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Trains!: Summer Camp at Home week 6

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Trains!: Summer Camp at Home week 6

Kids have fun with trains!

We are finally at the week of Summer Camp at Home that my 5-year-old has been waiting for all summer: Trains! My three-year-old is crazy about trains, too. It must be contagious.

Sadly, this is also the last week of regular summer for my 5-year-old. He will be in summer day camp with his occupational therapist leading right up to the start of kindergarten. Sniff, sniff. I still plan to include him in the continuing Summer Camp at Home plans, but I also want him to have some down time when he’s not at day camp.

This week, as always, I know we will build train tracks here and there in the house and pretend we are on a train. We will read our train books and watch Thomas and Friends DVDs (including the latest, Schoolhouse Delivery). But we have some other special fun things going on, too:

- Play and learn: My sons love to pretend they are train conductors or engineers. Sometimes they line up chairs in a row and I am a passenger on one of the chairs — and I have to give them my ticket. We travel to far-off places. There’s a pretend dining car and a pretend sleeping car too. We also put together train tracks and play with trains. If you don’t have your own train set, ask to play with a friend who does!

- Field trip: We are going to take two special field trips this week. First, we are going to ride our regional metro commuting train to another city. The boys are excited about that! We are also going to visit a local railroad museum that has engines and coaches to tour, as well as brief train rides. Find a railroad museum here.

- Geography: My oldest loves to think about train tracks and where we go. It could be crazy, but I think I will zoom in on a track on Google Maps and we’ll follow it somewhere on screen to see where it goes. Older children can do this on their own and track a route between stations. Or, ask them to use Amtrak.com to plan a pretend trip.

- Crafts: Paint and cut out a train like this one. Which leads to another train activity from the same site….

- Math skills: This train-themed math looks really fun! Another math skill related to trains is time, because trains have to be on time. Help your child get used to telling time with a teaching clock from a bookstore (or within a book about time). Have older children who already know how to tell time add or subtract hours: If we need to get to our friend’s birthday party at 10 am and it takes us 30 minutes to get there, what time do we need to leave?

- Language skills: Because my boys love trains so much, we already have a lot of train books. Still, we manage to find train books at the library that are new to us. Some of our favorite train books include Freight Train by Donal Crews; The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter; The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper; The Book of Classic Trains by Elizabeth Cameron; The Train by David McPhail; Big Book of Trains, Jane Yorke, ed.

- Cooking: Use graham crackers and sandwich cookies to form the shape of a train snack. (Ours will be gluten-free.)

- Music: There are a number of folk songs about trains, and we have a few of them from various children’s albums we’ve collected over the years. We also love Choo Choo Soul, who sing about trains and other fun topics. We love listening to their album and even saw Choo Choo Soul in concert earlier this year at SeaWorld!

- Fine motor skills: This week’s craft project requires fine motor skills (as most craft projects do), and we are still working on handwriting and coloring. Building train tracks and putting together Mega Bloks trains use fine motor skills too — and the kids have fun while doing it.

- Science: Old-fashioned steam engines run on steam, created by heating up water with a coal or wood fire. The steam powers the pistons that move the wheels. If you can carefully heat up water in a teakettle or saucepan and show your kids how steam is created from water, that would be an easy mini science experiment. (You can also then freeze the water into ice and show them how water can be a solid, a liquid and a gas.)

- More: Every third weekend, which happens to be next weekend at the end of our train week, a local group of volunteers run their live steam engines for the public at a county park. So we will be sure to take a ride. These are 1/8th scale engines you ride on, following a narrow track. My oldest loved riding the trains in the park so much that my husband signed our family up for a membership to the live steam club! Now my husband and son help repair the track and other facilities. Find a live steam club here.

You will probably find other train-themed fun where you live.

Make it a great week!

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