train play

Transportation Activities #20: Playing Trains

For decades and generations, kids have enjoyed playing trains. What’s not to love about a toy based on action and mystery? Many adults love trains too.

playing trains

The world is round. Trains go ‘round too. With a train, kids create their own small world. They can control where the train goes, the order of the cars, the placement of the tracks, what goes loaded in the cars and more. Kids are not in control of what happens in their own lives and often feel powerless. Being able to direct the action of the train is empowering for them.

Although there are not as many trains as their used to be, kids still see them. They seem to appear out of nowhere in a drama of noise and speed and then mysteriously disappear. Since kids don’t know where trains go, when they play they get to choose the destinations and solve the mystery for themselves.

playing trains

Playing with trains is not passive. Kids have to be actively involved, both on the physical and mental levels. Both large and small muscles are challenged and strengthened. Playing trains is more than hands-on. In setting up the tracks, there are a great deal of problems to be solved, like how to connect the tracks, where to place curves and straight pieces, making sure the train doesn’t run out of tracks, and more.

playing with trains fun and learning

At first, adults help set this up but gradually kids figure this out for themselves. Planning, organizing, concentrating, and problem-solving are only some of the thinking skills and strategies along with creativity and imagining. Train tables are great for play. If space is an issue for your home or center, check out this train table idea from Carla at small + friendly. It rolls under the bed on it’s own wheels.

playing trains

Kids can play with trains on so many different levels. From simply moving the train along the track in cause and effect play to making their own stories and scenarios, there is quite a range. Emotionally, kids learn about handling frustrations as tracks come apart and trains fall over. Creatively, they incorporate their own interests. When children play trains together, they develop social awareness and skills. Language, science, and math are also part of playing trains. Coming aboard for some fun and learning with trains?

Helping Kids Learn to Play Series: #6 Cars, Trucks, and Trains

How Kids Can Play with Cars and Trucks and Toys That Go

Supporting children’s play with cars and trucks and toys with wheels is highly beneficial. With the easy accessibility of digital devices, traditional toys like cars, trucks, trains, and other vehicles may not be as common. As a result, children do not learn as much from other kids about how to play with these toys. As parents and caregivers, we need to support and extend their play with toys for early fun and learning.

helping kids learn to play with cars and trucksBefore they can crawl or walk, both boys and girls, enjoy making cars and trucks zoom around. Once kids can move, they like to chase after toys with wheels. Older toddlers play with cars and trucks in even more ways, often making roads and tracks.

One way to extend play is by showing kids how to make ramps. This can be done easily with blocks and pieces of cardboard. If the strip is long enough, it can be supported on the seat of a chair. Ask your child a few questions such as: Do all the cars go as far? Which one goes the fastest? This adds a dimension of comparing and finding out, two important thinking skills. Be prepared, from a small space, ramps and roads and tracks can grow to need a whole room.

helping kids learn to play with cars and trucksNot all cars and trucks will be the same size or design. Does your child have a favorite one? Talking about the differences will encourage using language and provide some new vocabulary. Count the cars and trucks; check out their colors. Sometimes, kids will make their own groups, like all the sports cars, or all the ones with numbers. This encourages noticing details to sort and categorize. The toys can make a pattern too, such as car-truck, car-truck, and so on.

helping kids learn to play with cars and trucksKids can also use cars, trucks, and trains in pretend play. This kind of play is tremendously important for brain development. Some children may engage in imaginative play on their own, but others can be encouraged with a few suggestions and by getting down on the floor and playing with them. Maybe, take the cars on an adventure up a high sofa mountain. Some trucks can go get a load of blocks. The toys with wheels may need to line up for gas at the coffee table gas station.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>You and/or your child can use different voices for the cars and trucks as they interact. During pretend play, children solve problems, organize, plan, create rules, and more. As they play, they negotiate with others. Both when playing by themselves and with others, they imagine situations and events. Good thing these toys are pretty sturdy, because play can be quite intense! The cars and trucks in the video below go for some exciting rides.

It might seem like cars and trucks on the floor can’t compete with cars and trucks on a screen, but they offer so much more flexible and varied play. Not only are bodies active, but so are brains. Some children may need to see and hear how they can play with these toys. Have you shared some ways with your child? Does your child play with cars and trucks and toys with wheels?