Upcycled Mat Roadway

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Start by making a plain black road. I wrapped the tape all the way to the underside to prevent it peeling up.
  3. Now add the yellow lane markers.
  4. Time to talk about what sort of buildings to make. A fire station was not surprisingly my son’s first choice.
  5. Next up a police station.
  6. He couldn’t wait to get his vehicles on !
  7. A super market complete with parking lot was next.
  8. Here he is deciding where we should put houses.
  9. We also added a school, and a pond with fish.
  10. 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!


Window Roadway

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Draw out some streets.
  3. 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.
  4. Add lane markers.
  5. Add traffic signs.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 ….
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.

Truck Themed Kids Crafts

Over the years we have done many truck themed kids crafts and used them to learn about shapes, practice fine motor skills, pretend play and more! We are off on a road trip soon so I thought I would share some of my favorites with you today.

Shape Garbage Truck

Road r

Straw and Cap Truck

Traffic Light

Shape Fire Truck

Custom Roadway

School Bus

Books About Trucks

Three Little Rigs

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.

Road Builders

Road Builders by B.G. Hennessy was a birthday gift for my son in November and he was not interested at first. Maybe because of the plethora of lego that was taking over our house… however it has since become such a favorite he recently “read” it to my sister’s dog. It’s a story all about how a road is built , explaining what the crew does, and how each type of construction vehicle has a different role in building a road.  I like that it explains the process from start to finish, in just the right level of detail for preschoolers.  I also like that there is a female crew member and her participation is seamless .

Trucks Whizz Zoom Rumble

Trucks: Whizz! Zoom! Rumble! by Patricia Hubbell was another hit with my son. The book is about all the trucks that one can find on the road, from armored trucks to diggers and of course garbage trucks! My son is a huge garbage truck fan and was elated when there wasn’t just one but two in this book!  The text rhymes and chugs along well with the whimsical collaged illustrations by Megan Halsey.  Many of the drivers in the book are animals and when I asked my son if elephants really drive trucks he looked at me seriously and said ” Sometimes they do! ” , regardless of my son’s take on reality he really enjoyed this book and if your child is as into trucks as he is they will too.


Trucks Roll! by George Ella Lyon got a huge compliment from my son today when we read it. When he really really wants more of something not only does he ask for it with words but the sign language he learned so long ago comes out. This book got the “More Trucks!” out loud and the frantic more signs! The book is the perfect length for 2-4 year olds who like my son love anything you can drive. It also explains well what trucks drivers do and how so many things make it from one place to the next. Cute book, worth a read for sure!


I'm A Truck

I’m a Truck by Dennis Shealy is about Big Blue Bill a big rig on his way from the Big Tuna to the Big Apple! As he travels along the highway, stops at trucks stops and runs into road construction he visits with his truck friends. Most every type of truck is covered in this book and the illustrations by Bob Staake are so detailed that you can spend extra time just finding things on each page. All the trucks are anthropomorphized and some hilariously so. I am quite fond of a logging truck named Leif who had a beard and toque ( winter cap for non Canadians ) , he makes me giggle. My son loves the part where Big Blue Bill is stuck in city traffic behind a garbage truck who is stinky!  The text is a good length and I have a feeling this will be a favorite for a while at our house.

I Love Trucks

I Love Trucks! is about all sorts of trucks from firetrucks, bulldozers, ice cream trucks and of course garbage trucks!  Each page has simple text that gives a brief description of the main action each truck does like roll, dump, dig etc… My son eats this book up even though he enjoys much longer book as well. The illustrations by Shari Halpern ( who also illustrated many others of this author’s ) are bright bold and have a cartoon like quality that grabs young children’s attention.

Don’t miss out on our 1st Annual Summer Reading Challenge . There are prizes and lots of learning to be had all summer long!


Letter of the Week – Guest Post !

Train & Tracks t !

T for trains

I am blessed to have wonderful creative readers and this post comes from Stephanie at The Helping Mommy. I loved the simplicity of this craft , but the learning potential is big. Trains and tracks are both wonderful t words that even the youngest letter of the week artist can relate to.

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Train tables, train rugs, tracks on the floor….most kids will play trains anywhere that there is a hard surface.  With this project, you can teach about lowercase t while helping your kiddo make a new and interesting surface to run his or her trains on.

  1. We cut the “t” shape out of brown construction paper.
  2. Pasted it onto regular white copy paper.
  3. We drew racks with crayons and extended the tracks out to the edge of the page.
  4. My son plastered train stickers on the tracks. ( remember peeling those stickers are an all important fine motor skill too!)

We wanted to preserve the “t” look as much as possible for this project, but feel free to add grass, trees, cows or any other embellishments that you can think of.  Somehow we were completely out of Thomas the Tank stickers, otherwise those would have been on there too.

Train Books

Thomas The Tank

Thomas and the Shooting Star by W.Audry
My son is a BIG Thomas the Tank Engine fan, though I’ll have to admit that not all of the books pass muster in my opinion.  Thomas and the Shooting Star is one of the cuter Thomas books that talks about how Thomas struggles to fall asleep.  Gordon tells Thomas the tale about how shooting stars go around helping engines fall asleep.  Follow Thomas on this nighttime adventure as he follows the shooting star and chases sleep.

Frieght Train

Freight Train Big Book 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.

chugga-chugga-choo-choo

Chugga Chugga Choo Chooby Kevin Lewis
Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo is a sweet book that takes a train-trip through a little boy’s room.  This book reminds me of my boy because he used to literally play with trains ALL day long.  The pictures in this book are jut adorable, too!

Tracks

Tracks
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!

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Stephanie Dakin is a mommy to a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old.  She enjoy helping other parents by sharing some of the insight that she’s gained ‘deep in the trenches’ of parenting.   You can find  her at The Helping Mommy . She is currently participating in a blog internship and also writing at Crafts for Kidlets.