Toddler Transitions Through Piggyback Songs

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A Toddler is a Child in Transition

Young children like routines and schedules, they like doing things the same way each time. When transitions are planned as a meaningful part of the curriculum, they promote the learning of skills in a positive way. Since toddlers move often to activities, singing songs are especially helpful as they clue young children to what comes next.

The use of “piggyback” songs, which are new lyrics to familiar tunes, are helpful in getting the toddlers' attention to what is planned next. Practice making up songs with your chosen words to fit the traditional tune. As teachers and caregivers sing the same songs daily, repetition of the song and activity is the easiest way to teach skills.

Use songs to initiate transitions in a toddler’s day. Here are a few songs to try:

Transition Song (Tune: Happy Birthday)

I_t’s time to wash hands,_

It’s time to wash hands,

Use soap for cleaning,

It’s time to wash hands.

Use this song as you transition to other activities. Try such verses as:

It’s time to line up…

It’s time to eat a snack…

It’s time to clean up…

It’s time to say goodbye…

Welcome and Hello Songs

The Name Song (Tune: Bingo)

There was a class that had a child

And Chloe was her name-O.

C-H-L-O-E, C-H-L-O-E, C-H-L-O-E,

Chloe was her name-O.

Stand Up Song (Tune: Are You Sleeping/Frere Jacques)

Stand up Tara, Stand up Tara,

Stand up Jake, Stand up Jake.

Wave your hands up high now. Can you reach the sky now?

Then sit down. Then sit down.

Circle Time Activities

Circle Time Song (Tune: Oh, My Darling Clementine)

Time for circle, time for circle,

Time for circle time today.

We will sit down and be quiet,

Wonder what we’ll do today?

Singing Song (Tune: Row, Row, Row Your Boat)

Sing, sing, sing a song.

Sing out loud and clear.

Let’s sing to children in our class,

That Music time is here.

The Color Song (Tune: Farmer in the Dell)

Oh, Abby is wearing red,

Oh, Abby is wearing red,

High Ho the derry oh,

Abby is wearing red.

Continue using new colors and other children’s names.

Clean Up Songs

Pick Up Toys Song (Tune: Mary Had a Little Lamb)

It’s time to pick the toys up now,

Toys up now, toys up now.

Time to pick the toys up now,

Let’s see who does the best.

Clean Up Song (Tune: London Bridges)

Susie put the toys away,

Toys away, toys away.

Susie put the toys away,

It’s cleanup time.

Sing additional verses changing the child’s name. Substitute toys with puzzles, books, blocks, dolls, etc.

Good-Bye Songs

Good-bye Song (Tune: Are You Sleeping/Frere Jacques)

School is over, school is over,

Time to go home, time to go home.

I’ll see you all tomorrow, I’ll see you all tomorrow.

Wave good-bye, wave good-bye.

Sing as often as you can with toddlers. This will increase the group’s happy feelings about playing together and the more you sing these songs, the more likely toddlers will learn the words and melodies.


  • Original songs by the author and adapted versions from Piggyback Songs by Jean Warren [Totline Press, 1983]