The Little Engine That Could ABC Activity

“I think I can.  I think I can.”  How many times have you read those words?  I think every household probably has a copy of The Little Engine That Could on their bookshelf.

This month’s Virtual Book Club for Kids is all about a classic book that has inspired and delighted generations of readers. We paired two of our favorite things to play with to create an interactive alphabet activity to partner with the book.

Trains met letters in this alphabet activity for kids. It pairs great with The Little Engine that Could.

If you are new to Virtual Book Club for Kids here is a little background.  The Educators’ Spin On It, Toddler Approved and Rainy Day Mum have put together a wonderful line-up of great books to explore.  Talented bloggers share activities to compliment the books.  You are invited to try out as many of the ideas that you feel would be a good fit for your kids.

Now, on to The Little Engine That Could ABC idea.

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The Book: The Little Engine That Could


The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper is the story of a train carrying toys to the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.  But, it has broken down.  The toys and dolls meet several engines alongside the tracks and ask for help.  Engine after engine turns them down until the Little Blue Engine arrives.  Though the Little Blue Engine is small, having determination and a positive outlook can do wonders.  Those toys do make it to the other side of the mountain.

The Little Engine That Could Alphabet Activity

My kids love to play with trains and they use their magnetic letters all of the time.  But, I never thought about combining the two.  I don’t know why it took so long for the lightbulb to click for me.  They were a brilliant pairing!


Materials needed: train tracks, trains with cranes and magnetic letters

1. Have the kids create a train track set-up.  This could be done on a table or on the floor.  Generally, my boys prefer to build on the floor so that the tracks can go in all sorts of crazy directions.

You will want to have some magnetic crane cars included to ride the tracks.  Our favorites are Harvey, Kevin and Rockyfrom the Thomas the Tank series. We also have a generic version of a Cranky crane that sits next to the tracks.

2. Set out a container of magnetic letters (these are our favorites).


I just let the kids explore and incorporate the letters into their play.  It didn’t take long for them to realize that the cranes could lift the magnetic letters.

The Little Engine That Could train and letter play.

The crane cars carried the letters down the track.  Occasionally, I would inquire which crane was carrying which letter.

dropping letters off the train track

As the letters were dropped alongside the track I heard, “Down you go letter x.”

letters hanging from cranes in The Little Engine That Could

Letters hung off cranes.

letters blocking the track in this train play activity

And, they blocked the track.  My 3 year-old lamented, “Salty, I need you to push “T” off the track.”

Letting children play and tell stories is a wonderful way for them to build language skills.  Sitting on the sidelines and inquiring about their play also enhances their understanding and guides our future teaching.

So, pull out the trains and the magnetic letters and let the magic happen.

Now it’s time to see more great activities that compliment The Little Engine that Could book.  But, before you leave to see all the goodies… Have you signed up for our FREE newsletter?  Each week you get lots of literacy goodies delivered to your inbox.  Take a second and sign-up HERE.

Ok, now go off and explore!

virtual book club hosts

Train Themed Snacks by Toddler Approved

Train Color Sorting Activity by Mom Inspired Life

I Think I CAN Sight Word Activity by Still Playing School

Train Challenge with The Little Engine That Could by Preschool Powol Packets

Train Science with the Little Engine that Could by Inspiration Laboratories

Tracing Shapes with Trains by I Can Teach My Child

Easy to Make Train Math Game from 3 Dinosaurs

Counting On and Back with Trains by Rainy Day Mum

Build a Train from Mama Miss

About Jodie Rodriguez

Jodie Rodriguez is a mom of two young boys and an early childhood/elementary educator with over 18 years of experience. Jodie's passion is helping parents, teachers, librarians and anyone else interested in nurturing our youngest readers.


  1. Oh, how brilliant! We are trying this today!

  2. What a great idea! Trains always make learning more fun.

  3. Great idea! You could do so much with the magnets on trains!!

  4. We do have this book and it’s one of our favorites. We also have magnetic letters and trains! think my kids would enjoy carrying letters down the track.

  5. Very cute idea! I’m going to have to try this with my girls.

  6. Oh, I LOVE this idea! It looks like such a fun way to work on letters. Thanks for sharing with #made4kids.

  7. This looks so much fun – pinning it for inspiration for next week.

  8. I hunted this down from the Learn to blog group. I am LOVING your blog. Do you ever come up with creative ideas for books geared at tween/ teens? I am a homeschool mom & I am running low on creative ways to keep their interest.

  9. So much fun finding new ways to use letters with such a fun theme. Pinned to our Reading board for next week’s fun.

  10. My son would love this book and the activity – his two loves are trains and letters!

  11. This is a great idea! My daughters love the book and their trains have been neglected for a while. This would be interesting for us to try. ????

  12. This is fantastic! Thanks for sharing on #ToddlerFunFriday


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