When talking about what's in our environment, we talked about dramatic play props. Imaginary play is one of the primary ways that young children learn, digest, and explore information. Our children spend the whole day pretending. They insist on being referred to as various characters, give personalities to the cereal boxes, and act out scenarios with their baby dolls. When they pretend about trains, my son is always the engineer and my daughter is always the conductor. They have their roles and take them very seriously. After giving due attention to my son's interest in cranes, I thought we should talk about cabooses and conductors a little as well.
Just outside of Jackson, MS in the town of Madison there is a red caboose on Main Street. It is a real caboose and well preserved. We drive past this all the time on our way to and from places and my kids call out CABOOSE every time. This isn't technically a tourist stop. There are no tours or guides. It is however a life sized caboose that isn't flying by us on a track. To me, this presented an opportunity. So one morning late last week, we stopped. We parked, grabbed our camera and notebooks, and headed up to check out the caboose. It is big. My daughter commented over and over that "the caboose is really long long long." They also delved into imaginary play, both pretending to be conductors shouting "all aboard."
After they explored for a bit, we sat down on the grass and drew pictures of the caboose. My daughter drew lots of long lines and repeated to herself her observation about how long the caboose is. My son was fascinated with the large wheels. Both depicted their observations in their journals. I made sure to take pictures of the caboose we could study it again later at home.
It was a quick trip. We probably spent about 30 minutes looking at the caboose up close, drawing and talking about it. It is this kind of simple, quick, authentic experience that helps to bring concepts from books and play alive.
*In honor of Picture Book Month (and because books are always awesome), read some books about cabooses. Here are a couple favorites:
The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter
The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill Peet
*Take your drawings and pictures and use other materials to make representations of the caboose. Some ideas:
-Clay and Gems or Buttons
Are there real life trains to visit in your area?
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