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Lesson Plans
Coping With Change

Change, whether planned or unexpected, is hard for young children to understand and accept. When change happens because of a disaster or other crisis, loss adds even greater anxiety in children. Play "Topsy Turvy" to show children that all changes are not big or scary.


To help children handle the stress that comes with change by talking about and classifying different types of change; to see that all changes are not big or scary.


  • Chalkboard and chalk or large chart paper and markers
  • Favorite picture book


Set up some silly changes in the room: write the schedule as 3, 2, 1 instead of 1, 2, 3; wear two different shoes; put on only one glove.

Teaching Note: Because young children are sensitive to changes in routine and space, it's probably better not to move desks or change schedules.


Wait until students begin to notice the silly changes you've set up. When students ask what's going on, say you're just making a few changes. Then, when you're ready to start the activity, choose a favorite picture book and read the sentences backward or read from back to front. When everyone is laughing, begin the lesson.

Ask: What happened differently today? Did you think some of the changes were fun? Confusing? Can some changes be scary? Uncomfortable? Set up four columns on the chalkboard or chart paper.





Have students talk about changes that have happened to them, now or in the past. Then, as a class, classify the changes by putting them into the proper columns. For example, "moving" might be a big, scary, or helpful change; "getting a puppy for the family" might be a big and helpful change; "outgrowing your old shoes" may be a little change. Be sensitive and allow students to identify and talk about their classifications. For some, "outgrowing shoes" could be a big change if they were a favorite pair or if their family is worried about money.

After students have completed the chart, ask them what they have learned about change. (Answers will vary, but may include "All changes are not big," "All changes are not scary," and "Some changes are really good.")

For the rest of the day, play "Topsy Turvy." Quietly, pick a student to make a silly change. He or she might put on a hat upside down, switch seats with a friend, walk backward, etc. When someone spots the change, he or she shouts, "Topsy Turvy!"

Teaching Note: Make sure students understand that silly changes are not hurtful or scary. Play "Topsy Turvy" anytime students are looking a little down.

Related Family Article: Change and Stress

Information and brochures from SAMHSA provide excellent talking points for parents.

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Updated on 3/22/2014