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Learn About Imports, Exports and Transportation for Kids

Updated on February 4, 2017

When you go to the toy store to buy a toy, you give the store money. They give you the toy in return. Buying and selling things like toys is called trade. When you buy a toy at a store you are trading your money for the toy. The toy you bought probably came from another country, most likely China. Have you ever wondered how the toy you bought actually got to the store from a faraway country?

Like people, countries engage in trade. They buy and sell things. When one country buys something from another country, it's called an import. When a country sells something to another country, it's called an export.

Container ships transport goods like toys around the world
Container ships transport goods like toys around the world

What Are Imports and Exports?

Your toy was most likely an import. Most toys sold in America are made in China. The toys are then imported into America. This means that the toy was brought into America. The factory in China that made the toy gets money in return.

A lot of airplanes are made in America by a company called Boeing. These airplanes are exported to many other countries. This means that they are sent to other countries. Boeing gets money in return for selling the airplanes.

Port means “to move” or “to carry.” Im- means in. So import means to carry or move in. Ex- means out. So, export means to move or carry out.

Large cranes are needed to load and unload container ships
Large cranes are needed to load and unload container ships

Ports and Shipping

Your toy had to be exported, or sent out of China. First, it had to go through a port, which has lots of ships. Your toy was loaded onto a container ship, also called a cargo ship or freighter, filled with lots of other things. Your toy was then transported, or moved, across the ocean. It takes close to two weeks for the ship to travel from China to the United States.

It arrived at its destination port and was removed from the container ship. It was stored in a warehouse before being taken to the toy store. Big cranes are needed to put the containers on the ships and take them off again at their destination ports.

Freight Trains

If you live close to a railway line, you probably often see trains filled with huge rectangle shaped containers. The containers have words like Cosco, Hanjin, Maersk, Matson and K Line on the sides. These are the names of shipping companies. They own the container ships that transport or move goods around the world.

You may see "doublestacked” containers on some trains. One container is put on top of another. Doublestacking allows each train to move far more containers than a singlestacked train could.

Freight trains move the containers to ports or to warehouses. Trucks are also used to move containers around. Warehouses store goods until they can be taken somewhere else.

Your toy was transported or moved around in many different ways before arriving at the toy store. It had to be transported on ships, trains and trucks to travel the long distance from the factory in China.

Transportation Vocabulary


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      7 months ago

      This was helpful

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      8 months ago

      I find it really interesting

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      im gay 

      20 months ago


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      3 years ago

      what an amazing explanation. it really helped. I struggle with this so it really helped. thank you so much


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