Early Childhood Thematic Unit: Transportation




During this week, while on the road, count the different types of transportation you see.   For example, on a trip to the grocery store, we would count cars, trucks, bikes, motorcycles, planes, big trucks, vans, buses, pedestrians, and some of you may even see a train!  When you return home, record the number of each.  You may want to make a graph of your information.

Alphabet Train: This project can last all school year.  Print the Alphabet train and 26 alphabet train cars on colored paper.  Write a letter on every car.  As you learn new phonetic sounds of the alphabet, have your child find small pictures in magazines that begin with the appropriate letter and glue it to the correct car.

Make a train car:  Go to a local furniture or appliance store and ask them to save a refrigerator box for you.  Decorate the outside of the box like a train.  Cut windows.  Tape one end closed.  Your child can sit in the train car, have lunch there, read there, or have a great quiet time. If you have a child with sensory perception disorder, and they need quiet close places, this will be a favorite place to be.  The stores that have products that cost a dollar, have push on lights.  A couple of these will light up the box and your child can read and do school work!

Build a Car:  At the local grocery store, ask them to save a large box for you.  Decorate the box like a car.  For headlights, you can use duct tape and use the push on lights mentioned in the previous activity.  Add a steering wheel and cut a door.  You will have a great convertible car.


Shape Creations:  Give your child several precut basic shapes and see how many vehicles can be created.

Make a shape sailboat by printing Shape Sail Boat and attaching a straw through the sail (triangle) and to the trapezoid.

Map It Out:  Using a road map, have your child choose a place to begin on the map and a place as the final destination.  Using a marker or crayon, have him/her highlight the route to get to the destination.

Play Transportation Memory by printing 2 copies of Transportation Memory.

Use the Transportation Memory cards and play Go Fish.

Vehicle Sort and Count: Using toy cars, trains, trucks, etc, sort and count the vehicles.

Parking Attendant: Using a sheet of paper, draw out a parking lot and have your child park the cars.  How many can be parked per row?  Be sure and leave room for cars to back out.

Transportation Count Puzzle and the Transportation Clothes Pin Game can be printed, and used for counting and number recognition.

Transportation Word problems:  Using toy vehicles, make up word problems for your child to solve.  For preschool, up to 5.  “Your brother has two cars and you have three.  How many do you have in all?”  Print and use an ADDITION MAT for “kinesthetic learners”.  Don’t forget to give subtraction problems, as well.


Build a Vehicle: Using different building materials, like legos and flexiblocks, have your child build various vehicles.

Wheels are Tools:  To show the importance of wheels, place several wooden blocks in a box and have your child push the box.  Talk about how much energy it takes to push or pull the box.  Then, put the blocks in a wagon or wheeled cart.  Talk about how much easier it is to move heavy things with the use of wheels.

Inclined Plane:  Use a piece of wood and a stack of books to build an inclined plane.  Demonstrate how the slope of the plane affects the vehicles.  Remove some books and lower the plane.  Time the cars as they travel down each slope.  If you have enough books and wood, build two planes at different heights and race cars down both at the same time.  Which one gets to the bottoms first?

Land, Water, Air: Cut different modes of transportation from magazines and glue onto the Land, Air, Water page.

Soap Box Race Car and Toilet Tube Race Car. I have had these pdf files for years.  I do not know where I got them to give credit.  I did a search and could not find the original information online.  I would love to give credit for these marvelous ideas.

Try some of these “Raft Crafts” this week.

  • Tube raft:  Using three toilet paper tubes, connect together with rubber bands.  To keep the center tube from crushing, but bands around two and then add the third on the other side and band it with on of the others.  It will look like this:
  • tube raft
  • Soap Boat:  Using Ivory Soap (it floats), press the end of a craft stick into the soap.  Attach a colored triangle to the craft stick and you will have a raft.
  • Egg Cup Boat.  Cut foam egg cups from an egg carton.  These will float.  You could do “Rub a dub, dub, Three Men In A Tub” nursery rhyme with this project.
  • Make a boat shape out of aluminum foil.  How many pennies can your boat carry before sinking.  The one that will carry the most will be a flat sheet of foil with sides folded upward to form edges, but try many.
  • Foam meat trays make great boats, barges, and rafts.


Automobile Vocabulary:  Take a walk outside and look at the different parts of your car.  Identify the following parts and their uses: steering wheel, dashboard, hood, seats, mirrors, seat belts, fender, trunk, tires, doors, etc.

Airport Story:  Talk about the steps involved in taking a flight: deciding on a destination, buying a ticket, pack a suitcase, drive to the airport, check baggage, board the plane, fasten seat belts, take off, fly, land, depart from plane.  Have your child go into detail about each step. Can (s)he repeat the steps?

Talk about the lines on the road and what they mean.

Talk about different modes of transportation.  Print and cut apart the “Get There Quick” cards and have your child put them in order from slowest to fastest.  There is no “correct order,” but involve your child in discussion about which ways are faster than others.

Talk about, and have your child demonstrate, bicycle (tricycle) safety.


Milk Carton Vehicles.  Using pint, quart, half-gallon paper or plastic cartons, create vehicles by adding paper wheels, paper windows, etc.

Car Painting:  Using small cars, dip the wheels in paint and drive over a piece of art paper or card stock.

Transportation Mural:  Cut pictures of ways of transportation from magazines and glue them to a poster board or large sheet of butcher paper.

Bread Dough Sculptures:  Vehicles are a wonderful subject for sculpture.  To make the sculptable bread dough you will need:

  • 9 slices of white bread, crusts removed
  • ¼ teaspoon white vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons school glue

Put the bread in a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs are formed.  Mix the glue and vinegar together and add to the bread crumbs.  Rub a small amount of hand soap on your hands and mix the dough until it is silky.  Food coloring may be added.  I divide it into 3 or 4 balls and make each one a different color.  Allow the sculpture to air dry.

Egg Carton Bus: Using a cardboard egg carton, cut the top off.  Paint the top yellow.  Draw faces small enough to be seen through the holes in the center.  Tape the faces so they can be seen through the “windows.”  Write “School Bus” under the windows.

This is an example of what it will look like:egg carton bus

Recycled Airplane:  To make a jet, you will need

  • a paper towel roll
  • two toilet paper tubes cut in half
  • 1”x8” strip of white paper
  • one 6” circle of white paper
  • one 8” circle of white paper
  • glue
  • marker.

Paint the empty tubes white.  Cut the 8” circle and the 6” circle in quarters. Add the quarter 8” to the front of the paper towel tube with two pieces of toilet paper tube under each quarter to make front wings.  Add two of the 6” quarters to the back and one on the top to make the tail.

This is a rough drawing of what it will look like.  Forgive the rough curves.  I did it free hand on my mouse. paper tube plane

 Twinkling Traffic Lights: Using a half sheet of yellow construction paper, cut long ways, draw three circles in the center.  Brush glue on each circle and add red, yellow, and green glitter.


Fold an Airplane:  Teach your child simple steps to fold a paper airplane.

Seat Belt Success:  Sit in the car and have your child practice buckling and unbuckling the seat belt.

Complete the pictures: Have your child complete the pictures in Transportation Completion

Follow The Path Printable


Pretend to be airplanes and fly around the room and yard.

Pedal Music:  If you have an exercise bike, have your child pedal to the music.  Play snippets from different types and speeds of music.

How Do I Travel? Place several small transportation toys in a “feely” box or a brown paper bag.  Say, “I have a friend who needs to go to _____.  How can he get there?”  Your child reaches into the bag and feels for the toy that would best help your friend get to the destination.

BLOCKS:Use boxes and blocks to build a road or race track for your toy vehicles.


Make sailboat snacks:

  • Cut a hard boiled egg in half. Place a toothpick, upright in the egg.  Cut a slice of cheese diagonally to make a triangle and add to the toothpick.
  • Orange Sail Boats.  Cut an orange in half and remove the orange pulp with a spoon, to make a bowl from the rind.  Fill the rind with jello.  When the gelatin had gelled, stick a straw in the center.  Attach a triangular flag to the straw to form a sail boat.

Traffic light snack:

  • Break a graham cracker into quarters.  Spread with cream cheese, peanut butter, or chocolate frosting.  On each quarter use a red, yellow, and green M&M or Skittles.
  • You can also make a rectangular sugar cookie, spread with cream cheese, peanut butter, or chocolate frosting.  Use a strawberry slice for red, a apricot half for yellow, and a kiwi slice for green.

Make marshmallow trains. Use pretzel sticks to hook the “cars” together & use peanut butter to glue cheerios on as wheels & other features. Or instead of marshmallows for the body of the car you may use graham crackers.


Travel in the Bible: Talk about all the ways of travel, mentioned in the Bible. Each of the following are mentioned:

Donkey, Walking, Chariots, Boat, Horse, Camel, Cart, Mule

Can you find where these are mentioned in the Bible?


Brainstorm things we ride in/on.  As your child mentions things, keep a written list on chart paper or create a word wall.  A word wall will help your child begin writing about transportation.  Draw a simple picture or glue on a picture, beside the word to give a visual clue to help read the word.  After a list is created, make a graph or sort into groups.  Groups may be: Where do we travel with this mode of transportation? (land, water, sky). Graph by number of wheels: 0-18


Sign Walk:  Go for a walk in your neighborhood, or a drive, or a bike ride, and talk about the traffic signs you see and what they mean.  If you have a digital camera, take pictures of the signs you see, or do a search online for traffic signs. Print to make traffic sign cards and play a driving game with your child.  Have your child sit in a chair and pretend to drive.  Hold up a sign and have your child tell you what the sign means and “obey” the sign.  For example, with a sharp turn sign, your child will pretend to make a sharp turn.  If you have a $1 pool noodle, join the edges with duct tape and make a pretend steering wheel.

Airport Visit:  If you live near an airport, call ahead and get permission to go for a field trip.  Is there an airplane tour near you?  A place you can actually go inside an airplane?

Marina visit:  If you live near a marina, go and visit.  Ask about a boat tour.


Michael Row Your Boat Ashore

Wheels on the Bus

Down By the Station

I’ve Been Working On the Railroad

Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck

For more activities, lessons, and printables, join my Early Childhood Facebook Group.

I also have a transportation board on my Pinterest page, and a search of other Transportation Ideas

Next theme: Animal Habitats!

This entry was posted in Early Childhood, Education, homeschool, lesson plans, Preschool, prewriting, Thematic Units and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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