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Trains, planes and automobiles: Why preschoolers love transportation

Seriously. What’s with preschoolers’ fascination with transportation? Generation after generation of kids gravitate toward planes, trains and automobiles practically from birth. Find out what’s behind this intrinsic love of all things mobile.

preschool boy playing with trains

Big wheels are a big deal

In their short lives, preschoolers may not have had a chance to see much of the world — but they’ve certainly spent a lot of time in the car! Think of the hours you’ve spent driving the kids to school, the grocery store or Grandma’s house. Those little eyes have been watching you grip that great big steering wheel, go on green and stop on red. Little ears have listened to the roar of the engine when the car starts, the honk of the horn behind you when you don’t see the green turn arrow and the siren on a passing fire truck. If you’ve taken the kids on an airplane or train, they know the excitement of boarding, buckling in and feeling the rush of adrenaline as the trip begins. If they haven’t yet experienced their first plane or train ride, they’ve certainly seen airplanes in the sky and trains on TV and wondered what it’s like to zoom through the clouds or chug down the tracks. Transportation is all around them, and kids seek to know and understand the world they live in.

Learning through play

Did you know that kids are doing more than having a good time when they play? Study after study has shown that children literally build their brains through employing their senses and interacting with their surroundings while playing. They learn to take turns and work together with other children. They develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills by experiencing real-life challenges. This deep, rich learning experience is something that doesn’t happen when kids play a game on an interactive device. So take away the iPad and encourage your kids to play trains… or airport… or car wash. When it comes to transportation, the options for imaginative play are endless.

Ideas for transportation play

Enrich your preschooler’s playtime with these transportation themed activities.


Fill shallow plates or trays with paint and set out an assortment of small vehicles and large sheets of paper. Have the kids dip the wheels in paint and roll them across the paper. This is a great way to get transportation-loving children who may not normally love art activities to try something new.

Pretend play

Set up a pretend airport, with a counter for kids to buy and sell their airplane tickets, empty suitcases to pack for the trip and chairs to serve as airplane seating. This activity is great for a small group of children. Sit back and watch as they create situations and solutions you probably would never have considered.

Snack time

Cut apples into wedges and cut grapes in half. Set out the apple wedges and grape halves, along with a bowl of toothpicks. Show kids how to carefully push the toothpicks through one grape half, the apple wedge, and then the other grape half, doing this twice on each wedge. When they’re done, they’ll have a little edible car. You can also try this with bananas, cucumbers or cheese.

More for parents of preschoolers

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6 Great toys for preschool boys
Best toys to donate to your preschool

Watch: How to leave your toddler at preschool without tears

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