Make a Terrific Transition Board!

Does your child have difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next? Does he scream, wail, and tantrum when it’s time to stop playing and go to bed? Does she protest loudly when it’s time to take a bath, then protest again when it’s time to get out of the tub?

The problem for many children with disabilities is that they require order and predictability to feel safe. Most of the time, activities seem to be “sprung” on them without warning. “Jessica, put the toys away, it’s time to go shopping with Mommy,” etc. The child feels confused and overwhelmed by the change. A transition board is like an adult day planner brought down to a child’s level. If the child can see his tasks in advance, in order, transitions become much easier. I made a board like this for my son Kyle years ago, and it was tremendously helpful.

How the Board Works

The board is posted somewhere where the child can easily see it, with interchangeable activity cards. The cards are placed in the order they will occur in the child’s routine, top to bottom. Looking ahead on your child’s morning, afternoon, or evening (because planning the entire day at once is a bit overwhelming), select the cards and have your child arrange them appropriately. Point and name each task in order. When it’s time to transition to each new task, have the child remove the corresponding card from the board.

How to make your own transition board:

There are many ways you can do it, with a little creativity. I’ll explain how I made mine.

Materials: (All of these can be found at Staples, Office Depot, Walmart, or Target.)

1. A foam board (stiffer and more durable than ordinary cardboard).

2. Index cards.

3. Velcro strips with sticky backs.

4. Something to hang it on the wall. You can use sticky magnets and affix it to the fridge, or a plastic hanger that rests on a thumbtack or small nail.


1. Using the index cards, create activity icon cards. You’ll want to have a few simple words with a small icon (picture) beside it. Do this either by drawing the cards yourself (I’ve done that before), use scrapbooking stencils or letters, or use a graphics program to print and illustrate the cards. In this example, I’ve used glue stick to paste printed graphics onto the orange index cards.

Some possible activity cards might read: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, bath, bedtime, play time, shopping, school, church, babysitter, brush teeth, doctor, snack, movie, etc. Create cards that reflect your child’s most common activities. You could make a few wild cards like “Special Activity” or “drive to ____.” The cards I’ve made here would be for a very young child. You could make them smaller so that more cards fit on the board, and use complete sentences for an older child.

2. Get the finished cards laminated. I highly recommend this. Ideally you’ll be using the cards a lot, and you and your child will both be handling them. Cut out the laminated cards. (Round the edges or they can get rather sharp.)

3. Cut and stick small squares of Velcro to the center backs of the cards. Make sure you use the same half of the Velcro…either the scratchy or soft strip…on all the cards.

4. On your foam board, evenly space 5 or 6 parallel short strips of Velcro, top to bottom. Make sure the Velcro strips are the opposite of the kind you used on the cards, so that they’ll stick to the board.

Good luck and have fun!

P.S. I would like to donate this board, free of charge, to the first parent of a special needs child who makes the request. Simply email me at, and I will ship the board and cards to you.

For more tips on controlling tantrums, see my blog: When Your Child Throws a Tantrum in Public: 4 Steps to Regain Control.

Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here.