Thematic Unit: On the Move with Transportation

While this time of year is a great opportunity for studying a Food Unit (or jumping right into Winter Weather if you’re getting the kind of storms we’ve been having) it’s also an ideal time to explore transportation.  With the holidays coming, many children will either be travelling themselves, or waiting for family members to arrive.  It’s a perfect opportunity to make connections between what they’re learning and exploring and what they’re experiencing in their lives.

Here are some links from around the web for some fantastic learning activities, as well as some of my own, marked with an asterisk, which I will be posting (and linking back here) in the days to come!  Please share links to some of your favorite transportation activities as well!

Concepts:  (You didn’t think I’d just give you a list of “cute” activities did you?)  A transportation unit is the perfect time to spend some time sorting and categorizing; exploring science concepts like motion, momentum, thrust, and buoyancy; and experimenting with the ways we can move our own bodies.

Dramatic Play

Rocket Ship*

Train Station*

Working Tables (small manip/fine motor)

Geoshape Transportation Patterns : You can buy a set, or just look at some of the patterns to create your own outlines on manilla folders!

One of my favorite transportation puzzles


Driving Cars in Paint: Try it with or without the road, on a paper covered table or on individual papers in art trays!

Transportation-themed Cookie Cutter Painting or Gluing

Marble Painting (remember, it’s about motion)

Cut and Glue Roadways

Decorate these Straw Rockets (I found die-cuts at the dollar store!), then find a spot to experiment!

Sensory Table

Cars in Colored Rice

Water and objects for Sink or Float Experiments

Outer Space Sensory Bin (I found some great astronaut figures at a party store!)

Block Area

Add to your usual blocks with:

Train Tracks

Car Mats (Even create your own like these)

Marble Tracks or Gutter Play


Car Wash with Toy Bikes

Trikes and Traffic Signs/Chalk


Wagon Wheel Pasta: Talk while you eat–> Brainstorm all the vehicles you can think of that use wheels.  I was impressed when one child recently reminded me that even airplanes have wheels!

Travel Mix*

Large Group Activities

Take a Trip*

Parking Cars: You can extend the linked activity to include numbers, shapes, or even make your stalls out of colors and find cars to match.

Seat Belt Safety*

Transportation Graphing*

Row Row Row Your Boat: I assume you don’t need this linked!  Mix it up by teaching them how to sing in a round, or play a simple “Go”/”Stop” game using signs to signal when to start and stop singing.  Helps improve attention and impulse control.

Bodies in Motion: Have children move like they’re in a car, boat, train, plane, rocket, etc.  Use it to transition from one place to another, as well!

Who Has the Car: Like this game, but with….a car, of course! 

Book Activities

Bunnies on the Go: Getting from Place to Place

Bunnies on the Go by Rick Walton: Sorting

I Spy a Freight Train

I Spy A Freight Train by Lucy Micklethwait: Balloon Rocket

Sheep on a Ship (Sandpiper Houghton Mifflin Books)

Sheep on a Ship by Nancy Shaw: Foil Boats

Roaring Rockets (Amazing Machines)

Roaring Rockets by Tony Mitton: Film Canister Rockets (With some experimenting, we discovered that less water = higher blast off!)

If I Built a Car

If I Built a Car (love this book) By Chris Van Dusen: Creative Cars

Stay Tuned for More!

Top photo by Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo.

Center photo by Jane Cleary.
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Filed under Uncategorized, Unit Themes

5 responses to “Thematic Unit: On the Move with Transportation

  1. Thanks for all the great ideas. Yesterday I did the monster book and playdough monster activity with my daughter and a few friends–it was a huge hit! We even used those little iron bead things that you usually iron together to make patterns, but they used them to poke them in and slip on the toothpicks. I love open-ended projects! Thanks so much!

    • notjustcute

      What a brilliant idea to add the iron-on bead thingies! (They must have a name, but I sure don’t know what it is :0) That’s the beauty of open-ended…it encourages thinking about things in different ways!

  2. parentNearlychildhoodeducator

    Question: I noticed you have centers or areas in your activities like blocks, sensory, art, dramatic play and so on. Your “block area,” isn’t it your sensorial or sensory area as well? (i.e. Visual discrimination of dimensions for one example: check out What else do you have in these areas for refining discrimination of tactile sense? of baric sense? and all the others? I noticed cars in colored rice maybe for the 2s but what about items of different sound, weight and temperature out all year long for long term retention? I have had sink and float out but on my science shelf on a regular basis with items changed out monthly to keep interest. The children love it as it is a popular one for my 2 and 3s. Even my 4,5,and 6s will go back to it every once in a while just for fun as they have mastered the idea early on. Though I find the outer space sensory bin to be very distracting the way it was put together. That table she had the sensory box on was wild and distracting enough. Yikes! I would use the outerspace items in the eye spy box instead and use items of the same color but of differnt shapes for the sensory box. You could even use a bag we call the Mystery bag.
    What a great idea with the gutters; they are not too sharp though around the edges? Overall, thanks for all the activity ideas. I will add them to my collection with a few tweeking to go along with my Montessori philosophy teaching with the prepared environment.

    • notjustcute

      To answer a few of your questions:
      1 – Clearly, the block area also incorporates aspects of sensory development (as does the art table, the dramatic play area, etc.). For me, I refer to the block area, because that tends to be an area in the room that is a larger, open area where you can prepare activities that encourage construction and/or large motor movement.

      2- This post is in no way implied as an exhaustive list of activities within a unit, rather as a range of ideas that might be implemented as is, or simply as an idea starter for further “tweeking” and tailoring to specific situations and philosophies. I appreciate the willingness of so many other educators to share their ideas as well as their individuality.

      3- The gutters are a lot of fun and can be used in so many different ways. The edges may be a little rough after cutting, but if that is the case, you can sand them down and/or cover them with duct tape or electrical tape. I hope you enjoy them!

  3. Pingback: Travel Mix: Math You Can Eat! « Not Just Cute

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