Old Toy Trains, Little Toy Tracks

I am the first to admit that we have a lot of plastic toys in our house, and some of them require batteries.  Most of those that require batteries have not been purchased by us.  What I like about most of the toys we have, whether they be plastic or wooden is that they encourage creative, imaginative play.  There is so much room for storytelling and role playing with toys like the little people sets, but my favourite toys are the wooden trains and the dress-up clothes.

We got Aidan his first wooden train set with a small table when he was 19 months old.  It was just a no-name set with some wooden track, houses, trees, some street signs and of course a few trains.  While I knew he would like the trains, and he already liked the train set at our local Chapters, for the first year it was mainly for me to play with him.  When he was a little older his father and I made tracks for him but the play was all him. He had different scenarios, and often there were terrific “derailments” and emergency vehicles coming to the rescue.

Now at 4 and a half, Aidan is a track making king.  Almost everyday our small living room is taken over by intricate tracks, with bridges, tunnels, switches, curves, stations and whatever else he decides is needed for the day’s mission.  I am in awe of how much fine motor skills he is honing with each track he makes.  The spatial reasoning he displays is amazing.  He is using his hands on approach to figure out how things work, and if it doesn’t he goes on to the next idea.  These tracks are ever expanding and ever changing.  He will take a track in one direction and when he is finished find a way to make another really complicated piece fit in somewhere else and take it in another direction.  With the amount of attention that our 1 year old Quinlan shows the trains he will be a track king even sooner than Aidan was.

We are also big fans of the “Tickle Trunk” here in the Floyd household.  We have a few hats like a fire helmet, a police helmet and a wizard’s hat, as well as some home made items like the heart shaped magic wand.  My favourite item in amongst the costumes is a beautiful wizard’s cape that my brother’s fiancée made for Aidan for Christmas last year.  It is a beautiful deep blue velvet with stars all over it.  It is even more special because she made it especially for him.  Sometimes this cape turns Aidan into a wizard like the sorcerer’s apprentice, and sometimes he is a superhero.  Whatever he needs it to be, it is.

Aidan and some intricate track.

Aidan and some intricate track.

I think letting Aidan play dress up has sharpened his imagination and helped him to think outside the box.  He wasn’t concerned about being Spiderman or another specific character for Halloween this year.  He was happy to be an elephant like he was last year, except he decided this elephant was going to have fairy wings.  I thought it was brilliant and I hope that I continue to help him to be his own person through play. I don’t want to ever squash his creativity, in fact I want him to revel in his uniqueness.

I know that it is hard in this day and age to stop ourselves from giving our children everything they want. It is even harder if the children you have are the only grandchildren on both sides of the family.  In some ways I know the only reason we are not totally overrun is because we live so far away from our extended family. Both Anthony and I are trying to make the effort to really make sure that the toys we get for our sons are educational, sturdy and engage them in imaginative play.  We don’t want to have our sons’ toys be things that don’t last much longer than a few days out of the box.  It is an ongoing battle with ourselves and with our 4 year old.  Luckily he takes the word “no” a lot better than a lot of kids I know.  I also know that we are not the only ones who have these battles, we are just more adept saying “no” at times because we have no room.

What are your favourite toys for creative and imaginative play?


Inspire Natural Parenting Contest

This post was written as a part of Parenting By Nature’sCan You Inspire?” contest.  They are looking for a blogging ambassador as they call it.  A parent who is willing to blog about how they are trying to “parent by nature.”  The prizes include a $600 Visa Card and a 6 month blogging contract.  In the next week I need to get a lot of feedback here on the blog, on twitter and on Facebook in order to become a finalist.  Then if I become a finalist there will be a web poll and the person with the most votes will win.  Please help by retweeting and commenting. Thanks!

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32 Responses to Old Toy Trains, Little Toy Tracks

  1. sarah says:

    My son is a train fanatic as well! He has quite a set going on at my Mom’s which they are happy to add to it for him.
    Good luck with your contest!!

  2. Marilyn says:

    My son has a wooden toy train and track too. He rotates through his favourite toys so one week he’ll be all about his train, the next he’s all about his trucks and this week he’s all about building huge towers from wooden blocks, cardboard boxes and lego. I have to say I think I like the blocks and Lego the best.
    .-= Marilyn´s last blog ..Three =-.

  3. Jeanette says:

    Even my girls love to play with trains. I’m amazed that the set we’ve had for the past 7 years is still a favourite. As are plain cardboard boxes. A great reminder that children can turn simple into spectacular if we give them the opportunity. Great post!

  4. Alison Lim says:

    We bought our son a wooden train set about 7 years ago when he was about 18 months old. Not only does it still look brand new, now our daughter plays with it! I think I will save it for when they have kids (along with the Lego that I’ve had since I was a kid!)

  5. Sandi says:

    Trains and block, either wooden or Lego, are a huge hit with my kids right now. Both my son and daughter gravitate towards open play toys. It is amazing to watch them play, making up their own scenarios. The latest thing is popsicle sticks. They are make shift train tracks, magic wands or building blocks. I didn’t suggest any specific way to play with them, I just gave each kid a handful and they were off!
    .-= Sandi´s last blog ..you can sit a toddler at the table… =-.

  6. Carrie says:

    I think my favorite toys are the toys that aren’t toys at all. Victoria frequently picks something up from somewhere in the house and it becomes whatever she needs. The fact she wants “a big stick like Daddy” and a “A little wheel” on her Santa letter should tell you something 🙂 She turns a turkey baster into a telescope, a toilet brush into a wand…

    One of the best is recently she found a flattened box and made it into her costume. I suspect the book “My Book Box” has something to do with her enjoyment of a boring old cardboard box. 🙂

    *this comment brought to you courtesy of IComLeavWe. Spread the love!*
    .-= Carrie´s last blog ..It’s like deja vu… =-.

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  8. Alexis says:

    I love the picture of his elaborate train track set up – can’t wait until The Imp is of an age to enjoy that kind of thing. And referring to our earlier twitter discussion about how to raise a child with critical thinking skills: I really think that toys that help a child question how things fit together, create new solutions/configurations, and require action beyond the simple pushing of a button contribute to them looking at their world a little more actively.

    Great post!
    .-= Alexis´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  9. Both my girls love playing with their wooden trains. We have a large bin of pieces and continually pick up more at garage sales, whenever we see them. My oldest will spend HOURS making cities and towns for her dolls. Even the 18 month old will help. It’s such a creative use of time.

    Good luck and thanks for participating!

  10. Nana says:

    I have found that a lot of children do not get enough creative play. As a Spark leader (5 & 6 yr olds in Guiding) We use things like toilet paper rolls to make musical instruments, paper to make costumes and many other things to “spark” creative play. The kids love it.

  11. As a kid, I was a HUGE train fanatic… Hornsby HO scale…

    But a timber one looks good all the same!

    I am glad that Tanua sent me over to have a look!
    .-= AussiePomm (Bernie)´s last blog ..Thank you Mr GPS… =-.

  12. Crunchy says:

    Ooooh the hours spent with Adam building huge and intricate wooden train tracks..the ikea kind…which went great with the Thomas that he loved.

    Saved us money and we all had fun…cept I take my engineering a little too seriously and would get a little hinky about HOW it was to be made!

    Wait till you guys move to Geo tracks!!!
    .-= Crunchy´s last blog ..Keeping us Safe =-.

  13. Cadi says:

    I have a 3yr old and 18month old and we are now very into the trains! And I would say more so my 18month old! Train tracks …and probably the ikea kind at that, are on his Christmas wish list!

  14. Susan says:

    We have two dress up drawers in my son’s “mates bed” and it’s easy for the kids to dress up and play imagination games. We also have way too many plastic toys that I want to pass on eventually. It’s easy to accumulate too much of the wrong stuff, despite good intentions of gift givers.
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Waiting for the H1N1 vaccine =-.

  15. Anthony says:

    I continue to be absolutely astonished by the complexity of the tracks that Aidan creates. If I sat down and _tried_ to create something complex, it wouldn’t even approach the complexity that he gets.

    I look forward to the time that he and Quinlan play *together* creating tracks and pushing trains. I’m sure they’ll complete take over the living room, but it’ll be worth it! 🙂
    .-= Anthony´s last blog ..Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-11-23 =-.

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  17. Trains, trains bo brains, banana fana fo frains, me mi mo mrains …

    TRAINS …

    OK, it is Friday and it has been a long week and this is what your blog post inspired me to comment.

    Our 3yo adores trains and anything that goes vroom. Airplanes, cars, trucks … he is a total boy!

    Thanks Miss Gwen.

  18. Mary says:

    I think it is in the genes to love trains in our family. My favorite part of my visit with you guys I think was the trip to the ride on trains and how excited Mr. Aidan was to ride the rails. Ok I was just as excited. Yay trains.

  19. Laura says:

    Hey Gwen,
    Enjoyed this post, as I do all your posts.
    After our oldest’s first Christmas, we were buried in toys and gifts from the extended family, and it was then that I realized I not only did not want my daughter to lose the reason for Christmas, but I wanted to ensure the gifts we at least gave were thoughtful and would endure the times. Since then, each Christmas has been modest on our end, and the gifts we give our girls encourage imaginative play. We still have a toy room with toys the girls sometime ignore for weeks at a time, but this time of year we grab our blue bag and recycle unwanted toys to local groups in need. I’ve learned I can’t do much to stop the endless amounts of gifts the girls receive, but we can teach them to be givers themselves.

  20. Shireen says:

    Trains are fascinating. They take us to places we know yet surprise us as the tracks unfold before our eyes, whether in reality or imagination. Amazing work Aiden did!
    .-= Shireen´s last blog ..Met and Passed 50,000 Words for NaNoWriMo =-.

  21. Gert says:

    When Eddie was a little older than Aidan – we bought him a “lego” train set. He put this together many times and really loved it. Creating his own trains and tracks.
    Eddie’s a dad now and still has all of his lego – including his train set.

  22. Grandma Kathy says:

    Trains can be lots of fun for both boys and girls.. It stimulates their imagination and their coordination. With any luck it will encourage sharing between Aidan and Quinlan. Toys that don’t do anything are as good as books.

  23. Granpa John says:

    I had a little electric train when I was young, but all it did was go around in a circle. Not a lot of fun.

    This one looks much better, I imagine that the play factor is high. The only thing that I see wrong is that he needs more tracks and cars.



    Grandpa John

  24. Laura says:

    Hi Gwen:

    I love the picture of Aiden and his intricate track making. Such fun!
    My son, too, loved trains when he was little.
    Good luck with the contest.

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  26. Nicole says:

    We’re not at the point of trains yet, but I expect a train set is in our future. The Poptart’s grandfather (Darren’s dad) is a train fanatic. We managed to wrangle him a private tour of the local museum here and there’s a train track that goes all through it. He absolutely loved it.

    As for imaginative play – well, she’s a bit young to know exactly what she’s doing. But she talks to her stuffies and rattles, so we’ll call that imagining for now 🙂
    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..Weird things the Poptart eats =-.

  27. Mike says:

    I remember trains when I was a kid, and my own children had trains when they were young too. I also remember making intricate race track designs from several sets of “Hot Wheels” tracks, so trains aren’t the only way to stimulate a young imagination!!

  28. Melodie says:

    For Halloween this year my oldest daughter wanted to be a zebra. So we dressed her in white and plastered black electrical tape stripes on her. She was thrilled. Her kindergarden teacher said she was the first zebra she’d ever seen, which thrilled me that my daughter, came up with the idea all by herself and stood out from the rest of the princesses and witches. She was pretty proud about it too. 🙂
    .-= Melodie´s last blog ..Breastfeeding Nature’s Way =-.

  29. Dionna says:

    My son has discovered the love of trains too 🙂 We only have two lonely train cars right now, but he could care less – he loves to scoot them around the wooden tracks (that I got for less than $5 at a garage sale this summer – woohoo!).
    His 2nd birthday is in 9 days and I bought him a set of 5 new train cars, something tells me I did ok 😉
    Great post!
    .-= Dionna´s last blog ..Mama Milk Dance! =-.

  30. Elizabeth says:

    My kids love our wooden train set (from when I was a kid) and loooove their costume bin. In fact, I spend loads of time trying to plan out my next costumes to make for them. Great post. Good luck in the contest.
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Let me help you out =-.

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