In my eyes, The Polar Express is one of those rare, perfect picture books. From the first time this was read to me as a child it swept me away and hooked me forever. That might seem dramatic, but while I read many great picture books every year there are few spectacular ones. The ones that pair breathtaking illustrations with beautiful language and a perfectly paced story. The art and intelligence that goes into writing such a book is a true gift.
I’m gushing, I know, but I want you to understand just how excited I was to find this book on our Virtual Book Club agenda.
The first time I read this book to my twins they were infants and I’m sure they understood none of it. They have heard it every Christmas since and it has become one of their favorites as well. Being huge train fans it was easy to pull them into the magical ride of The Polar Express. Below is a story time inspired by this book. I have done this as a story time but also as part of a Polar Express Party. Enjoy!
Note: Our story times always have the same parts; We start with a hello song. Next, I read 2-3 books about a topic with a rhyme/song and group activity that works on a developmental goal in between each book. We end with a goodbye song and then head to the table. At the table there is an invitation of some sort that works on another one of the developmental skills they are building. These elements are all listed below so you can move them around into whatever order works for you!
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Featured Book: The Polar Express by Chris Van Alsburg
As I gushed above, The Polar Express is a magical book. It tells the tale of a young boy who is lying in bed on Christmas Eve. He hears a sound outside and when he looks out the window there in the middle of his block sits The Polar Express. It is a story of Christmas and Santa. It is a story of an adventure and magic. It is a story about believing. Brilliantly written to build suspense with carefully chosen words and illustrated with gorgeous paintings that could easily hang on a wall, this is a unique and wonderful story.
More Great Train Books to Read Aloud
If you are doing a Polar Express Party then obviously you will just read that book and then move on to activities. However, if you are doing a story time about trains then of all the many, many, many books we read about trains these are my top choices to read aloud.
Two Trains by Margaret Wise Brown
One of our favorite books by this renowned author. Creative concept, repetitive language, and fun illustration details. 2+
Rattle and Rap by Susan Steggall
Again and again and again we read this book. With its delicious sounds and detailed illustrations, our children loved this book about a train that rattles along to the sea. 2+
The Rain Train By Elena De Roo. Illustrated by Brian Lovelock
Stunningly illustrated book with delightful language it is a unique and wonderful train book. 2+
Songs + Rhymes about Trains
The Little Red Train Going Down the Train – Watch on YouTube
Down at the Station – Watch on YouTube
Group Activity: Polar Express Train Yoga
This Train Yoga routine was invented during the train project I did with my twins. My son was fascinated about how they work, creating the tracks, and the different kinds of trains. My daughter was primarily interested in the people. The jobs of the people that work on trains. She likes conductors the best.
This yoga routine was primarily created for her. It is active, social, and focuses on the people. With each pose there are ideas for pretending while you are in the pose. The imagination and singing involved helps to engage younger yogis. You can find a printable version of this routine below.
Train Yoga Routine:
Mountain Pose – Waiting for the Train. Put your hand over your eyes and look both ways for a coming train.
Lean back in Mountain – Pretend to be the Conductor, cup your mouth, lean back, and call all aboard.
Warrior 1 – Now you are the engineer. Pretend to start the train.
Warrior 2 – The train is moving now and steam is coming out. Move into Warrior 2 and pretend your arms are the smoke stack where the smoke is coming back.
Chair Pose – Pretend to be someone riding on the train. Sit down in the dining car. Imagine you are eating your lunch and looking out window.
Seated Pose – Sing Choo Choo song.
Choo Choo Choo Choo (X2) Up the Railroad Tracks
Choo Choo Choo Choo (X2) Then We Come Right Back
First We go to ____’s house, then we go to ____’s house
Then We Come Right Back.
Child’s Pose or Savasana – Get into the sleeping car for a rest.
Download Printable: Train Yoga Routine
The Goodbye Train is Leaving. (Watch on YouTube) from Jbrary
Polar Express Table Invitations + Center Ideas
Beginning Letter Sounds Train Ride from Rainy Day Mum
Polar Express Train Track Letter Puzzle from Adventures of Adam
Spell My Name on a Train from Powerful Mothering
Jingle Bell Count : Polar Express Printable from JDaniel4’s Mom
Christmas Train Sensory Play from Mama Smiles
Trains + Magnets Sensory Bin from Preschool Powol Packets
Learning Colors by Painting With Trains from Views from a Stepstool
Train Shapes from Craft Create Calm
Train Pretend Play Fun for Kids from Toddler Approved
Building a Moving Polar Express Train from The Educators’ Spin On It