Transportation Day!

I think that parent education is an important part of teaching Kindergarten.  Research shows that supportive parents are a vital part of a child’s success in school.  S0 that means that all early childhood teachers need to help parents understand how young children learn, what our curriculum is, and model specific ways they can help their child.  I always believe in show – not tell – so every year we had several parent/child activity days.

A parent/child day might be held during a morning or afternoon at school, or during an evening.  I always tried to include activities from most areas of the curriculum, and included ‘cooking’ our own snack.  The evening activities usually included a simple dinner.  We had many working parents, most were willing to take a half day off school, or found a grandparent, or other adult to substitute for them.  Occasionally we had a child without an adult present, and either I spent the time with him/her or found another adult to help out.  We usually built the parent/child day around a theme – like Transportation, Space, Cowboys, Bugs, Ocean, Dinosaurs, etc. but sometimes we celebrated a holiday with a parent/child day.

Here is an invitation from one of our Transportation days:

The children usually decorated paper grocery bags ahead of time that they carried around with them as they went to different centers.  Depending on the number of Kindergarten classes at our school each year we went between 3-4 classrooms, plus a centrum area in the middle.  The parents and children chose to where to go, and completed activities in any order they liked.  There were usually about 20-25 different activities.

Each parent was given a checklist:

You may have noticed that I was a clipart queen!!

I know I keep mentioning it – but I am sorry I didn’t save more of my files when I retired – the activities I am going to share were from quite a few years ago.  Along with higher expectations, I changed some of the parent/child centers to represent the newer benchmarks and curriculum.  I added more recording sheets, more opportunities for the children to write, and higher math skills.  It was a great opportunity to expose parents to things like counting by 2’s and money  values.  When they played a game during one of these days it gave parents ideas of ways to reinforce our learning at home.

I always liked to begin the day at circle time, and we did a few routine things – like lunch count, our morning letter, the calendar –  to show parents how our day at school usually began.  Then I tried to involve parents in an interactive game or story – to get them in the mood to play and have fun.

For this activity I enlarged lots of different kinds of transportation – skateboards, hot air balloons, blimps, garbage trucks – anything I could find clipart of (you could enlarge some of the pictures I provided with math games.)  I cut red, yellow and green construction paper 9×12 and folded the pieces in half.  I glued the pictures inside the folded paper and put them all in a basket.  Then I passed the basket around and each parent/child took one.  Then we went around the circle saying the poem.  The parent and child would first tell where they would like to go together – then they opened up the paper to show their mode of transportation.  Pretty simple – but it gave each child a chance to talk and got parents involved.

After that I quickly went over the activities listed on the check off sheet.  Ordinarily I always modeled what I wanted children to do – but my goal on parent child days was just to get them interested in the activities and to give them an idea where they might want to begin.  Next I passed out the check off sheets and the grocery bags, and the parents and children were free to go to any center in any classroom.

At each center I posted a sign giving directions for the activity.  For Transportation I stapled together red, yellow and green paper in a 3 sided sign and glued the directions on all 3 sides so parents could read them from different sides of the tables.

Here are some of the activities we included:


description of activities

Table signs pdf

I am posting files from a couple of Transportation days – I think there are a few duplicate activities but I am having trouble editing them because I changed from a PC to a MAC since I used these projects, and the files are not cooperating.  I just wanted to give you as much as I could in case you found anything you wanted to use.

sight word pictures

We used these pictures along with sight words to make sentences.

sight words we use

Parent child masters

Please forgive the duplicates!

These parent/child days were quite a bit of work to prepare and set up but during the actual activity I loved just having time to walk around, visit with the kids and parents as they played, and listen to their conversations.  Lots of times I heard parents saying “we could do this at home!”

Sometimes we had parent/teacher conferences not long after a parent/child day.  Parents often commented that they noticed many of the things I was sharing with them about their child, on the day they spent at school.  They got a chance to see how their child sat at circle time, how they contributed to our routines, how willing they were to complete work.  We always had some gross motor activities and some kids just wanted to run and play – that gave their parents an insight too!  Of course there were some parents who wanted to help their child too much, and some that wanted to visit with other parents instead of interacting with their child – but I was usually able to gently intercede.   Most parents told me it was a special day with their child.


Transportation ideas for Dramatic Play

I absolutely love dramatic play.  In fact, I love all kinds of play!  That is almost a radical thing for a Kindergarten teacher to say anymore!   But I sincerely believe that SUPPORTED play is one of the ways children learn best!  I know that Kindergarten has changed a lot – expectations are higher, children are required to reach more benchmarks – teachers are required to spend large blocks of time on academic subjects, we have Reader’s workshop, Writer’s Workshop, sometimes math and social studies are being taught in a workshop form too.  We are responsible for direct instruction, differentiated instruction, small group instruction, interventions and one on one assessments!  I don’t disagree with any of this – we need as many avenues as possible to reach every child and help them be successful.   But play fills a very important role too.

There is a lot of great research on the benefits of play.  One of the most important things children gain is in oral language.  Research shows that children use higher vocabulary, more variety of sentence structure, and in general higher levels of conversation during dramatic play.   Another wonderful benefit of play is that it is a great way to help children develop self regulation – waiting for a turn, sharing materials, asking questions, modifying their own behavior, imitating positive behaviors – positive peer influences.  I think one of the reasons play has lost favor in lots of schools is because some administrators view it as a break for the teacher – when the children are playing they catch up on email or write a note to parents, or prep an activity.  The teacher’s involvement in play really makes a big difference.

There are so many social benefits too – every child is successful during play – and that can be a huge boost in self esteem for children who struggle in other areas.  Children also develop empathy, solve problems, take on other perspectives – so many wonderful skills!!

I will be talking more about play because I think it is so important – but one of the most important things about play is that it brings FUN to the classroom!

During our transportation unit I turned one of my dramatic play areas into a Driver’s Training School.  I posted traffic signs around it – ONE WAY, STOP, YIELD, etc.  Then I spray painted xerox paper boxes and cut a hole in the bottom, attached margarine containers for lids (with brad fasteners) and straps – to make “cars” for the children to drive.

I also supplied visors that I bought from a dollar store and labeled POLICE.  When I set up a new dramatic play center (often chosen by the children) I always modeled and discussed how they might play – but they usually just took off on their own.  The Police Officer’s job was to do safety checks on each vehicle – they had a simple form I laminated to check the windshield wipers, turn signals, headlights, etc.  Then they could issue a Driver’s License to the other child.

I changed this form sometimes to tell the name of our school and they wrote in their telephone number.  I always provided a xerox of their photograph too.

Of course if they had a license, they needed a wallet to put it in.

I copied these on construction paper, the children folded them and stapled the sides.

I really did not have a very large classroom – the children “drove” the cars around the play center in a small space.   The police also issued Safe Driver Awards or tickets.  For safety and sanity I had to restrict speeding tickets and reckless driving tickets – but they sometimes gave a ticket for not stopping at a stop sign, going the wrong way on a one way street, etc.

Tana Hoban’s book was a great addition to this center!

This often led to children creating their own signs to add to the center.  Of course they usually wanted to make money for their wallets too – I encouraged them to look at real money (xeroxed copies) when they were making their own!

Here are the masters

dramatic play_0004

Another dramatic play tool that was always part of my classroom was a long red bench with a steering wheel on one end.  My husband built this for me and I loved seeing all the ways the children incorporated it into their play.

It was long enough for 3 or 4 children to straddle at the same time.   It changed from a car to a bus to a train to a plane… but the best part was listening to what the kids were saying as they played.

When I first added this to the classroom the kids often used the box on the front to carry their “car phone.”  Now, of course they all pretend to have cell phones – and I do have a supply of outdated used ones as props too.

If you have not done much with socio-dramatic play, I would really encourage you to give it a try.  The children love it so much, and there are so many ways to tie it into your curriculum!

Transportation ideas for Social Studies

One of our Social Studies benchmarks was to read and make a simple map.  There are lots of great books that support this.


Each child made a simple map using clipart and logos, and adding construction paper features like lakes or schools or parks.

They started with a basic set of roads.

When I first started this activity I had the children glue strips of adding machine tape onto large paper, but just gluing on the roads was difficult, and I found the kids didn’t put much effort into adding the features, so I reduced it to 9 x 12 and simplified it.

Here are the clipart pictures they added.

I also had a ditto of a simple map.

Here are the masters


One of my favorite activities every year was making an assembly line to build cars!  After all, I do live in Michigan!  I told the children a very abbreviated story of how people used to have to walk, ride horses or drive carriages, until cars were invented.  Then I talk about Henry Ford and how he was looking for a way to make more cars and started to use an assembly line.

Before the children arrive I arrange the tables in a row.  I made a simple car pattern and enough parts for each child to add one.

My scanner cut off a bit of the top and front of the car.

All of the pieces are precut (hopefully by parent volunteers!)  I tell them that when they work on an assembly line they have to be trained – I call one child at a time over to the tables and explain what part they will be adding to the car.  Most of the pieces are glued on, using a glue stick.  The hood and the trunk lid have to be stapled on, I choose those kids carefully.  Children add a spare tire before the trunk is glued on, and the engine is glued on before the hood is stapled.


The windows need to face a certain way so I also need to pick auto workers who can remember which side to glue!  Other jobs are a little simpler.

When all the workers are trained and in their place I tell them that my job is Quality Control.  I walk around to be sure they are all doing their job well – because no one would want to buy a car with crooked windows, etc.

We wrote down the time the first car started down the assembly line, then noted how long it took one car to go completely through the line – and at the end – how long it took to make enough cars for each child to take one home.


Of course I “paid” the workers with a little prize or candy for all their hard work.

This project was kind of flexible depending on the number of children in my class – here are the parts I included, but if I had fewer children or kids absent I would leave off headlights, tail-lights, etc.  We did add the details to both sides of the cars.

4 black wheels

4 white hubcaps

2 front windows

2 back windows

2 doors


spare tire



2 front bumpers

2 back bumpers

2 headlights

2 tail lights

That covers 26 children – our maximum was 28 – if I needed to add more parts I made 2 doors on each side of the car – making them a little smaller.

It was always fun for me to see how the children reacted to this project.  We talked about how you could not walk away from your spot to go to the bathroom or get a drink unless you had someone to step in to do your part.  It was a great lesson on cooperation and working together too!

Transportation ideas for Science

Transportation was a great subject to teach science concepts like float and sink, motion and direction, and push and pull.  When the children did each of these activities they had a great opportunity to use the scientific process – make a hypothesis, predict, experiment, draw conclusions; and they also got practice collecting and recording data – all important science benchmarks!!

I used this activity to talk about force and motion – I provided a bunch of different surfaces and the children tried rolling toy cars over them.  Of course the activity was more worthwhile if an adult was nearby to ask questions and help children predict what they thought might happen.  Then they recorded how easily the cars rolled over each kind of surface.

My husband built a few simple ramps for my classroom and the children loved to play with them.  We experimented with different types of vehicles – watching how far they would roll, noticing the factors that made some cars roll farther than others.  We also built ramps with hardwood blocks to see how the height of the ramps affected the distance vehicles traveled.  We used the ramps for this activity too:

This always led to a discussion about rolling and sliding.   One of the big things the children got to experience with these activities was practice recording and charting information.

We also played in water!

Here are the masters for these activities:

science stuff_0003

We did another fun floating activity too.  I bought a set of little plastic boats – they were 4 different colors.  The children put one boat in the water at a time.  Then they put metal washers into the boat – one at a time, and counted how many washers each boat would hold before it sank.  They charted this information too!

Another science benchmark we worked on was Push and Pull.  I brought in a sled and we took turns pushing and pulling – first in the carpeted hallway – and then outside in the snow.  We also played with a wagon.

Each child made a book about push/pull.  These books gave basic information about push and pull, and the children had to sort pictures according to whether the objects would usually be pushed or pulled.

push and pull book pdf

Here are the clipart pictures that the children cut and pasted.

small push pull pictures

Here is a full sheet of push/pull clipart.

push pull clipart

Transportation ideas for Math

During our unit on transportation we did lots of math activities.

We used unifix cubes to measure these vehicles.  You could make this activity more concrete by using toys instead of just measuring on the paper.


I introduced combinations of numbers as a whole group lesson, but this was a fun reinforcement.  I gave each child 2 colors of Froot Loops cereal.  They would decide which color was the first additive, and which was the second – then place the Froot Loops on the chart.  They would color the chart when they ate the Froot Loops.


We sorted transportation toys by whether they go on land, sea or air – and used these labels.  I also gave each child a sheet of pictures of vehicles to cut out and sort.

I also had this ditto in my file, I usually preferred to use more concrete activities – but sometimes I needed an activity for children to work on while I did some assessments!

I had a set of small plastic vehicles that were different colors.  I put a set of about 12 vehicles into containers and the children graphed them.

Sometimes we made class graphs of different kinds of transportation that the children had ever been on.


If I had children who were still not confident recognizing 0-10 I might have them glue these onto a strip of paper in the correct order.  Sometimes I had them match the numerals with the number words, sometimes we glued the engine onto a pocket and cut out numerals 0-20 to put inside the pocket.

We had lots of opportunities to use comparative language during this unit too – long, short;  fast, slow;  bigger, biggest; etc.

One more activity that my children enjoyed was file folder graphs.  I bought a set of transportation stickers and put an assortment on the outside of a file folder.  Then I made a recording sheet to graph how many of each sticker was on the front.  I glued one of these inside the file folder, then I glued a completed graph on the back of the file folder.  Then I laminated the folder.  The children could use a vis a vis marker to do the graph on the folder and it was self checking by looking at the back.  If I wanted to make copies of the graph for children instead of using a wipe off marker, the master for it was right inside the folder.

Here are the masters for these math games:

math games_0007

Transportation Ideas for Literacy

When you think about how literacy is made up of reading, writing, listening, speaking (and sometimes representing and viewing!) it is obvious that everything we do with Kindergartners supports our Language Arts curriculum.  Oral language development is probably the most important skill we teach – including stuff like developing vocabulary, asking and answering questions, recalling information, exposing children to higher levels of language – not just directives… it is huge!!  Some school districts, and some principals, require teachers to justify activities in their classroom to show how they are helping students reach benchmarks.  I agree that it is important to know why you are doing any activity and to be able to explain how it supports the district curriculum, but we can still do lots of fun activities!

Singing is a great way to introduce new vocabulary and help children feel comfortable participating.  We learned songs to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat.  Of course we added simple motions!

Drive, drive, drive your car

Up and down the street

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

Isn’t driving neat?


Fly, fly, fly your plane

Way up in the sky

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

It’s so fun to fly!


Sail, sail, sail your boat

On the ocean blue

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

I’m captain – you’re the crew!


Chug, chug, chug your train

Up and down the track

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Going and coming back!


We sang and read old familiar songs too:


It was fun to change the words to “The wheels on the car…”  or “Old MacDonald had a car…”  You could use any kind of vehicle!

Recognizing environmental print is a great emergent reading activity.  Most children learn best when they make personal connections with what they are learning.  Children love recognizing signs and logos – I tied these with some sight words.

I prefolded this paper to make a little book with 4 pages all saying ‘we can go to…’

The children each got a half sheet of logos and cut one out for each page.  Then they read their book to me or a parent volunteer before taking it home.  Of course we practiced reading this sentence on a wipe off board before they each completed their own book.  There were some years I used even simpler sight words – like “I go to …”  You could even differentiate it for individual children.

logos to copy

I used this sheet to get a quick assessment of how well my children were able to stretch out the sounds of a word, match the sounds to the correct letters, and write the letters.  I called children to do this a few at a time, and spaced them so they could not see each other’s paper, because I used it as an assessment.  We talked about what the words were, but I didn’t help them at all to stretch out the word or write.  I did this type of assessment very often during the second half of the year.  It gave me a lot of good information about each child.  When I could not read something a child wrote during Writer’s Workshop – I was never sure if they were struggling with expressing their idea, matching sounds, or forming letters.  This assessment just focused on writing one word for each picture, but I could see if they left spaces between hot air balloon.


I loved including this book that focuses on trying your best.  Sometimes we acted it out.  Sometimes we drew and wrote about the story elements – here is a generic paper to record characters, setting, problem and solution.


I copied these sheets on colored construction paper.  The children could match the pictures – or play Memory to reinforce rhyming.

Here are some more masters:

rhyme cards to copy


Here are some more of the books I used:


If you are not familiar with Margaret Hillert – she was a 1st grade teacher who wrote a number of very simple emergent level books on topics that interested children.

I liked this simple Sesame Street book to use at the beginning of our unit because it talks about lots of kinds of transportation.

I got this simple board book at a dollar store, it has one vehicle on each page, labeled with one word.  It would be a great model for a concept book (see my Language Arts section if you don’t know what I mean!)  You could also extend that idea and ask the children to write a simple patterned sentence using sight words you are working on now – “This is a red fire truck.  This is a blue garbage truck.”

Donald Crews has other good transportation books too.

This little Rookie Reader book, Joshua James Likes Trucks; was one of my favorites!  We remade it as a class book – changing it to We Like Trucks.  I typed out the text – one sentence on each page and the children illustrated it either by cutting and pasting or drawing.

The book is full of comparative language, long trucks, short trucks, high trucks, low trucks, etc.  It would be great to use for simple descriptive language too.  After we did the class book remake we did lots of copy changes and made more books for different subjects – We like Dinosaurs;  We Like Farm Animals, etc.   When I first began teaching everyone was making copy change books for Brown Bear, Brown Bear; and I do some of those also, but this was just a little different.  I tried to make enough class books so that each child could take one home to keep at the end of the year.

Here We Go!

I think that you can use a Transportation theme to teach lots of curriculum objectives.  In science I covered force and motion, push and pull, and float and sink.  In math we classified, measured, and compared.  We talked about mapping skills for Social Studies, as well as different kinds of transportation careers.  Just as with most themes, transportation gives you great opportunities to read great books, retell stories, develop new vocabulary, help children build important connections, and write about their ideas.

I defined transportation for my class as ‘something that takes you from one place to another.’

Each child made a book that tied this unit together.  I took the words from a Richard Scarry poem, and put them into a pocket chart.

We read and reread the pocket chart often.  I called on children to come up and point to each word.  It was a great opportunity to reinforce all those concepts about print:  pointing to each word, sight words, pausing at commas, etc.

We completed one page at a time.  We also read books and did activities that tied in with all different kinds of transportation.

Sometimes we sponge painted vehicles on the cover, other times the children just drew vehicles, sometimes we used tracers.   I got the sponges from those little capsules that dissolve in water and turn into sponges!

The children always loved to make any kind of project that moved, or they could play with.  We attached the wheels with brad fasteners so they would really turn.  Although I didn’t add details to this sample the children usually drew in a road and lots of features on the car.

We sang a take off on Old MacDonald had a Farm – Old MacDonald had a car – EIEIO, and on that car he had a horn, etc.  Another good one is The Wheels on the Car Go Round and Round.  Sometimes we brainstormed parts of a car – we either labeled a large simple car shape using interactive writing, or we made a list on chart paper.

We glued the plane onto a strip of tagboard about 1 inch x 6 inches, then cut a slit in the cloud and through the blue page.  The strip slipped into the cut and the plane could ‘pop up.’  We also used brad fasteners to put a propeller on the front of the plane.  My kids got very good at using brads – they put the paper on the carpeted floor to poke them through.

I had a couple different versions of the boat page.  Sometimes I put a boat into an Ocean Book – and then I needed a different boat for this book.

We live in an area with many lakes, we always talked about wearing life jackets in boats!

Here is another boat option – the oar is on a brad fastener, and an anchor is attached to a piece of yarn so the kids can lower it into the water!

Of course we had to read The Little Engine That Could when we talked about trains!  The barrier could raise and lower.

We did some sorting and classifying – vehicles that go on land, sea and air.

There are so many wonderful books that fit into a study on transportation.  In my public library they have a resource book called From A to Zoo.  It lists great children’s books according to subjects – so you could look up cars or boats, and find a wealth of titles!  This unit was also great for encouraging children to read environmental print – like traffic signs, logos, etc.  I am going to dig through the files I kept and try to share more of the rich and fun activities my kids loved.

Here are the masters for the cover and words:

book pages