Tag Archives: Transportation

Take a Trip: A Song, A Graph, and Safety Talk

If you’re exploring a transportation theme, here’s a fun little ditty about transportation I found years ago.  (I didn’t write down where I found it, so if you know the original author let me know!)  It’s a fun piggy-back song, to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle:

Take a bus or take a train,

Take a boat or take a plane.

Take a bike or take a car,

May be near or may be far.

Take a rocket to the moon,

Just be sure to come back soon.

This is a fun song that the children enjoy and it gets them thinking about the different types of transportation.  I like to write the words up on chart paper and then have a picture to go with a few of the words.  I’ve attached pictures here.   As I’ve said before, I don’t offer these because I think I’m a talented artist, but because they’re done.  (Sometimes done is better than perfect!)

After getting familiar with the song, I’ll often ask the children about the rhyming words in the song.  Then we’ll talk about other words that might rhyme as well.  On another day I may ask about words that start with the same letter and sound (bike, bus, boat).  As the children become more familiar, I may remove the pictures and have them add them above the corresponding words.  Even if the children aren’t “reading” I think it’s valuable for them to make the connections between the written and spoken words and their meanings.

Now if you want to get more bang for your buck (and who doesn’t?), you can also use this song as a springboard for a math activity.  Use a few of the pictures from the song as the base pictures for a graph.  Use the post-it method or unifix cubes to count out one-to-one how many people in your group have used each type of transportation in the song (or just a few if you’re worried about attention).  If you’re working with just one or two children, have them survey people!  Create a sheet with the pictures and have them record hash marks as their respondents answer about the types of transportation they have used.  They could ask people in your own home, or make some phone calls to friends and family!

Graphing with young children not only teaches them that specific skill, but reinforces one-to-one counting (one object to one number), greater than/less than comparisons, and representational thinking.  If you’re currently working on recognizing written numbers, you could cap off your graph with the written numbers of the totals below the pictures.

And last of all, what would a unit on transportation be without a little talk about safety?  This is another activity I picked up years ago.  Place a ball or a marble inside a cup.  Tell the children that this is them inside a car.  “Drive the car around on the floor (making the requisite car noises, of course), and then make a sudden stop (and yes, you have to say, “Errrrrch”).  Thanks to Newton’s law about objects in motion staying in motion, the ball will roll out of the car.  Talk about what that could mean for them.  If they’re in a car and the car stops, they will keep moving and could fall over or even out of the car. 

Now ask who buckles up when they take a trip in the car.  Give the ball some buckles by taping it in.  Drive the car around again and make some sudden stops.  As Newton would explain, that object in motion has now been interrupted by an equal and opposite force.  The ball stays safely in the cup.  Talk with your little ones about the importance of wearing seatbelts so that they can stay safe in their cars.

Singing, literacy, math, science and safety, all in one unit!  Who says preschool is “just cute”?
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Filed under Building Readers, Fingerplay, Learning through Play and Experience, math activity, music and movement activity, science activity

Travel Mix: Math You Can Eat!

 Who doesn’t enjoy a good snack to take on the road?  Here’s a snack activity that fits well in the transportation unit, that not only fills rumbling bellies, but also reinforces math concepts!

First assemble your travel mix snack ingredients.  There are so many ways to go with this!  I usually look for a cereal, salty, sweet, and fruity combination, but this is certainly a flexible recipe!  So I might go with chocolate Chex, pretzel goldfish, Craisins, and Reeses Pieces.  Or maybe some Cheerios, pretzels, Teddy Grahams, almonds, and dry apricots.  Or maybe I’d get rice Chex, pretzel sticks, raisins, marshmallows and peanut butter chips.  You just have to tailor it based on what you have available, dietary considerations, and purpose.  But the great thing is, since they’re making it themselves, you don’t have to worry too much about what everybody likes!

Gather your ingredients and a few bowls or baggies.  Have the children create their own travel mix from the ingredients, leaving out anything they don’t like.  But they don’t just dump in the ingredients willy-nilly.  That’s where the math comes in! 

You can go about this exercise in a variety of ways, depending upon your objectives and the ingredients you’re working with.  You may want to focus on one number, like 12.  Have your children count out 12 of each ingredient to add to their mix.  This gives them plenty of meaningful, yet repetitious practice counting to 12, and gives you an opportunity to observe not just whether or not they can count to 12, but also whether they are rote counting (shoveling M&Ms in as they count out loud) or using 1-to-1 ratio (counting one M&M for each number). 

You could assign measuring scoops to each ingredient and a number card to indicate how many scoops of each item goes into the mix.  This provides for a great discussion of measurement and measurement tools, while also encouraging number recognition and 1-to-1 counting as well.

You could also turn it into a game for your older children.  Using a deck of number cards, each child draws a card and decides which item to count into her mix.  So if she draws a 7 she may choose to count in 7 pretzels.  Play as many rounds as you like, until everyone has a chance to create a full travel mix.  This method gives more practice for number recognition on a wider range, as well as 1-to-1 counting again, and a little greater than less than comparison.  It also gives your child the opportunity to use some logic and planning as they consider which ingredients they want more or less of.  Some children may even discover the principle of addition as they consider that 3 marshmallows followed by 9 marshmallows means they now have 12 marshmallows!

Tailor your method to the developmental level of the children you love and teach.  Whichever way you go about it, building a travel mix is a tasty way to incorporate basic math concepts with real meaning. 

Top photo by darko d.
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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, math activity, Snack Time

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

Safe Fire-Free Ways to Have a Blast With Your Children This Fourth of July

Fireworks are off-limits in many areas this summer because of the fire threat it poses to foothills, forests, and even neighborhood underbrush.  Even if fireworks are allowed in your area, you’re bound to have some children who want an exciting hands-on experience, but aren’t quite old enough for the fire power yet.  Here are three fun fire-free “blast-off” experiments you can incorporate into your Fourth of July Festivities.  And you don’t even have to wait until dark!

Canister Rockets


I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t love film canister rockets!  Check out my instructions on how to construct them.  You’ll also find how to make this extra special by adding a little color.  When you’re done blasting off, you’ll have a colorful fireworks mural!

Good Old Steve

Mentos and Diet Coke have become a classic!  There’s a tool that makes Steve Spangler’s Mentos Geysers even easier.  Check it out!

Rocket Balloon

This is a big favorite around our house!  All you need is a straw, a balloon, tape (painter’s tape or masking tape works best, but as you can see, I’ve used a few different kinds), string, and two anchors (chairs, trees, poles, people, etc.).  First, run the string through the straw.  Next, attach each end of the string to your anchor object.  Chairs seem to work best because you can tie your string and then scoot them back to tighten your line.  Third, blow up the balloon (but leave it untied – just pinch it) and tape it to the straw, with the neck of the balloon pointing away from the direction you would like the craft to move.  Finally, let go of the balloon and watch it fly!  

Experiment with different amounts of air in the balloon.  How will it change the distance travelled?  Compare the flight of this balloon to another that is simply let go without a string as a guide.  A great science experiment, and a lot of fun!  You could also amp up the festivity factor by adding streamers to your straw and/or balloon.  (I’ve also wondered about adding glitter inside your balloon, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Let me know if you do!) 

These activities not only offer a fire-free blast, but also create science discussions about propulsion, pressure, force, and movement.  How could kids not get excited about learning?

(*You could also use these activities as part of a space or transportation unit!  Or for any other day you want to have some fun exploration!)

Have a safe and sane Fourth of July!

Top photo by mailsparky.

It’s nice to share with your friends….

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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, science activity

3-2-1 Blast Off! Film Canister Rockets


 If you haven’t done film canister rockets yet, boy are you missing out!  I’ll give you a quick run down on the old favorite and then let you in on a colorful little twist I’ve recently discovered!

 For your rocket, you need this rare antique called a film canister.  In this digital age, you may think these don’t exist anymore, but there are still some purists out there.  Go somewhere where film is developed and ask for empty canisters.  They always seem happy to oblige.  (In my experience, the white ones like the one above, with the lids that fit inside rather than outside, seem to make better rockets.)

 If you like, you can add wings and what-not to your rocket, but it’s not necessary.  Fill your canister about 1/2 way full with water, and drop 1/3-1/2 of an Alka-Seltzer tablet in.  Snap the cap on and place the canister lid side down onto the ground.  Then get back a few feet and start your countdown.  After a few seconds, the pressure builds up in the canister, shooting it up into the air a good 10 feet or more! 

If you haven’t guessed on your own, this is an outside activity.  And of course, you want to keep yourself and your kiddos a safe 10 or more feet away.  Sometimes, you’ll get “duds” that simply foam out of an opening in the lid and never explode, but don’t be too anxious to scoop these ones up.  Some have gone off after foaming out like this.  So give them a few minutes to decompress before rushing in.DSCN0638

For a fun spin on an old classic, my kiddos and I added some watercolor powder to each canister and let it blast off on a large piece of art paper.  It resulted in some lovely abstract art!  This also gave the little hands something more to do as they shook the color into the water before I added the “fuel tablet”.


 This activity is a great tie-in to any space, motion, or transportation theme.  It is a fantastic science activity as the questions naturally flow while the children discuss how the rockets move.  So round up those little astronauts and start your own shuttle launch today!


Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, science activity