T is for Trains

One of the first words out of each of my boys' mouths was "choo choo." They have both always loved trains, and so it seems like we always have a train theme going on, even when it's not our official preschool subject. So even though the books/topic were nothing new, they were very excited when we got to the letter "T" in the alphabet.

Learning the Letters
I'm pretty sure my 4-year-old could spell the word "train" before he could even spell his own name. So we didn't have to worry about practicing the letter "t" too much. We tried some variations on learning the form of the letter T as we made T's from trains and from our own bodies. We did our usual sound hunt as we searched around our house for things that started with the T sound (i.e., toaster, table, tomatoes, tools, etc.) 

My boys are obsessed with trains, so we had to read a lot of books this week! Here are some of our favorites:

Freight Train by Donald Crews

This was probably the first train book we ever bought, and it has remained a favorite through three children. This is a classic, with simple, clean illustrations and text. It helps reinforce colors and also teaches the children the names of some different types of train cars.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

This is another classic train book that we love. It has a great message about not giving up.

Iron Horses by Verla Kay

My older child is obsessed with trains and we have checked out dozens and dozens of fiction and nonfiction books about trains. We have read several longer juvenile nonfiction books and watched documentaries about the transcontinental railroad. But I was so excited to find this rhyming book about the transcontinental railroad that was short and simple enough for my younger son to but still had enough rich history that my older son loves.

Trains: Steaming! Pulling! Huffing! By Patricia Hubbell

This book shows all types of trains and has some nice illustrations and rhymes.

All Aboard! A True Train Story by Susan Kuklin

My boys love the photographs of real-life steam trains in this rhyming book.

Two Little Trains by Margaret Wise Brown

This book is cute because it follows two trains--one real train and one toy train--as they go through the day.

C is for Caboose: Riding the Rails from A to Z by Traci N. Todd

My kids love all of the photographs and facts about real trains in this A to Z train book.

Roundtrip by Ann Jonas

This book is cool because it has two-way black and white illustrations. You read through the whole book and then turn it upside down and it read it through upside down and backwards. The illustrations are done in such a way that they appear different depending on the angle you are viewing the book. My boys though that was so cool.

The Little Train by Lois Lenski

This book follows an engineer and his steam train through a day.

Math Activities
We printed out the free number train printable from the Kidsparkz website (scroll down to the bottom under the light blue table for a link to the number train PDF file that has train cars with objects and numbers from 1-20). The kids practiced sequencing the train cars in number order. You could also cut each train car in half to create a number matching game.

In addition, we practiced our measuring skills by measuring different toy trains.

As we read books and looked at pictures of trains, we talked about how a steam engine works. We also enjoyed watching this video about high speed trains:

We learned about the Transcontinental Railroad through books and video clips. We watched a Netflix streaming documentary about trains called "Railroads that Tamed the West." (Warning: the documentary we watched via Netflix does contain both the good and the bad of the development of railroads. There was a lot of tragedy in the history of railroads, so be prepared to discuss it appropriately with your child.)

Field Trip
During our "t is for train" week, we went to the free Travel Town Museum up near Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Several large trains are on display and for a few dollars you can also ride a small train around the perimeter of the museum. There are dozens of other train-themed field trips you could take if you are in the southern California area, too. Some train-related outings we have done in the past include the Lomita Railroad Museum, model train shows, Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, historic Union Station in Los Angeles, rides on the historic Red Cars in San Pedro, Irvine Park Railroad, and much more…

We made these egg carton trains.The body of the train was a sliced off section of an egg carton that the kids painted in the colors they wanted. The funnel of the train is an empty toilet paper roll, and the steam is a stretched-out cotton ball. We also worked together to transform a large cardbox into our own make believe train. The kids painted the train black and I helped them cut a hole in the top to peek their heads out of. A second box became the passenger/cargo car, and they added an old bell (from our Christmas decorations) for ringing!

Pretend Play
In addition to playing pretend in our cardboard box train, we drew train tracks on the sidewalk with chalk and drove our bicycle/tricycle "trains" around the track. My four-year-old also made pretend tickets for our train rides, and we "traveled" many different places.

We pretended that we were in a train dining car as we at our snacks during our train-themed week. My kids also helped me come up with this train snack made of some of their favorite snack foods:

*The body and funnel of the train were pieces of toast with cinnamon sugar
*The cowcatcher was a slice of a strawberry
*The wheels were Ritz crackers
*The steam was whipping cream

Games and Songs
We sang the song, "Choo Choo the Big Train is Coming Down the Track." Below is a video of my four-year-old demonstrating the song. He doesn't have much of a sense of pitch, but you get the idea J:
We also sang other classic train songs that are a part of our collection of kid songs such as "Little Red Caboose," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," and "A Peanut Sat on a Railroad Track."

We also enjoyed doing some games and activities from these train/transportation-themed preschool packs:

For more ideas, I also really enjoyed these Little Engine that Could activities from Hubbard's Cupboard, and I have collected ideas for activities on my T is for Trains Pinterest board!

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