Anticipatory Structure

Diana Lang

photo of a woman kneeling down with her young child and baby is talking to the child
Figure 1. A parent talking to their child at their height can help remove stress from a situation. (Photo Source: Josh Willink, Pexels License)

Anticipatory structure is a strategy where caregivers share plans and provide forewarnings to children regarding upcoming transitions between activities.  This can help establish routines and facilitate more smooth changes in routines.  It also allows time for children to prepare for changes, which can heighten their cooperation when the change happens.

Anticipatory structure is most effective when caregivers provide multiple forewarnings before transitions, give reasoning for what the child is being asked to do, and use age-appropriate language that the child can understand. [1]  It is helpful for parents to provide praise or compliments for their children as they follow each step and meet the end goal.


  • A parent tells their children that it is almost time to go to bed and they have ten minutes to finish playing and then they need to put their toys away.  Later the parent reminds the children again and tells them that they have five minutes left to play and then they need to have all of their toys put away.  After five minutes, the parent makes sure the children’s toys are put away and asks them to get ready for bed by reminding them of their regular bedtime routine.

Key Takeaway

  • Anticipatory structure provides forewarnings to changes in activities and can help establish routines and cooperation.

  1. Bigner, J. J., & Gerhardt, C. (2019). Parent-child relations: An introduction to parenting (10th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson


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