Our third wooden train guestpost by Mary from www.over40andamumtoone.com
I was very lucky growing up. We got to do lots of great things as kids and my love of motor racing definitely stems from my childhood. I also love trains, I’m not a train spotter! But I do love trains, train sets, steam trains and the like. When we were kids my Dad had a proper Hornby train set set up in our garage. He would stand in the middle of it and control all the trains, he even had trains with steam! It was magical, and I have so many fond memories of occasionally being allowed to take control. Daddy P also loves trains so Monkey was never really going to have a choice on that score.
In fact, Monkey’s Christening present from my parents was a Hornby train set for the Flying Scotsman. It’s still in its box and will remain there until Monkey is much older! Sadly we don’t have the space to have it permanently set up.
But obviously we were very keen for Monkey to have a train set he could play with from an early age. We started with a very basic set from Ikea, the figure of 8 with a bridge and a train with a couple of carriages. I can’t even remember how old he was then (probably 1ish), well under the 3 year age recommendation. It cost less than £10.00 and was all he needed as a first set. We could set it up for him in a couple of different layouts and he just loved watching the train go up and over the bridge and speed down the other side. Watching the train going under the bridge was thrilling for him. If you want a very basic, cheap set, I personally can’t fault it. We’ve had the sets for nearly 3 years I would say – no breakages and all looks as good as new.
Over the last couple of years we’ve expanded his set and added more track, bridges, an Engine Shed, a coal plant with crane and lots of junctions, mainly from Bigjigs Rail. It’s great that you can interconnect different makes of wooden track and make your own super tracks. I’ve also picked some Brio bargains up on local second-hand selling sites, so we now have quite a collection.
What have I noticed? If you buy the Thomas wooden trains – they don’t fit under the Ikea bridges – they are taller than the other wooden trains we have. This caused a few issues when we bought Monkey his ‘named character’ train from the Thomas range last year.
When we first thought about a wooden train set for Monkey, we thought long and hard about getting him a train table that came with its own track and accessories. We very nearly bought him one, the only thing that stopped us was space. We have a small house, with a living/dining room and nowhere to put a train table so it would be out-of-the-way in the evenings. We have a friend who has subsequently bought one for her two children. They have a playroom, so therefore have more room. All the children love it, great for 360 play, great for a number of children to play at the same time. Downside? Well for me, it is so limiting. There is one layout. The children don’t think to take it apart and see what else they can build. I’m so glad we didn’t have the space, so decided against a train table.
I love the fact that originally, I’d be left in charge of train track construction. My supervisor giving me instructions of where he wanted the track to go – normally around the sofa! Now, Monkey is in full charge of construction – his tracks are getting elaborate – he has a thing about buffers! (not to self – need to buy more buffers). He still likes to navigate around the sofa, loves using level crossings and bridges all in a line for some reason. He will happily spend a whole afternoon making his track up, playing with it, then bringing in some of his diggers and building vehicles – Mummy, there is building work to be done here! We get his Eco House down and the train has to run past the front door to collect passengers. His wooden castle becomes a tourist attraction, his Duplo is used to make train stations (I am now charged with building stations and platforms). His farm and zoo animals come out to make a farm and safari park in the middle of a loop of track. His imagination runs wild – I love it. This is what childhood is about, this is happiness, inventiveness, a fantasy world, a way for Monkey to express himself. An amazing place for me to watch and admire.
We’ve always taken Monkey to steam train centres and he then comes home and recreates his trip. I just can’t imagine a home without a train set. What a boring place that would be.