Transportation Messy Play Kit Guide

Transportation Messy Play Kit Guide

Transportation Kit


Ready to dig into your Transportation Messy Play Kit? On this page you'll find detailed step-by-step instructions, ideas to extend the learning, and some links to other resources. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about your kit. Now go get messy!

Jump To:
Water Maze
Bus Sensory Bag
Washi Tape Roads
Ice Boats
Additional Resources
More Messy Play Kits

Water Maze

1. For this activity, you’ll need a vertical wall in a waterproof area. For example, a patio wall, a fence, the side of your house, or even the walls of a bathtub or shower. You’ll be setting up the tubing to travel down the wall. You can make it go diagonally from one side to another, or bend back and forth. Come up with a plan for how you want the tubing to go, and then use the suction cups with zip ties to attach the funnel to your wall. The zip ties thread through a small hole in the suction cups, wrap around the tubing, and feed back through themselves and pull tight to hold. (If you have a fence, you can just use the zip ties).


2. Place the funnel in the top of the tubing.

3. Use scissors to cut the top off of one of the large liquid watercolor pipettes (either one!) and empty the contents into a large bowl of water. Place an empty bowl of water under the lower end of the tubing (the end without the funnel).

4. Scoop some colorful water into the funnel and watch how the water travels down the tubing. Does it make it to the empty bowl? Or does it get stuck in a bend in the tubing?

5. Keep going! Transfer all the colorful water from one bowl to the other using the funnel and tubing. Then move the tubing around and try different positions! What happens if it’s a straight line? What happens if it bends down and goes up at both ends, like a U shape? How many bends can you make?

What are they learning?

  • Real life connection: Funnels and tubes or pipes are crucial ways of transporting liquids and gases. The water you have in your house comes from pipes that bring you clean water, and then goes down a drain into a sewer or septic system. If you have propane or natural gas, those also travel through pipes in your house. Aqueducts are huge pipes used to transport water across states, and have been around since the ancient Egyptians and Romans! (Look up the Pont du Gard to see an ancient Roman aqueduct that’s still around!)
  • Science: water is an interesting material. It flows with gravity, but sometimes it can flow upwards, seemingly against gravity! This is called a siphon. It happens when there’s an upward angle followed by a longer downward angle of tubing, and the weight of the water going down pulls the water upward and creates a flow. It’s tricky to make happen- can you get it to work on your tubing?

Bus Sensory Bag

1. Open the sensory bag and remove the pipette of liquid watercolor. Use scissors to cut the tip of the pipette and empty the contents into the bag.

2. Add 1 cup of water, and carefully seal the bag shut, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. It helps to lay the bag down flat as you slowly close it, letting the air escape while the bag flattens. For extra security, you can tape the bag shut if you’d like (tape not included).

3. Place the school bus paper on a flat surface, and place the sensory bag on top of it. 

4. Squish the beads around for a bit. Is it easy or hard to make them move around?

5. Try pushing the beads around so they are sitting in the bus windows, as if they are kids riding the bus. How many “kids” can you fit on the bus? Can you pick one bead to be the “bus driver” and put the mall the way at the front? Can you arrange the beads so they are sorted into color groups, on the bus or anywhere in the bag?

Note: if it’s too hard to move the beads around, try removing some of the water and any air bubbles. If it’s too easy, try adding more water to step up the challenge!


What are they learning?

  • Fine motor control and hand-eye coordination: pushing beads around inside of sensory bags is a great way to build these crucial skills! Because of the water, you may have to hold some beads in place with one hand while moving some with your other hand, which involves bilateral hand use, another important development for young children.
  • Math: this is a great way to practice simple counting and number recognition! As your child moves the beads around, simply comment on how many beads they put in a window, or how many beads you see of a certain color. You can introduce simple addition and subtraction by pointing out that your child had 3 beads and moved 1 bead away, leaving 2 beads left. Foundational math concepts such as the Cardinal Rule (the last number you say when counting is the number of items you have) and One to One Correspondence (each item gets only one number, and each number gets only one item) may seem obvious to adults but they are concepts that young children have to learn and understand.

Washi Tape Roads

1. Use the markers to decorate the wooden car. You can color it however you want- be creative! You may need to let the car dry for a few minutes after you’re done drawing. 

2. Clear off a large surface, whether it’s a table or part of the floor. You want at least 3’ in either direction, ideally.

3. Use the washi tape to build a road on your surface! You can make the roads as straight as you’d like, or as wiggly as you can with tape! Will you have intersections, loops, parking lots, or just one long road? Its your road the tape itself, or do you make a road using two pieces of tape, like the white lines on the edges of the road? 


4. Use the construction paper, markers, and scissors to make road signs for your road. Should your intersections have stop signs all the way around? Where can you put a yield sign? What do you want the speed limit to be, and should it be the same everywhere or change depending on the location?

5. Drive the car all around your road!


What are they learning?

  • Creativity: they get to color the car however they want, and the roads can be as plain or as whacky as they want!
  • Real life connection: roads vary so much around the world. Some roads are paved while others are dirt or gravel. Some are straight while others are twisty. Some are wide, some are narrow, some are for driving fast and others are for driving slow. As your child builds their road and drives the car around on it, comment about how their roads are similar or different from the ones in your community. Do you have stop signs or roundabouts near you? Stoplights? Wide, straight roads or twisty, narrow ones?
  • This is a great activity for introducing descriptive words, like in the last paragraph. There are so many types of roads out there, so try to introduce new vocabulary to your child. Search the internet for photos if you need to introduce a new type of road to your child.

Ice Boats

1. Use scissors to cut the top off of one of the large liquid watercolor pipettes (the one remaining after the Water Maze activity) and empty the contents into a small bowl of water. Pour the water into the 4 plastic containers.

2. Cut the foil in quarters, and cover each container with a piece of foil. Cut the straws in half, and place one straw vertically in each container, sticking out through the foil. These are your boats and the straws are the masts.

3. Place the containers in the freezer overnight or until frozen solid.

4. While the “boats” are freezing, use the markers and paper to draw sails for your boats! You can make them any shape, but most sailboats have triangular sails (look up photos online if you need inspiration). It might be easier to cut the paper into the shape you want and then color it, or maybe you want to color it and cut it down to size after.

5. When the boats are frozen solid, take them out of the freezer and remove and discard the foil. Cut a small hole in the top and bottom of your sail and thread it over the straw. Alternatively, you could tape it on (tape not included).


6. Fill a sink, bathtub or large bowl with water, and pop the boats out of the containers. Place them in the water to sail around! 

7. How do they sail? Do they stay upright or tip over? Do you notice one sail shape working better, or is there a straw length or placement that seems to be best? Can you blow on the boats or on the water to make the move? 


What are they learning?

  • Density: ice floats on water because it is less dense than water. Density refers to how much mass something has (how heavy it is) in relation to its volume (how big it is). An ice cube has a lot of air in it compared to water, which makes it lighter than water, so it floats. A huge and heavy boat can float for the same reason: it takes up a lot of space, so even though it weighs a lot, it can float on water because it has a low density. 
  • This concept can be confusing to kids, so you can practice with other objects in your house to play “sink or float!” Take a variety of small and large objects )that are waterproof!) and heavy and light objects and see if they sink or float. Try to find some that are surprising, like a heavy bowl that floats, or a small rock that sinks.

More Transportation Play!

There are so many ways to continue playing with and learning about all the types of transportation. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Check out these other transportation-related Messy Play products! The Construction Sensory Bin is a great complement to the Transportation Kit, as is the Cars Sensory Bin and the Vroom Vroom Messy Play Kit!
  • Make a kite? Paper airplane? Discuss all the ways people move with vehicles: cars, boats, planes, bikes, scooters, any others? What about without using those? (walking, running, galloping, skipping, hopping, jumping, twirling....). 
  • Sing "The Wheels on the Bus" with your kids, and then change it to "The Plane in the Sky" or the "Boat in the Water!" What other types of vehicles or modes of transportation can you think of that fit this song?
  • Use chalk and draw Hopscotch on your driveway or sidewalk, and encourage your children to move their bodies in different ways as they play! You can also turn this into a sort of obstacle course: have them fly like a plane (arms out as wings) in one section, drive like a school bus (big, slow, cautiously) for another part, row a canoe for another, and so on. 
  • Bring cars and trucks into the bath with great activities from Bath Activities for Kids, run by the Growing a Jeweled Rose blog. The actual pages are no longer valid, but you can see photos of the construction bath on Pinterest and get an idea of how much fun that would be!

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