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Preschool and kindergarten activities that promote young children's understanding of land, sea and air transportation.
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I've  Been Working on the Railroad
Here are the words to this traditional song which is also known as Dinah.

I've been working on the railroad all the live long day,
I've been working on the railroad to pass the time away,
Don't you hear the whistle blowing?
Rise up so early in the morn.
Don't you hear the captain shouting, "Dinah blow your horn!"
Dinah won't you blow, Dinah wont you blow,
Dinah won't you blow your horn?
Dinah won't you blow, Dinah won't you blow,
Dinah won't you blow your horn?
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah,
Someone's in the kitchen I know.
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah,
Strumming on the old banjo.
Fee fie fiddle ee i o
Fee fie fiddle ee i o
Fee fi fiddle ee i o,
Strumming on the old banjo

Transportation Day
Jenny C. teaches about different types of transportation all through the day.

Materials: Milk box, paint, paper plates, construction paper, and matchbox cars.

Description: We will talk about ways we are able to get places, sing Row Row Your Boat and make Milk Box Boats.

Circle time: Ask each child to tell what kind of vehicle they came to daycare in?
Story Time: Tonka Look Inside Trucks
Game: On the Go, A matching board game.
Activity: Car and truck wheel painting.
Activity: Color wheels
Circle time: Talk about how when we travel in vehicles, it is important to be safe!  Discuss safety rules for boating (wear a life jacket), automobiles (wear a seat belt), and also show them some traffic signs. 

Transport Mural
Young children use fine motor and creative skills during this activity by Michelle L.

 Materials: Large sketched background, blank paper and glue sticks.

Description: Teachers draw the background for the transport mural. You may include a road, railway, bike path, foot path, farm, river etc.
Next, children paint the scene,  leave to dry.  Children draw assorted transports that will fit onto the mural.

Older children can cut the transport pictures out of magazines and glue them on to the mural. Younger children to tell you where teacher pre cut transports belongs on the mural.  Hang the mural up on a large wall.

Comments:  Do not make the background too bright or the children's work will not stand out on it .

 Hot Air Balloons
Michelle L. shares this "messy" activity for older preschool children.

Materials:  Crochet cotton (or other absorbent cotton), starch and

 Description: Teacher mixes the starch according to packet instructions and cuts cotton to length (about 50 cm).  Children blow up the balloon to size. Next, spoon the starch onto the table so that each child is given a small amount.

Distribute the cotton, one at a time, and allow the children to mix it into the starch.  Ensure the whole piece is covered in starch.  Now
wrap the cotton around the balloon (make sure the cotton does not stay in a "blob" or this activity will not work).  Repeat this process,  you will need about 30 pieces of cotton per child.

 Leave the balloons to dry (hanging up).  When dry, children to pop the balloons.  You should be left with the string in the shape of the balloon.  Please allow plenty of drying time.  Attach a basket and you've got a hot air balloon!

Comments: A very messy activity! Get children to wear art shirts when doing this activity. These balloons look great hanging up!

Recipe: School Bus Cake
Teresa B. combines transportation with this "cool cooking" experience.

You will need:  One Twinkie snack cake per child, yellow frosting and
 1 bag Gummy Lifesaver candies.

Description: School Bus Cakes
Cut out a small rectangle from one end of the Twinkie to make it look like the hood and windshield and so it is shaped like a bus. 
Spread yellow frosting on Twinkies and add Gummy Lifesavers for the wheels.  It looks like a bus!  Serve with milk and fresh fruit.

Comments: The children love it!

Transportation Vehicle
Janie J. uses a box to make a play vehicle for children.

 Materials: Large cardboard box and paint.

 Description: Take a large cardboard box and paint it red.  Cut out large circles for the wheels and paint them black.  You can use another piece of cardboard for the steering wheel.  Then let the children sit in the car and drive.

Comments: Children love this car and it lasts for several weeks!

Tracy encourages youngsters to explore different kinds of transportation.

Materials: 2 small circles, small square, large rectangle, small triangle, 3 cotton balls and glue.  Use different colors of construction paper.  The teacher needs to cut out shapes.

Description: Take large rectangle, glue on blue construction paper, then glue on 2 small circles for wheels.  On top of the rectangle glue on a small square for the window.  Glue on a triangle for the smoke stack.  Finally glue on cotton balls to represent smoke.

Transportation:  "How do I get there?"
Pam S. of "Pam's Playground" suggests this activity which can be used to introduce the concept of transportation.

Materials needed:  Puppet, large bag, toy vehicles (helicopter, train,
airplane, car, truck, motorcycle, boat, rocket ship or horse)

1. Put all the toys in the bag.
2. Introduce the puppet: 'My friend has a problem. He needs to go to _________.   How can he get there?"   Let children name different ways the puppet can travel.  Ask if they will be good ways to travel. Why or why not?
3. Show the bag. Explain that inside the bag are ways that we can travel, and that the word we use is "transportation".  This is how we get from one place to another.
4. Describe a mode of transportation that you have in the bag. Have the children make guesses.  Then remove the toy.  Continue in this way until all of the toys are removed.

 Transportation Vehicles
Young children use motor, language and creative skills as they create a vehicle in this pre-k project by Karen E. 

Materials: Toilet paper or paper towel rolls, juice cartons, cardboard boxes, etc., newspaper and paper mache.

Description: When we did our theme on transportation, we talked about many different kinds of vehicles.  After introduction I read a book about garbage trucks and recycling garbage.  Then I gave the students juice cartons, cereal boxes, coffee cans, etc. for them to create their own vehicle.  The boxes were glued together with elmers and taped with masking tape. 

Teachers helped children add wheels to their vehicles (paper towel rolls cut to size). Then I made paper mache using 1/2 cup of flour and 4 cups of water (simmer for 2 min).  The children covered their vehicle with paper mache (one coat will do but make sure the surface is completely covered). 

Then after dry we painted the vehicles with liquid starch (to make them stronger) then painted them.  After the vehicles were dry the children added circle and rectangle stickers (avery labels) for lights and window details. 

The whole project took three weeks.  Then the children brought their new toys home at the end of the theme.  The kids loved their creations and learned the names of many vehicles and what they did.  Parents sent in the cartons etc. 

Comments:  I did this with 3-4 year olds with disabilities.  Supply kids with lots of pictures and toys to model their vehicles after.

Gayle Note:  For a list of books about Transportation, take a look at
Preschool Books Listed by Themes.

The Car Song
Pam S. found this song by Vicki Swanning.
(Tune:  "When Johnny Comes Marching Home")

 We like to travel in our car,
 Hurrah, hurrah.
 A car can take us near or far,
 Hurrah, hurrah.
 We buckle up before we go,
 Whether we're going fast or slow,
 So we'll all be safer while riding in our car!

transportation ideas, ideas and more ideasTransportation Ideas
Susan offer LOTS of ideas for your Transportation Theme saying, "I hope  you can use these, I love to share ideas. I am the one at work that everyone comes too, and I love it. ENJOY." 

  1. Build a super highway on the floor.  Ask the children to make high rises out of boxes by painting them and naming them.  Also they can make a country setting with river, trees, animals and farms.  They love doing this and they feel proud that they make it themselves.
  2. Dip small, medium, semi large cars and trucks in paint.  Roll it over white paper. Children can call it "Rolling Along Painting".
  3. Make Traffic Lights and play "Red Light, Green Light" (outside)
  4. Instead of "Duck, Duck Goose"  you can play "Car, Car Truck" or "Stop, Stop Go".
  5. The children can do License Plate Rubbings or create their own license plate with their name, state and decorate them. Explain why we must to have license plates.
  6. Put out some different kinds of transportation stencils so children can trace to create their own vehicles.
  7. By cutting out different pictures of transportation vehicles youngsters can create a collage.
  8. An old time favorite, make a car out of a box, or a Space Station, a cock pit etc.
  9. Decorate a Hot Air Balloon and hang it from the ceiling.
  10. Have the Fire Department come out and visit the class.  The children can climb on the truck.
  11. Talk about different ways that rescuers travel: Ambulance, Police Cars, Helicopters, Motorcycles, Boats, Horses etc.
  12. Sand & Water Table:  Fill with sand and use land transportation, Fill with water and use water transportation vehicles OR use shaving cream and fill with Space and Snow Crafts.
  13. Try this song: 
      1. Twinkle, twinkle traffic light
        Round the corner shinning bright.
        Red means STOP, Green means GO
        Yellow means Go very SLOW.
        Twinkle, twinkle traffic light,
        Round the corner shinning bright.
  14. More Songs:  "I've Been Working On The Railroad",  "Down by The Station" and "The Wheels On The Bus ".
  15. Sweet Snack:  A not so healthy, but oh so good treat!  You need Graham Crackers, colored frosting, Lifesavers, Hershey's chocolate.  The cracker is the body of the car. Lifesavers are the wheels with chocolate for the windows.  Colored frosting is the paint and the glue... Yummy!
 Watching Traffic
Pam S. shares this song.
(tune: "Frere Jacques")

 Watch the cars go, watch the cars go,
 Whiz-zing by, whiz-zing by.
 Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep
 Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep,
 That's like mine! That's like mine!

 Watch the bus go, watch the bus go,
 Rolling by, rolling by.
 Stop for all the people, stop for all the people.
 Get on board! Get in board!

 See the trucks go, see the trucks go
 Down the street, down the street.
 Gas and oil and milk trucks,
 Mail and trash and dump trucks,
 On their way, on their way.

Gayle's Hint:  Take a peek at 
Transportation Rhymes, Fingerplays, Action Poems and Songs.

Auto Art
Tracy P. helps children discover different patterns during this art activity. 

Materials: Different sized cars with wheels.  Construction paper, paint and trays to put the paint in and smocks.

Description: Each child will get a piece of paper.  The cars are set out along with the paint. The children will put the cars into the paint then run the cars along the paper in any way that they desire.  The different sized cars will provide different patterns.

Comments: The children enjoy this project.  While children are doing this, discuss the difference in patterns.

Thank you Michele B., Theresa and Debbie B. for offering variations on this activity. Debbie suggests placing the paper in a box before painting and Theresa suggests adding sand to the paint for texture.

 Follow that Car
Teresa G. offers this variation to "painting with cars".

Materials: Toy cars & trucks, butcher paper, markers, masking tape,
rubber bands.

1.  Prepare toy cars ahead of time by securing markers of various 
 colors to the back of toy cars using rubber bands.
2.  Gather materials and tape butcher paper on top of the table.
3.  The children will move the cars and trucks across the butcher paper, thus creating designs behind the moving cars and trucks.

Dramatic Play Prop: Homemade Dashboards
Imaginations soar when young children use this prop offered by Pam S.

You will need: Cardboard box, plastic container lids, brads, crayons and markers, cardboard tubes, bottle caps.

Description: To Make a dashboard find a sturdy cardboard box at least 18 inches wide. Next, attach parts lots of them. Punch a hole in the top of a yogurt container, and affix it to the box with a brad (a pronged metal affixer you can purchase at any stationery store). You now have a free spinning dial. 

Put markings on the dial and the box to make a meter. Affix a paper plate the same way.  The dashboard now has a steering wheel. A paper towel tube makes a splendid gear shift lever, and bottle tops make excellent buttons. The more dials, buttons and moving parts, the more interesting the dashboard. Be sure to leave a slot for a key! 

Extension: The children can also use the dashboard to explore the depths of the ocean, or even the outer reaches of the galaxy!

Transportation Pictures
Pam S. suggests asking children questions to help them identify the purpose of vehicles etc.

Description:  Display pictures of the following means of transportation: truck, bus, car, train, plane, ship, rocket. Ask the following questions and let the children decide which vehicle answers the questions.

1. Which one is used for going to the moon?
2. Which one travels on tracks?
3. Which one carries vegetables from farm to city?
4. Which one goes through the air?
5. Which one do we park in our garage?
6. Which one stops in many cities and carries many people?
7. Which one travels on the ocean?

People Movers
Explore different modes of transportation with this rhyme offered by Pam S.

 It walks, and runs, and it gallops, of course!
 Take a ride on the back of this thing called a horse.

 It is wooden, with two wheels, but how does it start?
 A donkey will pull you In this thing called a cart.

 Your two legs will move you, but you won't need to hike
 Hop up and ride off on this thing called a bike.

 With four wheels and a motor you can really go far!
 Buckle up and then ride in this thing called a car.

 When you put up the sail, on water you'll float.
 Climb aboard, and sail off in this thing called a boat.

 It takes children to school, holds a lot without fuss,
 Load up and ride off in this thing called a bus.

It can fly in the sky through the wind and the rain
Climb aboard and take off in this thing called a plane

This sensory experience is offered by Pam S.

Description:  For a licking &  paste project provide young children with brown file folders that look like suitcases (round the corners and cut a  handle along the side).  Inside the folder, the children paste pictures of things they might take on a trip  (have pre-cut a variety of items from magazine pictures). 

The purpose of this sensory activity is to give children an opportunity to smear the paste around.  Leave the folders open until they've dried.  Continue the project the next day by having the children lick stamps from foreign countries and paste them on the outside of their "suitcases".  They look like travel stickers.  The stamps come in a big package and are very inexpensive

transportation ideaTransportation Idea
Ernel T. offers this idea for a colorful teacher made automobile.

Materials: Construction paper anc cello paper

Description: Cut out the design of an automobile 2 each.  Cut out shapes and put cello paper in between.  Children love the colors.

Fingerplay:  School Buses
Tammy B. contributes her fingerplay that promotes learning numbers  1-10 and subtraction.

Materials: Fingerplay by Tammy Bolen called "Ten School Buses".

Description: Extend both hands and put down one finger as the fingerplay is told. 

Ten school buses all in a row, 
One drives away, and then there were nine.
Nine school buses all in a row,
One drives away, and then there were eight.
 Continue by number until there are none.

Cooking: Apple Sailboat Snack
The children make apple sailboats from an apple slice, a triangular piece of cheese, and a toothpick. Eat for snack!

Cooking: Sailboat Eggs
Pam S. suggests allowing 1 egg per sailor.

Hard boiled eggs, 1/2 teaspoon mustard, carrot sticks, chopped
pimentos, 1 teaspoon mayonnaise, 1 cup diced green peppers, celery sticks, lettuce leaves,

knife and cutting board, bowl, fork, toothpicks for mast, 
scissors, paper for sails, tape.

Peel the  hard boiled eggs.  Discard shells or save for another art
idea, such as eggshell mosaics.  Cut the eggs in half. Remove the yolks and place them in a bowl.  Mash the yolks with 1 teaspoon mayonnaise and 1/2 teaspoon mustard.  Mound the mixture back into the egg white sections.  Decorate the egg sections with the celery sticks, carrot sticks and chopped pimentos.

Next, cut the paper into sails, attach to the toothpicks with tape and put into eggs.  Place the lettuce on a serving plate, then put the eggs on top of the lettuce.  Enjoy!

Craft Activity: Clothespin Sailboat
Pam S. of "Pam's Playground" shares this motor skill activity for older preschool children.

You will need: Spring type clothespins, toothpicks, white paper, glue or glue sticks, scissors, markers.

Description:  Remove the hinges from the clothespins.  Cut a 2 1/2 inches square of paper.  Glue the flat pieces of the clothespins together, leaving a hole at one end.  Insert the toothpick into the paper forming a "sail".  Put glue into the hole, insert the toothpick and let dry.

Art and Craft Activity: Tugboats

Another activity from Pam S. of "Pam's Playground" that produces a water play prop.

You will need:  Pint milk carton, six black construction paper circles,
toilet paper tubes, two 1 inch slits in bottom directly across from one another, cotton balls, red and black tempera paint, glue.

1. Ask the children to paint the sides of the milk carton red and the toilet paper tube black. Add some white glue to the red paint to help it adhere to the milk carton.

2. Before the paint dries, the children can add black circles to the sides of the boat, three to a side. They will stick without gluing when glue is already in paint.

3. Push the tube onto the boat's center.  Pull and stretch the cotton ball and glue to the top of the tube.  After boats dry, attach string and use in water. 

Art & Crafts: Create An Airplane
Pam S. reads book about airplanes and air travel then encourages young children to use motor skills and spatial relation to create their own planes.

Materials:  Use 2 paper towel rolls & one toilet paper roll.

Description:  On one of the paper towel rolls measure down about 3"  and cut 1/2 way through.  Then measure another (slightly less) 2" and cut 1/2 way through.  Remove this section.  Glue the second paper towel roll cross ways in this section (for wings). 

Cut a  1/8" slit in the opposite end of the first tube.  Smash the toilet paper roll slightly and slip into the slit, then glue.  Paint your airplane.  Now, use craft sticks to form an X.  Paint them white and glue to the front of the airplane for a propeller.  Break another craft stick in half and insert them in the tube under the wings for landing gear.

Read books about plane trips, for example Mister Rogers' Neighborhood's "Going on an Airplane Trip". 

Dramatic Play Extensions:

  • Put travel brochures on the wall in the book corner and Viking planes in the block corner.
  • The children can make runways (blocks end to end) and build "control towers". 
  • Bring a couple of little suitcases and a flight bag into the dress up corner (the suitcases were actually cosmetic cases). Have things to pack in them for example: clothes, socks, hair brush and combs, sunglasses with plastic lenses, toy camera and stuffed toys.

Going On a Big Airplane
Pam S. suggests this action song. (tune of "The Wheels on the Bus.")

The wheels on our car go 'round and 'round (repeat)
Going to the airport.
We walk and we walk down the ramp, 
Down the ramp, down the ramp (repeat)
Going on a big airplane. (walk your hands on your knees)
The ticket taker reads our pass,
Reads our pass, reads our pass (repeat)
Going on a big airplane. (pretend reading, hands together, palms up)
We find our seat with little windows, 
Little windows, little windows (repeat)
Going on a big airplane. (make a window with your thumbs and pointer fingers)
The flight attendant says, "Buckle your belt,
Buckle your belt, buckle your belt" (repeat)
Going on a big airplane. (put hands across tummy and bump fingers 

Say to the children, "I think we're starting to move. I think the wheels are starting to go around very fast (make a slow wheel moving motion with your hands).

The wheels on the plane go 'round and 'round, 'round and 'round, 
'round and 'round (sing and repeat slowly). Going on a big airplane.

Say, "The airplanes wait their turn to use the runway, while they wait
they get their engines going really fast. Get those motors going. Ready?" (make engine noises).

The wheels on the plane go 'round and 'round, 'round and 'round, 
'round and 'round, (repeat)
Going on a big airplane. (make a wheel moving motion with your 
hands) WHOOPEE  (move arms out).

Now I'm flying through the air, through the air, through the air, (repeat)
Now I'm flying through the air on a big airplane!
(move arms out and sway).

Read books:  Curious George at the Airport, Airplanes and Airport or The Little Airplane. 

 Space: Rocket Ship
During this preschool activity for youngsters 4-5 years old Trisha D. suggests the following:

  1. The child will work with a partner to create a rocket ship.
  2. The child will label the parts of a rocket ship.
  3. The children will have rocket ship races to see which rocket ship is the fastest.
  4. The children will create a 3-D art project.
  5. The children will use social skills to talk about the construction of the project.
Materials: Empty paper towel rolls, markers, tissue paper, stickers glue (any classroom materials and scissors may be used).

Description: Choose two students to work together and explain that they will need to make one rocket ship using all the materials provided and they have to discuss with each other how they will do this.  Also, they should decorate it labeling the parts i.e.. doors, oxygen tanks, knobs etc.

Comments: This is a very good activity especially if you do not give any help.  It is interesting to see how the students assemble their rocket ship on their own.

Related theme in the Rainbow Resource Room:
The Space Activity Theme



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