Car Tracks

Rolling a motorcycle down the slide

My children, Miss 2 and Miss 4, have been interested in cars for a while now. Their dad has fancied up our Honda Civic to make it look like a racing vehicle. He also does his own oil change, tire swap and general maintenance. The girls play car racing video games with him and our eldest has helped him change oil. I’ve rented car books from the library to supplement their enthusiasm and we did a STEM activity, which I will share with you!

The car tracks activity is a great introduction to track making and referencing, as it involves toys from the children’s play environment that are meaningful to them, that they see frequently, and have some strong and distinct tracks. We chose a variety of sturdy vehicles for this science activity, including a remote control truck, a match car, and a Paw-patrol motorcycle, as well as a few others. Alternatively, you could use textured balls, especially for babies and toddlers.

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Two different vehicle tracks on the paper

In our house, we have a play structure with a slide, so we used that as our ramp. You could alternatively use an outdoor slide, a wobble board, or make a flat surface with a piece of large cardboard. I recommend having sides to the cardboard, if you go that route, since it keeps the paint covered cars on the paper. We covered it with paper roll and taped off the top and bottom with painters tape. We had the vehicles land in a tuff tray at the bottom of the slide to keep them contained. The children could pick the vehicles up from there and bring them back to the top of the slide for another turn.

View from above

Different vehicles made different shaped tracks that were made visible with the paint. We used black paint, though you could use an assortment of colours. I put a thick strip of paint at the top of the slide, for simplicity, though alternatively you could run the cars through a thin layer of paint on a separate tray and place them at the top of the ramp.

Tracks from cars and trucks

The next part of the activity involved labeling the tracks. I singled out a track with a blue paint stick and asked my 4 year old to identify the vehicle that made the track. She picked a car to test. We made a print on a separate piece of scrap paper. She brought her resource sheet over to the track on the slide to confirm her prediction.

Comparing the reference sheet to one of the tracks on the slide

Clean up involved washing the wheels of the vehicles and is best done right away so the paint doesn’t dry. We took the paper off the slide. I’m planning to take some more photos with it as I intend to make some beautiful worksheets and a few car activities for classrooms. I’ve done this activity in a kindergarten classroom a few times and doing it with my own children has helped me develop it further.

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