Monday, October 27, 2014

Weekly Learning Theme: Trains

The past 3 years we've run a 5k called The Twilight Thriller near my parents' house.  So far every year we've run, Ty has won the costume contest.  The first year he ran solo as a lawn gnome.  Last year he turned the stroller into a plane while dressing himself and Carter up as pilots.  This year he decided to turn the stroller into a train and dress them up as engineers.  In order to get Carter pumped up for the race I decided to focus our learning on trains the week beforehand.  It definitely worked because he was jacked up about trains, choo chooing everywhere we went and saying "train" very distinctly.  

Listed below are the objectives I am focusing on for the themed weeks.  The highlighted objectives are ones Carter received exposure to during our theme this week:
  1. Know the names of and be able to point out body parts.
  2. Know names of objects and be able to point to them when asked.
  3. Sort objects based on size or color/Match like objects together, for example match a circle with a circle. 
  4. Play make believe.
  5. Speak in short phrases and 2-4 word sentences. (He's done some 2 word sentences already!)
  6. Follow simple instructions.
  • I took baskets that were previously used as book baskets in my classroom and covered them with different colored construction paper: red, yellow, black, and I left the blue basket blue.  They were cars for our train.  I attached them to each other with yarn.  Then I chose a stuffed animal of each color and had Carter sort the animals into the train cars.  After he was done sorting he ran into his room, grabbed a yellow dog stuffed animal out of his stuffed animal basket, and put it in the yellow train car with Woodstock.  It was so cute!
Putting Elmo in the red train car.
Putting Toto in the black train car.
All the stuffed animals sorted into their color coordinating train car baskets.
  • Next I pulled out masking tape and created a train track on the floor.  While I was putting the track down Carter rode around right behind me on the car I had pulled out to use as the train engine.  It definitely added an extra element of difficulty while creating the train tracks.  Carter was so excited to drive on the train tracks and even more excited when I added his train cars to the engine using yarn.
  • We made train tracks on the floor with popsicle sticks and Carter drove his cars on the tracks.  We originally planned to glue the tracks to construction paper so they wouldn't move around, but Carter kept ripping the popsicle sticks off the paper before they had a chance to dry, so we decided to just make the tracks straight on the floor.
Attempting to make train tracks on construction paper.
Driving his car on the train tracks.
  • An idea I saw online and thought was really cute was to draw train tracks outside with sidewalk chalk and then walk or ride on the tracks.  We planned to do this activity on 2 different days, but it rained both days so we ended up just playing with our masking tape track inside.
  • I had also planned to use bottle caps as wheels and match bottle caps to construction paper rectangles of the same color to make trains.  I planned the week out early because I got ahead of myself and I forgot to save all the bottle caps I'd been waiting to add for My Coke Rewards.  After I added the codes online, I tossed the bottle caps and was so disappointed when I made it to train week and realized what I'd done.
  • I cut 3 rectangles, a triangle, and 4 circles out of different colors of paper.  I had Carter glue the shapes down onto paper to create a train.  We talked about the shape and color of the piece of paper as he put glue on it and then stuck it down.  Then I drew a track under the train which he thought was awesome.  I handed him the marker to draw some smoke coming out of the chimney stack, but he just drew smoke all over the picture!
Putting glue on the first piece, the engine.
Adding the wheels.

Proud of his smoke!

Special Snack:
  • I took a graham cracker and cut the side into a slant to make it look like the front of a train.  Then I spread peanut butter on it and cut bites of banana for the wheels.  I cut part of the left over banana into a small rectangle and added a smoke stack.  At the last minute I added some peanut butter smoke coming out of the smoke stack.  I learned from the boat snack and took a picture of the train before I gave it to Carter for snack.  He actually seemed impressed by the train and started off by playing with the smoke.
Carter's graham cracker and banana snack.
 Make Believe:
  • Once Carter's train was created and I had the masking tape rail down, he drove his train around on the tracks.  I let him wear his engineer hat while I blew the train whistle.  If I stopped blowing the whistle, he'd start saying "whoo whoo" so I'd blow it again.  I set up his pop up school house as the train station and he had a blast!  He kept looking back to check on his stuffed animal passengers and would get really concerned if one of them fell over.
Watching his passengers as he left the station.
Heading down the track.


  • We sang a cute train song to the tune of Jingle Bells that I found here.  It went like this:
Chug, chug, chug,
chug, chug, chug,
chugging down the track.
See our little choo choo train
chugging down and back.
We are cars all lined up
chugging just like so.
Hear our whistle toot toot toot
as down and back we go.

Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • Close to our house there is an old train sitting on a section of train track.  We went to visit it and Carter was so excited.  I couldn't believe how excited he was, especially because we've been there before, it's just been a while!  I'd ask Carter to stand for a picture and he'd plant his legs, turn, and smile at me.  It was amazing, I couldn't believe it!  While we were there we heard a train and we looked over and could see a train off in the distance.  Carter was so excited and pointed at it yelling "tain!"  As we were leaving he said, "Bye bye choo choo" and waved at the train.  It was adorable!
Posing with the train engine.

Checking out the red caboose.
Watching the real moving train on the other side of the road.
Pointing and yelling "Train, choo choo!"

Carter was so excited to sit in a train chair at the libarry!
Carter loved the train books that had a lot of sounds in them.  The favorites were "All Aboard", "Chugga Chugga Choo Choo", and "I'm Fast!".  I was surprised when we read "Smokey" by Bill Peet because it was on multiple preschool train book lists and I felt it was racist toward Native Americans in the way they were portrayed in the small section of the book they were in.  I would leave it off the list in the future and thought about omitting it all together, but wanted to at least document we'd read it so I didn't forget what it was like.
  • Trains by Gail Gibbons
  • All Aboard by Mary Lyn Ray
  • 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle
  • Thomas' Magnetic Play Book by Ted Gadecki
  • The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews
  • Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis
  • The Little Train by Lois Lenski
  • Trains by Hal Rogers
  • Trains: Steaming! Pulling! Huffing! by Patricia Hubbell
  • Smokey by Bill Peet- got a thumbs down from me and Carter was indifferent
  • Steam Train, Dream Train by Sheri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld
  • I'm Fast by Kate & Jim McMullan
  • Hey Mr. Choo Choo, Where Are You Going? by Susan Wickberg
  • Blue Train, Green Train by Tommy Stubbs
  • All Aboard! by Mary Lyn Ray
  • Can You See What I See? Toyland Express by Walter Wick
  • Train by Elisha Cooper
  • My Big Train Book


  1. Very nice! He loved being in the train at the race.

  2. Seeing Carter next to the train cars made him look so tiny!!

    1. It does! It was so cute how he smiled for the pictures!