It doesn’t matter how techie our world gets, the humble train set just cannot be beat as a toy. Hands down a ton of fun for toddlers, preschoolers, and kids, the train set also happens to be an ideal educational toy, brilliant for a child’s physical, mental and social development.
PLAYING WITH TRAINS: YOUR CHILD WILL DEVELOP THESE SKILLS
Fine motor skills:
All that pushing, pulling, connecting tracks, and guiding a train through a tunnel, are terrific for building fine motor skills. The small muscles that control the hand, fingers and thumb develop as children grow, and by supplying them with the toys that encourage this, you help them with future important tasks, like feeding themselves, writing and drawing, and dressing themselves.
Train sets offer endless ways to imagine, create and even simulate real life. The tracks can be assembled in countless ways, especially when you add additional train tracks, different types of track connectors, bridges, tunnels and other train set accessories.
And as your child’s imagination grows, he or she will introduce toys from other play sets, and could eventually build an entire imaginary town that’ll keep them entertained for hours.
Whether they play with you or a friend, your child will benefit from the active communication that naturally comes with ‘playing trains.’ If you break out the train set during a play date, make sure each child has their own train, but that they share the tracks – then watch as they communicate about the building process, working collaboratively (sometimes!), and taking turns.
Even if they don’t necessarily create together, they’ll enjoy playing associatively, which means playing side-by-side, but on their own and still involved with each other to a degree.
Putting a set together requires some basic problem-solving, such as avoiding obstacles and lining up tracks for a smooth run. You can help them along by putting obstacles in their path, and by introducing accessories such as tunnels, different kinds of track connectors, bridges and similar. This will encourage your child to use critical thinking, foresight, planning and concentration.
PLAYING TOGETHER: HOW TO HELP THEM LEARN EVEN MORE
From 0-3 years, guided play – where you actively play with your child – is better than leaving them to their toys on their own. Here are some examples of how to play together with a train set, so that your child learns while having fun:
- Get them counting: Ask your child to count the number of track pieces or wheels on the train
- Teach manners: As they put the set together, encourage your child to use “please” and “thank you” when they ask for pieces.
- Build their vocabulary: Ask your child to place pieces “over”, “under”, or to move pieces “slowly” or “quickly”. Use adjectives to describe the different pieces – “blue”, “curved”.
TRAIN SETS WE RECOMMEND:
The Conductor Carl train sets are not only durable, they’re great value. The brand offers bulk train tracks at highly reasonable prices, which are compatible with other large wooden train set brands. Most importantly, each of their tracks is cut from a single piece of wood – no glue, no screws and no pegs – to minimize choking hazards.
Conductor Carl 30-Piece Figure 8 Wooden Train Set, 3 years+ ($24.99)
Conductor Carl 100-Piece Wooden Train Set, 3 years+ ($49.99)
TRAIN SET ADD-ONS: 1 Conductor Carl Wooden Train Track Crossings (2-Pack), 3 years+ ($8.49) 2 Conductor Carl Wooden Red Brick Bridge, 3 years+ ($10.99) 3 Conductor Carl Wooden Build-A-Bridge Starter Set, 3 years+ ($14.99) 4 Conductor Carl Wooden Male-Male, Female-Female Train Track Adapters (8-pack), 3 years+ ($6.99) 5 Conductor Carl Wooden Rolling Hills Train Tracks (2-pack), 3 years+ ($8.49) 6 Conductor Carl Ascender Tracks (4-pack), 3 years+ ($8.99).