We know that planning activities around children’s interests promotes complex learning opportunities for children. Children choose to revisit the experience and with focused learning outcomes in mind they will build up skills over time. Here are some simple ideas extending learning for children interested in trains.
1. Promote Children’s Vocabulary and Speaking Skills: New evidence suggests reading regularly to children in early childhood increases their vocabulary for life (Snow 2013). Read stories about trains with lots of new words in them. Make up stories together and write them down, draw the pictures, look up and use lots of new words like caboose and carriage. Maybe even make a picture dictionary so that children can find words and write them later during play.
2. Numeracy and Mathematics: Children develop numeracy skills through play, everyday experiences and repetition. Baking is a great way to help children develop early mathematics skills. Bake gingerbread trains. You may like to measure the ingredients together, count the eggs and how many cups of flour. You can count how many carriages you make, and put four smarties on each carriage for wheels.
3. Support Children to Develop Social Skills: Role-play going on a train journey. You could practise buying the tickets and talking to the driver. Talk about what time the train leaves and what time you need to arrive. During roleplay you can model social situations; ‘ Granny doesn’t have a seat, and she’s very old- maybe the girl could move over for her?’
4. Promoting Physical Development and Fine Motor Skills: Support children to draw their own train carriages and cut them out. This encourages small muscle development and hand-eye coordination. Show children real pictures of trains to inspire their ideas. Glue them together in a line and display them.
5. Supporting Children to Develop a Sense of Identity and Belonging: Encourage each child to draw or paint their own train on paper. Take the child’s photo, print it and paste it on the train, in place of the driver. Use it to show where they put their bag or on their bedroom door.
6. Help Children Feel Connected to their World: Research what trains look like in different countries and print photos of them from internet. Talk about the differences, purpose, similarities, use, etc.
7. Support Children to enact their Right to Participation: The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child tells us children have the right to participate in decisions that affect them, and influence change in the world around them. Contact your local train station to find out if there is any upcoming work to the tracks or train schedules. Could the children find out information about projects on the railway and participate in community consultation about them?
8. Help Children Develop Creativity: Research tells us that it is super important children are allowed to come up with their own ideas (Sharp, 2001). Developing creativity in early childhood has lots of benefits which show across the child’s entire life, including better problem solving skills, imagination and ability to think as adults. Use real images of trains, or even better take children to see real trains. Allow children the opportunity to draw, paint or sculpture trains from their imagination, or from observation. Stay away from stencils that stifle children’s ability to develop and use their own ideas.
Fernald, A., V.A. Marchman, & A. Weisleder. 2013. “SES Differences in Language Processing Skill and Vocabulary Are Evident at 18 Months.” Developmental Science 16 (2): 234–48.
Snow, K. 2013. “New Research on Early Disparities: Focus on Vocabulary and Language Processing,” NAEYC (blog), October 29.
Sharp, C. (2001). ‘Developing young children’s creativity through the arts: what does research have to offer?’ Paper presented to an Invitational Seminar, Chadwick Street Recreation Centre, London, 14 February [online]. Available: http://www.nfer.ac.uk/research/papers/ creativity.pdf [13 January, 2004].