To prepare my young children for an new experience or transition such as going on vacation, starting preschool, the birth of a sibling or staying with Grandma for the weekend without us, I make small, stapled construction paper books that explain and illustrate what is about to happen.
You don't have to be an artist or a writer to create "transition books" for your kids. I write one or two sentences per page and illustrate with photographs or pictures cut out from magazines (art is not my strength!) When I feel ambitious, I cover them with clear contact paper. The books allow my kids to have some control over the experience: to know what to expect and to anticipate the sequence in which new things will happen.
In "Ilana's Trip Book," written before my then two-year-old daughter's first cross-country vacation, I wrote: "...California is far away. We live in a place called New York. Grandma lives in a place called Long Island. It's far, so we drive there in the car. California is even farther. So we'll fly there in an airplane. Way up in the sky. Like the birds...In California, we'll visit Uncle Leon and Aunt Ellen and cousin Tami. We'll stay in their house and go swimming in their pool."
I make sure to stress the positive aspects of what is about to happen, but also acknowledge difficult feelings the kids might have: "We'll miss our friends in New York. But we'll see them when we come back from our vacation."
Knowing that routines and familiarity are reassuring to children, I include things that will remain the same: "Ilana and Yosef will sleep in cribs in the same room. Mommy and Daddy will sleep in a bed in the next room."
My kids loved these books and asked for them again and again before a change or transition in their lives. But in addition to helping my children, the books helped me. Creating them is fun and knowing I am doing something concrete to help my kids feel secure is very satisfying.
HOW TO DO IT
- Write your "story" on a sheet of paper. Keep the sentences simple and include what is familiar to your child as well as what will be new. Describe what will happen in order, if possible. Use your children's names.
- Fold four (or five or six if you want a longer book) pieces of construction paper in half width-wise and staple twice along the fold. Copy your story with colored markers using a sentence or two per page, leaving room for pictures.
- Tape appropriate photos or pictures cut out from magazines onto each, or every other page, or, if you are so inclined, draw pictures to illustrate.
- Cover with clear contact paper and you have a lasting treasure -- something that will help your children now and will act as a memory book later.
Remember -- the book was written by you about your children. They are sure to love it!
Copyright Ruth Mason, 2000