A popular theme amongst toddlers and preschoolers is always transportation and particular trains. There is something really magical about trains that captures their imagination. Taking that interest and incorporation it into hands-on learning and playful learning is fun. Today we have a build your own train that we then use for some maths work based on the book Freight Train by Donald Crews.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Freight Train by Donald Crews

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Freight Train by Donald Crews is a classic picture book and perfect to read with toddlers and preschoolers. For the train enthusiast, it introduces the different types of train carriages that you may find on a freight train, for others, it’s a great way to work on colour recognition. We’re using the idea of a freight train to work on counting by filling up the carriages of the train with different objects and counting them out.

Materials Needed

A set of coloured counters – our freight train became a circus and a market train using the collections of Animals and Fruit that we have in our learning resources

Train and Freight Carriages printable – either sign up for our weekly Book Based Activities Newsletter or purchase this in our store

White Cardstock

Printer

Cutting Mat – mine is a self-healing cutting mat which can also be used for fabric cutting with a rotary blade I find having a double purpose one reduces the need for storage

X-acto Knife – mine is part of a scrapbooking set but works really well instead of scissors to cut out the playables we have been making recently

Glue Stick

Velcro Adhesive Dots

Preparation

Download your Freight Train and print on cardstock.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Cut out around the train carefully.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Where the scissors show cut up to the join between two or more lines.

Score lightly between the train part and the empty rectangle and repeat then along underneath the train parts to the end.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Fold the train and carriage together and stick along the end flap, and one of the large bottom flaps and 2 small bottom laps. Form it together so that the flap with no glue is the last one that you fold to form the base.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Leave to dry.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Attach a hook part of the velcro dots to the end of the train engine and then place the eye part on top. Join the first carriage on and then pull apart. You will find the hook part of the velcro on the engine and the eye part on the carriage. Repeat with the other train carriages.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Now you are ready to play!

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Freight Train Counting Game

There are a few variations that you can play with this and I have included some of these other suggestions below but this is the easiest way to play and how we started off.

Set up your freight train with 1 carriage – add to the carriage some of the cargo.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

You could predetermine how many you want your child to fill the carriage with or you could randomly choose a number each time. I like doing this with a small bag filled with magnetic numbers that we then pull out the number from.

*Your child is working on counting using 1 to 1 correspondence here*

Once the carriage has enough cargo in then attach another freight carriage.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Fill up the carriage with the cargo for this carriage.

Continue with as many carriages as you want to fill up.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Now take your carriage to the unloading and help your child count out the number of items that the train has carried.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

*For young children this is the start of learning about addition*

Additional Activities

The game idea above is the ssimplest form of game you can develop it how you want – perhaps you would like them to match the colour of the counters you use to the correct carriage from a selection you have pre-sorted out.

Maybe you are working on counting in 2’s, 5’s or 10’s then fill up with these number of counters and count out the carriages as they go through a chair tunnel how much cargo the freight train has – you may want to print off more carriages for this.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

If you want to show doubling fill one carriage with a set number and another carriage with the same number. Now count them out at the unloading point. Repeat but count out all of the cargo and then divide between the two carriages equally showing halving.

I am sure as you work with the carriages you will come up with all sorts of different ideas – if you do please come back and let us know.

Work on literacy with your child using toy trains for a beginning sounds activity.

Additional Train Resources for Your Toddlers and Preschoolers

Duplo is always a favourite and this learn to count Duplo Train is perfect for your toddlers and young preschoolers. Whilst they play they will be learning to recognise numbers, match colours together and place numbers in the correct sequence.

Help your child learn their name with a Name Train – not only does it make a beautiful gift but it also will help them learn the letters that make up their name and how to read it. Check out these handmade name trains that can be found on Etsy.

This fun Number Tracks game lets you and your child build your own board game themed around trains to work on counting. Count out the number of items you land on or read the number – and it’s never the same configuration twice.


And our favourite of all time train resource – it has to be our Brio Train Set – we started off with a simple set like this Brio Farm Set and added in extension packs and other items over the years. Perfect for imaginative play.

More Transportation and Freight Train Themed Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Each week the coordinators and cohosts of the Virtual Book Club for Kids share activties, crafts and recipes inspired by the weekly theme and featured book. Check out this week’s ideas and inspiration below.

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Alphabet Train– Teach Beside Me

Freight Train Name Craft – Clare’s Little Tots

Train Carriage Counting Game – You Are Here

Transportation I SPY & Graph Printable – School Time Snippets

Train Track Card Game for Preschoolers – Preschool Powol Packets

Transportation Playdough Mat – The Moments at Home

Transport Sand & Water Play – My Bored Toddler

Chocolate Train Cookies – Inspiration Laboratories

Fingerprint Train Ornament for Kids – The Educators’ Spin On It

Freight Train Drawing Prompt – My Storytime Corner

Easy DIY Paper Train Table for Kids– Toddler Approved

Geometric Shapes Train – Mama Smiles

Pin this Freight Train Inspired Math Game to Play Later

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Share this Counting Game for Toddlers and Preschoolers with Others on Facebook

Create your own train and use it with counters to play this Freight Train by Donald Crews Inspired Counting Game ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Author
Cerys Parker

Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, high school teacher and mum. Realising that life doesn't have to be put on hold and you don't just have to survive whilst the kids are young she shares ideas to inspire you to LIVE with the kids, with activities to do together, recipes to cook and enjoy and family travel to make memories to last a lifetime.

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