Teachable Moments at the Railway Station

When caring for children it is important to remember that every experience is an opportunity to share some new knowledge with them. Curious by nature, children will spend a lot of time exploring and asking questions which should be encouraged as this is how they learn about the world around them. Even the mundane task of taking the train to work can become an adventure when looked at from the perspective of a child. There are so many things which we as adults pay little or no attention to but children will find fascinating and learn a lot from. A railway station presents lessons in vocabulary, math, safety and human interaction.

Upon arriving at a railway station, a child is presented with a wide array of objects and people that they may be unable to identify. Though it may seem dull or even annoying to you, take the time to identify some of these for the child and encourage them to ask you questions. Words like conductor, passenger, passenger car, freight car, platform, rails, engine and caboose will expand the growing vocabulary of a young child. Though these words may not be used in everyday conversation, any new words are a great addition to the vocabulary of a learning child. Older children can learn to identify the types of freight cars or passenger cars as well as learning terms like couple and uncouple to describe how the train cars attach to each other.

To expand their math knowledge, the youngest train passengers can practice counting the train cars or the seats inside or the passengers. They can also identify the different shapes on the train cars and platforms as well as categorizing the passengers (there are 6 children and 20 adults, for example).  Older kids can learn about money by counting out the correct amount to pay for their ticket or figuring out how much change they will get if they pay with a certain bill.

Learning to be safe in all locations and situations is extremely important for our children to become successful adults. Teach kids how to identify people who work at the railway station so they know who to approach should they become separated from you. Other important safety lessons include why not to play with a ball on a train platform, how close is too close to the edge, how to safely cross train tracks, watching your step while boarding, and using the hand rails if you need to stain while on the train.

As in any public place, this is a good time to review stranger safety and how to interact with others with children as well. Teach them to identify the people who work for the railway and help them point out people they feel uncomfortable talking to. It is important to teach them that not everyone is a danger to them and help them identify people who would be safe for them to approach should the need arise or even who they can share their newfound knowledge with.

Listening to the child’s questions and providing good answers is another important factor in any teachable moment. If you do not know the answer, be honest and tell the child that you will find an answer for them at another specific time. This may turn into yet another lesson for them as you show them how you found the answer either online or in a book. Every day becomes a lesson for children when looked at through this kind of lens.