Tuesday, November 6, 2012

{Ten for Tuesday} Things That Go Series - Week #1 - TRAINS!!!!

Wild Thing LOVES trains. He loves all things that go, but trains seem to rank up at the top of his things that go list, so I have decided to do a Ten for Tuesday series featuring activities/crafts/books about things that go and had to start with trains (although, I suppose last month when we did a round up of Fire Truck activities, it could/should have been part of the series too!). Please enjoy these ideas for ways to have fun and learn with trains:

1. Reading with Trains - There are so many great train books out there. In fact, many of our favorite books in general happen to be train books.Freight Trains by Donald Crew seems to be toward the top of many train book lists, including a favorite of the crew over at In Lieu of Preschool. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (we have a vintage copy that belonged to my father and a board book version of the story) is a classic. Over at Frogs + Snails + Puppy Dog Tails they recommend Thomas the Train books, which (of course) Wild Thing adores. What Do We Do All Day recommends I’m Fast by Kate and Jim McMullan and another reader recommended Tootle by Gertrude Crampton. I am putting both on our library list. For now, here are our most frequently checked-out-of-the-library train books.

2. Riding Trains and Visiting Train Stations - A train station play date is a definite hit whether you ride or not - often watching the trains is enough. I love how The Pleasantest Thing took along trains and books to play with and read at the station. (Many kid play areas have small trains to ride or if you live in an urban/suburban area the subway and commuter rails are lots of fun for kids). In Southern California, we love Irvine Park Railroad and the pretend train at Underwood Family Farms

3. Learning with Trains - The Pleasantest Thing shares how they use trains to learn/reinforce key math and science concepts like numerical order, grouping, classification and more. I also love this color matching and letters activity from Inspiration Laboratories using the great book Freight Trains by Donald Crews. We did something similar with our paint chip trains.
Image from The Pleasantest Thing
4. Making Train Art - From painting with trains to making trains using recycled materials, trains can be a great source of inspiration for art activities, particularly for transportation-obsessed little ones (like mine) who may, at times, be reluctant artists. I LOVE this fingerprint freight train from Craft to Art also inspired by the Donald Crews book, and this activity from Mama Smiles brings art and learning together with cut and paste trains made from shapes. Our recent train art activity got its inspiration from milk caps and cardboard in the recycle bin.
Here is his train scene at near completion. He got really focused in this process.
5. Play with Playdough and Trains - Adding trains as a play element during playdough play time can be really fun, especially because of the patterns and impressions that the trains make in the playdough. Wild Thing gets really into re-telling and creating stories when he plays with his trains in the playdough, often with a train getting stuck and needing another train to come to the rescue. (A similar idea is to paint with trains driving the trains to create paint patterns.) 

6. Make Cardboard Box Trains - Here Comes the Girls shared an amazing cardboard box train and tunnel. These big trains are great for stuffed animals and fostering imagination. Wild Thing would flip if we did this!  He did initiate a much simpler cardboard box train himself when his cardboard box car fell apart. 

7. Create Train-Inspired Foods/Snacks - I love this watermelon train from The Pleasantest Thing - so cute and clever! We made a Thomas pancake for breakfast and I have rice krispie trains planned for Wild Thing on his birthday.
3 cups rice krispies, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup honey.
8. Make a Name Train - Hey Mommy, Chocolate Milk shared a great name train as well as other fun activities and learning experiences with trains, including a train depot outing. 

9. Make Trains from Everyday Items - Wild Thing can turn anything into a train, and I love to encourage that type of imaginative play with him, often at a restaurant (sugar packets are great trains) or at the park (sticks, wood chips, rocks become trains).

10. Just Play! - A good friend of mine sent Wild Thing his first tracks and Thomas Train. Thomas items can be a bit pricey, but we have built up his train play items through garage/yard sales, resale stores (I find great Thomas books and accessories in very good shape at thrift stores) and by watching for sales. 

When my husband was fixing up our backyard this past Spring (adding a patio and sandbox for the boys), he decided to make a train table for Wild Thing. (Even second hand on craigslist, the train tables were still $75-$100). We made a train table ourselves for much less (I think we spent about $35 because we already had the wood and that included the cost for the train set to go on the table). I estimate, though that it can be done for under $50. We love, too, that the table was made by Daddy for Wild Thing and can evolve and change as Wild Thing grows.

To make your own train table, you need: a 10-12 foot 2 x 4 (for the legs) and 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch plywood (for the table top - whatever size you want the table to be - we used the square piece of wood that came on the pallet of patio stones we had). 

Cut the 2 x 4 into four pieces that are the same size in length (according to how high you want the table to be) and then screw the plywood on top. For the train tracks and such, we watched for sales at Toys R Us and got an off-brand train set that had tracks, some buildings, a bridge and some trains and people for $20. (We made sure the tracks were compatible with the Thomas trains we already had). 

My husband used Guerrilla Glue to put the track down, and he drilled holes to add trees made from real sticks with Styrofoam balls (sprayed green) on top. Wild Thing LOVES this train table!! 

Sharing at Tot School Tuesday. Also sharing at Moms Library. Love sharing at My Little Bookcase. 

If you have a train lover at home, I would love to know what your favorite train books are and what fun activities you are doing that are inspired by trains. Please share in the comments or share with my at The Good Long Road on FB

On FB, you will also see photos of Caterpillar. I featured him for Day 5 of #21DaysofGratitude - My beautiful baby boy, who was born 15 months ago today! (Such an obvious choice today for #21DaysofGratitude #22ThankfulDays)

Day 6: Another obvious choice. I am grateful to have the freedom to voice my opinion and vote for my elected officials.  

Favorite Ten for Tuesday Posts from the Past:

Fall Holidays Around the World
Ways to Play: Sticks
Toddler Games That Only Take You!


  1. Great round up! What a lot of fun train ideas. Thanks for including mine.

  2. Love all the fun ideas here for trains! Jaime@fspdt

  3. I LOVE your train table! Simple enough that I could make it!

    Thanks for including our little train template :)

  4. That is a wonderful train table. I love all of your train themed ideas. As part of our bed time routine, we sing 'down by the station' every night followed by three rounds of 'chuga chuga chuga chuga choo choo's and our toddlers love it. We will have to try some of your great train ideas. Thank you!

  5. My kids also adore trains and we read a lot of books about them. One of my three year old's favorite is the new "I'm Fast!" by the authors of "I Stink!" Thanks for linking up to The Children's Bookshelf.

  6. Very fun! I'm visiting from Chocolate Milk Mom link up. My son is just starting to get into trains. There was this really cool train table at the doctor's office the other day and both my kids LOVED it. I love the DIY instructions here. Maybe we'll give it a shot for his birthday!

    Lindsey @ GrowingKidsMinistry.com

  7. These are wonderful ideas! I'm going to feature this post on my PreschoolPowolPackets Facebook page!!

  8. I love that DIY train table, that will be every little boys dream. We have a real train coming to Coombe Mill this winter so we can take the children on little rides round the front lawn. Seeing this post makes me even more certain it will be a good investment for us here on the farm. Thank you for sharing on Country Kids

  9. That is such a cool idea for the trees. This is an amazing post. Everything you could possible do with trains is here! Thanks for sharing at Mom's Library.

    I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series.

  11. THANK YOU for this great post!! My 2 1/2 yr old LOVES trains. We now have about 500 pieces of wooden train track and about 50 additional pieces (bridges, cranes, etc...) and they are literally out and put away multiple times a day and he LOVES seein gthe trains on the train track.

    With christmas soon approaching, make sure you check out local areas that might have a Christmas Train ride. There are 2 places withina few hrs of us that do a "Northern Express" theme and the kids ride the train to the "North Pole" to visit santa. I can't wait to take him on his first train ride!!

  12. I've pinned this to the Sunday showcase board.

  13. Just thought I would share my favorite kids train book with you. http://www.amazon.com/Tootle-Gertrude-Crampton/dp/0307020975
    Tootle by Gertrude Crampton

  14. Love your train picture book book list and activities!

  15. What fun!! Thank you so much for sharing at Sharing Saturday!!

  16. Love the train table idea. What kid doesn't love playing with these things in toy stores & dental offices? Thanks for sharing. I'm visiting you today from Cheerios & Lattes.

  17. May I link this post or a photo for T for Transportation & Trains on my ABCs Series?

  18. Great list of train activities! I even spotted a train book up there that I've either never come across or forgotten about, which is a rare, rare thing at this point.

  19. Very fun! My first didn't care for trains much but my second is enjoying them. THey set their little chairs up in a row and pretend they're on a train much like your example!

  20. I enjoyed looking at the photos. I just love trains!