parenting, Toddler Activities

One Potato, Two: Simple Transition Songs


Any song can really be used as a transition song as long as you use it consistently so your child knows whats happening, but here are some specific ones that might help your toddler and preschooler move on to the next thing and are so short and easy that you won’t forget the lyrics!


For getting ready to go somewhere, including somewhere in the house:

Here We Go Marching:

Here we go marching, marching, marching, here we go marching now

Here we go marching (into your room, into the kitchen, into the car, etc.) 

Here we go marching now

( I add verses to this, like walking, skipping, jumping, dancing, etc. You could choose one that you like best and stick to that or do a few verses. It’s the rhythm and routine of the song that is the big win here.) 

One Potato, Two Potato

One potato, Two potato, Three potato, Four

Now we’re getting ready to walk out of the door

One potato, Two potato, Three potato, Four

Here we go now, right out of the door!

For getting ready to sleep:

Are You Sleeping? (Sung to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?

Let’s lay down, let’s lay down

Ready to dream, ready to dream

Good night now, Good night now

For Eating:

Chew Chew

Chew chew chew your food

Chew it all up

Chew chew chew your food

Then drink from your cup


They might seem overly simple or silly, but that’s what makes them so effective. Toddlers and preschoolers don’t need a lot of words to tell them what to do, its something almost mindless that triggers their over-working brain to keep it on task. You can sing these every time you need to head to bed, to the car, or to eat and they will quickly get the message without you having to do a lot of negotiating, explaining, or cajoling. Plus, music soothes the savage beast, even when its just a three-second ditty that lets your kiddo know its snack time. So take it as a win, and get singing!

Toddler Activities

The Magic Pear: Easy Games for Young Preschoolers

As summer winds down, I’m realizing that I am exhausted and ready for Fall. My two-and-a-half year old heads back to preschool in a week (nine days to be exact, but who’s counting?) Even though he only goes part-time, it’s still a necessary break for both of us as I can feel our patience, both his and mine, is beginning to run thin at times. It doesn’t help that his sister was born during his last week of school and is really taking up time and attention…and leaving me pretty exhausted each day. As if a constant ball of two-year-old energy isn’t exhausting enough! But I digress. All I know is at this point in the summer I need some easy games we can play that keep him engaged while I am sitting (or more likely nursing my newborn) and this one fits the bill! This game originated in Africa and references the baobab trees that grow in Madagascar.


One kind of Baobab tree

There are two versions of this game but they both use the same basic rhyme:

Ti-Ki-Boom, Ti-Ki-Boom, Ti-Ki-Boom, Ti-Ki-Boom

Down The Baobab Went The Hare

Ti-Ki-Boom, Ti-Ki-Boom, Ti-Ki-Boom, Ti-Ki-Boom

Up He Came With The Magic Pear

(I’ve also heard people use the phrase “Chicka Boom” in place of “Ti-Ki-Boom”)


Version 1:

Get a pear (real or pretend). No pear? Any object will work, and you can just call it a pear. Preschoolers are great at pretending! One person hides the pear and then sings the rhyming song. When the rhyme ends, the other person has to find the magic pear. Easy, but hours of fun!

Version 2:

I made this version up when I was literally too tired (and busy nursing) to actually get up and hide the pear anymore. It’s basically “I Spy” (my son’s other favorite “mama-gets-to-sit-down” game) but with this rhyme instead. I will say an object in place of the word pear and my son will have to find that object. So, I would say, “Up He Came With The Magic DUMP TRUCK” and he’ll race around looking for his dump truck. Super easy. When Ir un out of things for him to find, I will start to use colors or shapes, like “Up He Came With The Magic PURPLE” and he’ll have to find something purple. I do this with I Spy a lot too, since he wants to play for so long that I often run out of things to find so this keeps the game going a little longer.

Why play these games? Besides the “sitting down while keeping energetic kids occupied”-which is really the best part!-they are fantastic for cognitive function. Both versions build object permanence, recall, and deductive skills as well as memory and spatial awareness. Adding in using shapes or colors to look for strengthen your child’s knowledge of…you guessed it…shapes and colors. Both games also are wonderful for honing focus and listening skills since children need to listen to the rhyme so they know what to look for and when they can starting looking. These are the types of games that really get your preschooler kindergarten-ready!

Want to enhance these games? Reading about the baobab tree is easy as there are a large number of terrific children’s books about these special trees. Here is one of my favorites from back in my full-time teaching days:


This Is The Tree: A Story Of The Baobab Written by Miriam Moss and Illustrated by Adrienne Kennaway

Another way to enhance the learning is to use the phrase Chicka Boom instead of Ti-Ki-Boom and then read the classic Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. You can take that even further by having your child look for letters or letter sounds…I’ve done this with a felt letter set so students, including my son, can find actual letters but if they are ready to move past letter recognition, have them find something that starts with the letter B or has a B sound, etc. You get the gist.


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault.

Hope these games can help you get some rest as you sail into the Autumn. Enjoy!


Toddler Activities

Invitations To Play

Play is the way children learn, so it’s obviously an important part of each day. I know in my house, play can go from fantastic! to wtf is going on around here?! in about five seconds flat and that’s when I know there needs to be some focused time to recalibrate our energy. That’s when I invoke the simple invitation to play.

Invitations to play, or provocations, don’t have to be complex or messy or even a lot of materials. They can be as simple at the one shown above, some transportation stacking toys on a wooden tray. Basically, a provocation is a term used in the Reggio Emilia model that means to help expand or encourage thoughts, discussion, or creative thinking. In a classroom setting, it would probably be open-ended materials connected to what the children have been learning and talking about; if gardening is the hot topic, then there might be an activity with flowers, or seeds and a magnifying glass, or some pictures of plants growing, or a book about gardening set out in a special place where children can explore the medium on their own or in small groups.

At home, I like to set out invitations to play (as I call them) for my two-year-old at times when I know he’ll want to do something different or when things are getting hairy. I have lots of manipulatives (mostly open-ended materials that can be used to build specific skills) and a few special trays stored away that only come out for these invitations so it can help to frame the activity and let him know that something special is about to happen. I don’t keep them out for too long, just enough time until I feel like he is at the end of his focused attention and ready for the next adventure (even if that’s just dinner or bath or a trip to the grocery store).

These play invitations can be incredibly helpful on so many levels, including:

*Building independent play skills

*Encouraging creative thinking and conversation

*Increasing focus and attention

*Recalibrating energy levels

*Deepening cognitive thought

Setting up an invitation to play in your home can be so easy while also bring so much richness to your child’s day! Some tips:

*”Frame” the materials with a special tray, small rug, or placemat, or whatever you have available and only use that when it’s time to invite some special focused playtime. I also have a small toddler-sized table that I put the provocations on, but a coffee table or even the floor work too!

*Have some manipulatives and/or other simple materials that are kept out of the everyday rotation to pull out just when needed. I have some bins with all kinds of different manipulatives and interesting objects, but it doesn’t need to be limited to materials. Sensory objects (like play dough, sand, water, shaving cream, etc.) can also be a fun invitation to play, or art projects. Leaves, grass, flowers, or other natural items found on a walk or in the yard can also be sweet for building, making indoor fairy or gnome homes, or just exploring with a small magnifying glass. Anything that isn’t used on the regular (or indoors) will spark some interest! They don’t always have to be open-ended either, things like puzzles, paper and scissors, weaving and lacing materials, and books have a specific use and purpose, but can still give that focused, independent time while also giving them a chance to think deeper about a topic. (Yup, even toddlers can think deeper about things!) Materials like the stackers that are pictures are also a two-fold material, the stacking part is a given but the objects themselves can also be used as cars that are driven around the tray, to set up a construction site, as building blocks, whatever! They open themselves up to being a creative material when a toddler or preschooler is left to their own devices.

Other simple ideas could be:

Fabric scraps (and a glue stick)

Small blocks

Different lengths and textures of yarn

Cards and envelopes

Buttons (with supervision)

Flowers, leaves, and other nature items

Tea bags

Cotton balls and Cotton Swabs

Literally anything alongside a magnifying glass can be interesting!

Muffin tins are also a great source of fun for invitations to play since they can provide lots of open-ended scooping and sorting time.

*Try a little each day, even if it just once a day for five minutes. Focus and attention will increase gradually for some kiddos, especially younger toddlers, and some days even five minutes is a huge win!

* Connecting the invitation to something you know your kiddo is interested in is always a help. My Bub loves anything trucks these days so we’ve been doing a lot of that, but it could even be something you just chatted about over breakfast. Your kiddo noticed the leaves were falling? Great, bring some of them in with a glue stick and some cardboard. Whatever! I don’t always connect the invitation with something we’ve talked about or are interested in because it’s good to introduce new things too, but I like to have at least a few that are a direct connection to something I know my two-year-old is interested in or thinking about during his day.

*Challenge yourself to let your kiddo explore without your help or ideas. The invitation to play isn’t like a party where you both RSVP, it’s for them to check out something on their own without adult intervention or input. You can sit at the table with them, and chat if they start talking, but give them some space to do their thing.

What do you think you’ll invite your child to play?