Going Places

Children will investigate vehicle motion and make a painting

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

Children will investigate vehicle motion caused by wheels and make a motion painting.  


What You'll Need

Note: You will need to search the Internet for an image of Time Transfixed by René Magritte

  • A large reproduction or digital image of Time Transfixed by René Magritte
  • Watered down tempera paints in squeeze bottles – 1 color per table
  • Toy cars and trucks
  • Disposable trays – 1 per table
  • Felt – cut to the size of the bottoms of the trays
  • Duct tape
  • White butcher paper

What To Do

Note: Prior to beginning the lesson, cover the tables with the butcher paper. Make paint pads by taping the felt to the inside of the bottom of the trays. Saturate the felt with the watered down paint.

  1. Discuss the different places the children have traveled (e.g., school, shopping, relative’s homes).
  2. Ask them how they get to the places they want to go (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  3. Display the artwork, and ask children to describe what they see (e.g., identify the vehicle and describe what it is about the train that allows it to move).
  4. Explain that this is a surreal painting and that the artist painted it as a fantasy (see Vocabulary and Did You Know?).
  5. Distribute the toy cars and trucks. Allow the children to play with them for a few minutes.
  6. Discuss what it is about the cars and trucks that help them to move.
  7. Have the children compare the toy vehicles with the train from the painting (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  8. Tell the children that they will be using motion to paint with the vehicles.
  9. Place the paint trays on the tables.
  10. Demonstrate rolling a vehicle over the paint-coated felt, and then push the vehicle to roll it over the paper.
  11. Have the children paint the tire tracks of the vehicles on the paper-covered tables.
  12. Discuss the motion of the wheels and the differences in the lines made by the different vehicles.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me some of the different places you have traveled.
  • Tell me the kinds of transportation you used to get there.
  • Explain what it is about vehicles that allows them to move.
  • Describe the vehicle in the artwork; where it is, what allows it to move, and whether it appears to be moving.
  • Explain the similarities/differences between the toy vehicles and the train.
  • Describe the motion of the wheels on the toy vehicles and on the train.
  • Explain what causes the motion of the vehicles.
  • Describe the difference in the lines made by the different vehicles.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Place a globe and some simple maps or a rug with roadways printed on it in the discovery area. Allow the children to trace routes with their fingers or with toy cars and trucks.
  • Allow children to continue the investigation of force and motion by making the toy vehicles available during free-choice time.
  • Introduce Magritte’s idea that everything that can be seen is hiding something else. Have the children look closely at the artwork, and then ask them what is missing in the picture. Ask them what they think might happen next.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children talk about different modes of transportation?
  • Could children explain that wheels allow vehicles to move?
  • Could children describe the vehicle in the artwork?
  • Could children compare the toy vehicles and the train?
  • Could children describe the motion of the wheels?
  • Could children describe the differences in the lines made by the different vehicles?


Did You Know?

Motion means moving, and it is caused by a force. A force can be a push or pull that causes something to move. Motion cannot be changed unless a force is acted upon it. The physical pushing of the vehicles across the paper is the force that makes the vehicles move. Additionally, once a toy vehicle is pushed across the paper and released, the force that would cause it to stop would be gravity. 

René Magritte was an artist who painted surreal, thought-provoking images. As in the painting, Time Transfixed, his paintings solicited unsettling thoughts. The train emerging from the fireplace causes the viewer to pause as if mesmerized by the image. The surreal images that Magritte presented in his artwork confirm his opinion that everything that can be seen is hiding something else. This statement is evident in perhaps one of his most recognizable paintings, The Son of Man, which is a self-portrait of Magritte wearing a dark suit and bowler’s hat with his face hidden by a green apple.  

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • vehicle – a thing used to carry and move people and things.
  • travel – to go from place to place.
  • surreal – noticeably odd or unusual.
  • fantasy – something imagined, as in a dream.
  • motion – the act of moving or changing places.
  • tracks – a series of marks left on the ground by the wheels of machines.

Lesson Tips

  • Ink pads can be used in place of the felt-taped trays of paint.
  • Have the children wear smocks to protect their clothing.


  • Forces Make Things Move (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Maisy’s Book of Things That Go: A Maisy First Science Book by Lucy Cousins
  • Move It! Motion Forces, and You (Primary Physical Science) by Adrienne Mason
  • Push and Pull (Rookie Read-About Science) by Patricia J. Murphy

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS