Last week we played with our Alphabet Garden and a commenter asked how I could make it for children who loved cars and trucks. This is the letter sorting game that I came up with for cars and trucks. You could do it as a magnet activity like we did or put it all on a sheet of contact paper like our alphabet garden, whatever best fits your child. This activity is part of our Alphabet for Starters series that is focused on making playing with letters fun and dynamic. This can be adapted to any level. For children just beginning to notice letters they can simply put the letters on the road. Don’t worry about sorting into cases. For older children use the letters to spell. Write words with a missing letter and have your older child fill in the blank. Here is what we did for my daughter who is familiar with both upper and lowercase letters and enjoys sorting them.
- Gather your materials. You will need some black construction paper, green construction paper ( scraps would work great), clear contact paper , pictures of cars and trucks ( mine come from wrapping paper) , self adhesive magnetic sheets, a white crayon, scissors, a marker and a cookie sheet from the dollar store.
- Start by making your cars and trucks. Cut the cars out. Add the letters. I didn’t do every letter in both upper and lowercase. I chose letters that my daughter has trouble with mixed in with some sure fire bets so she would be challenged but confident in her ability.
- Lay a large sheet of contact paper down sticky side up and lay the cars face down. Place another sheet on top to sandwich the cars inside. Or laminate if you have access to a laminator. I am very jealous if you do. Nothing gets a teacher ( even a former teacher) more excited than laminating something. Cut into individual cars and trucks.
- Add the magnets. Now if you have a child who is well past the putting things in their mouth stage cut little squares and stick them on the back of the cars. If you want you could also lay the whole laminated car on the sticky back magnet sheet and then cut . This will make it harder for the to peel any small piece off. Please always remember that all our activities are designed for children to do with a parent within arms reach and only if they are ready for the activity. You don’t have to make the pieces magnetic for the kids to have fun, it’s just a bonus.
- Make a simple road and some signs saying UPPERCASE ROAD and lowercase road . These give visual cues even for kids that aren’t reading independently . You can add magnets to these if you want too. Painter’s tape is a great choice if you are skipping the magnets but want these pieces to stay in place temporarily.
- Ready to play! This is what it would look like if I handed it to my 6 year old. For my almost 3 year old it looked like this. She ended up sorting all the letters but I gave them to her in bite size pieces so she wasn’t overwhelmed.
- She loves cars and trucks right now ( well really bulldozers are the best) so she was all into it. After the first few were put on she asked me for more. Remember to label what your child is doing and to sit back. If they ask for help be ready to support but don’t take over.
- The trickiest part for her were letters like w and o. She thought for a long time before placing them down. She just kept piling them on. And was insistent that she show it off at the end. I was impressed with how many magnets piled together still stayed in place.
Alphabeep!: A Zipping, Zooming ABC by Debora Pearson is a great book for older toddlers and preschoolers. The transportation themed book uses rhymes and colorful illustrations to go from A to Z. The text was a bit long for my young toddler but I shortened it and he was able to enjoy the book , children 2 and up will love it just the way it is! This is on my must buy list. Edited for 2013 : My daughter also loved this book and had me read it twice at the library which is a glowing review.
For more Alphabet Books check out our list of 50 Alphabet Books We LoveThis book review includes an affiliate link.
Shape School Bus
Tire Track Painting
Cut and Paste Garbage Truck
Letter r road
Race Car Crafting with Dad
Diaper Box Firetruck
Upcycled Mat Roadway
School Bus Photo Craft
Cereal Box Gas Pump
Milk Carton Fire Station
Recycled Vehicle Crayons
Drinking Straw Truck
Valentine’s Day Dump Truck
We can’t leave you out without some books too .
Lots of great car and truck book suggestions here.
Just because you haven’t gotten any snow doesn’t mean your kids can’t play with it! We are lucky enough to have a train table that my dad made ( he’s been hacking Ikea since before it was hip) and this week we took some time to play with pretend snow . This is a wonderful multi- age sensory activity and worked great for my 5 year old son and 18 month old daughter, they each explored and played learning different things but having the same amount of fun.
- Gather your materials. We used our train table , extra trains and some cotton balls. If you don’t have a train table grab a bath mat, large shallow bin or just a coffee table and set up some trains or trucks then add in the “snow”.
- Start by being a little goofy and pretending to be clouds that are snowing . Give the kids the cotton balls and let them decide where the snow goes. I talked to my son about weather, asked him to look outside and tell me if he thought it would snow today in our yard. For my daughter we focused on the color white and the word “soft” feeling the soft cotton balls in our hands and on our faces.
- Play. This is where some kids and many parents ( and even teachers) clam up. Now what? Here are some things we did that were fun.
- My son pretended to be delivering snow from one end of the train table to the other and we counted the snow as we loaded up the train, and then the pile when we dropped it off.
- My daughter had a ball putting the snow into the little train house , through the windows. Hello, fine motor and hand eye coordination practice!
- We made a blizzard.
- We pretended to be the wind and blowed the snow.
- And more play. What I loved so much about this was that it made the train table feel new again and we played with it and the snow on and off for days.
Books About Trains
Freight Train by Donald Crewes. Donald Crews’ Freight Train is a classic book. It is rather simplistic in nature, but it is good for the younger train fans as it talks about the different kinds of freight cars and teaches about colors. My son loved this book at 2 and will still grab it at the library and read it when we are there three years later.
Tracks by David Galef and Tedd Arnold is a hilarious book about a man named Arnold who is in charge of directing the crew who lays down the train tracks. Arnold’s glasses break, and his vision becomes a bit skewed. What will the mayor think of this wacky track? You’ve got to read it and find out!
Terrific Trains by Tony Mitton is another great book. My parents bought my son this whole set and at first I was sceptical of it just because it is a set and I guess I judged a book my it’s cover because I love all the books in the set. They are informative, fun, have great rhyming text and my son will sit for them and often requests them at bedtime too!
I love making things with items that would otherwise end up thrown away and with Earth Day coming up now is as good a time as any to reuse things for fun! This isn’t the first roadway we’ve made, we made this one ages ago and it’s still played with daily . If your child wants design and to make it go for it, my son decided he’d “Be the boss.” Which I am sure was a great change from being a kid and he still felt ownership and pride while playing with it knowing he was the designer. He’s already deemed this to be only for big kids and he is right – the tape used on this craft is not safe for babies or toddlers . If you are making this for a toddler I’d do this toddler friendly one instead.
- Gather your materials. You will need a green kitchen or door mat, black duck tape, additional colors of tape of your choice, permanent markers and scissors.
- Start by making a plain black road. I wrapped the tape all the way to the underside to prevent it peeling up.
- Now add the yellow lane markers.
- Time to talk about what sort of buildings to make. A fire station was not surprisingly my son’s first choice.
- Next up a police station.
- He couldn’t wait to get his vehicles on !
- A super market complete with parking lot was next.
- Here he is deciding where we should put houses.
- We also added a school, and a pond with fish.
- It was an immediate hit!
In The Town All Year Round (a perfect book match for this activity).
In the Town All Year ‘Round by Rotraut Susanne Berner is amazing.It’s premise are the comings and goings of a town in all four seasons. There is limited text, which serves only to steer readers to look for specific people in the highly detailed illustrations. Each season has multiple pages and the people remain constant throughout the seasons. So you see inside an apartment building , the town square, the park, railroad station etc… in every season. You see the changes in town, the progression and of course the distinct weather in each section. The pictures also progress within the seasons, so a fire truck with a flashing light can be seen on every page in one season with the last page showing it getting to the fire . I can’t possibly explain the amazing detail and sheer number of things to find, make up stories about and spark your child’s imagination in this book. My son adores it. After renewing it multiple times from our library I bought it as his 2010 Valentine’s gift. It goes everywhere with us, perfect for long drives , waits in the Ob’s waiting room and plain old playtime he picks it up every day and finds something new.
What I really love is that because there is no text but still multiple story lines it’s helped my son to understand that literacy isn’t just about words, it about explaining what’s going on, and reading the pictures too. The absence of text has allowed me to really show him that . Now he has started grabbing books with text and telling me he’d read me the pictures, which boosts both his confidence and his enjoyment of independent reading.
Edited for 2011: My son is still crazy over this book. When I am desperate for him to chill out so I can get my daughter down for a nap nothing keeps him occupied ( and quiet) like this book. It’s magic!
This activity is only for the brave or desperate… we have been home bound with an ear infection and we were all getting squirrely. I have been trying to motivate my son to write and draw more and doing it upright on an easel, wall or window is a great way to naturally use the muscles needed for writing. These window crayons are great but I have a few must follow tips that will make your adventure with this activity much easier to clean than ours. Do not miss them. Seriously.
- Gather your materials. You will need some window crayons, a window, a old dish towel wet on one side and dry on the other and some removable stickers if you want. Notice I have match box trucks in the picture. DO NOT use them… you’ll see why a little later on.
- Draw out some streets.
- Fill them in. Here is my 2nd ” Do as I say not as I do tip” Filling the roads in looked cool, but big flakes of black window marker fell onto my floor. They cleaned up easily but the one that I stepped on was troublesome. I left a little trail all over my kitchen that was reminiscent of those old Family Circle funnies. I am just thankful I didn’t go into my family room where there is carpet. Simply drawing on the window didn’t create these flakes, but the large amount needed to fill the road in did. Look for the flakes and clean them up quickly before they spread.
- Add lane markers.
- Add traffic signs.
- Add your kid to draw the buildings, parks and in my case police stations and fire houses . He loved it and although they may not look exactly like the fire house on your block, the fact that my son was drawing something made me so happy. At preschool he refuses to make any representational pictures saying ” I just like abstract.” so I feel great knowing we may be turning the corner without us pushing him.
- Listen carefully – learn from my oops. Do not add match box cars. He loved running them all over town , but of course their tires picked up the crayons and ….
- Did this. My window sill is normally all white. I blame my 6 month old’s lack of sleep last night for my inability to foresee this obvious result but decided to share my oops.
- Instead grab re usable stickers if you have them and pop them on.Remember peeling stickers are a good workout for fine motor skills too!
- When you are done , wash off. We only left it up for as long as he played with it. I have left the window crayons on for a long time ( think months) and it always comes off, it’s just a matter of how much elbow grease you feel like using. This came off easy peasy because it was only on for an afternoon.
Books About Trucks
The Three Little Rigs by David Gordon is a fresh twist on the classic Three Little Pigs with trucks instead of pigs. My son ate this book up, he loved it. The “wolf” in the story is a wrecking ball that smashes and crashes the Little Rigs garages , I thought he was a little scary but after reading the book I asked my son his favorite part and sure enough he said the wrecking ball. I loved the illustrations and was not surprised one bit to read that the author/illustrator has done work for Pixar.
My Truck is Stuck! by Kevin Lewis is a fun book full of great rhymes and funny illustrations from Daniel Kirk. The story is simple a truck is stuck and even though other vehicles come to help, nothing budges until a tow truck arrives. The best part is the cargo of bones in the truck are slowly stolen by hungry gophers while the others work to free the truck. It’s got a great message about helping people and the illustrations make me giggle, especially the guy in the moving van who is blowing bubbles. I have never understood that but it makes me laugh.
The Mighty Street Sweeper by Patrick Moore is a rare book, it’s rare because it is a story about self esteem clothed in a truck book. The street sweeper isn’t the biggest, the fastest or the most powerful truck but it’s still mighty and proud. I really like this book, we read it before nap and again before bed and I liked it even more the second time. The message about being happy with who you are is really touching . I liked that the book says that you don’t have to be the best at everything to still be proud of your hard work. My son really enjoyed this book as well and it was excited to read it again at bedtime.