain consistent outdoor routines, provide warnings in advance of transitions, and build time into your schedule for realistic transitions. It always takes more time than we think it will and rushing children simply makes them resist and break down even more! When working with children, we know that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ transitions are difficult but ‘when’ transitions are difficult. They are inherently hard for children to manage, especially outdoors, given that they are working so diligently on developing an array of life skills. When all else fails, “be the change you want to see in the world” and model how transitions outdoors do become easier ~ with practice, compassion, and help from others.
Now I want to hear from you. Come join the conversation in our Outdoor Classrooms Facebook Group.
Want to teach outdoors, but don’t know where to start? Get our FREE Outdoor Classrooms Starter Guide HERE.
Want to dig deeper? Check out the Make the Transition to Outdoor Learning 1-hour online workshop HERE.