Weekend Highlights

Published July 27, 2013
At Home & Living

7 Fun Summer Activities for Train Loving Kids

by Jessica Petersen

My 3-year-old son – known as the Little Engineer on our blog, Play Trains! – has been obsessed with trains for more than half of his life. As a family, we’ve made the most of his passion for everything related to trains, and it has enriched all of our lives. 

This summer, we’re planning to go on new train adventures and revisit our favorite activities. If your child loves trains like mine does, I hope you’ll find a few things from our train-lover’s summer bucket list to add to yours. 

Make Tracks in the Sand

My son and I were inspired to build a railroad at the beach after we read about how and why real railroad workers level the ground for a new line. We found sticks and driftwood for sleepers, or railroad ties, and I brought along one of our Thomas bath toys to do a test run of our railway. This activity also works well in a sandbox. 

Play with Trains at Railroad Days

Another fun time to visit the Northwest Railway Museum is during Snoqualmie’s Railroad Days, August 16 through 18. In addition to train rides, a model train show and LEGO trains, I have it on good authority the wTrak modular wooden train tables will be there on Saturday and Sunday, giving kids the opportunity to play with the coolest wooden train tables in the world. 

Get Moving by Taking Train Play Outside

The best way to get my son up and moving is to suggest that we pretend to be trains.  We’ve mowed train tracks in our lawn and made “steam streamers” out of holographic tape to hold above our heads as we chuff around our yard. Even more exciting was building pool noodle train tracks, complete with an “engine wash” at one end to cool off.  When it’s time to get some work done in our garden, he loves helping out even more if we pretend we’re working on a steam engine

Find a Favorite Train Table

My son could have all the trains in the world at home, but he would still be enthralled by the oldest, most beat-up train table at a book or toy store. We’re on an ongoing quest to find the best train table in town. So far, our favorite is at Mockingbird Booksread my review to find out why! 

Take a Train-Themed Camping Trip

The Great Northern & Cascade Railway is a new miniature railroad in Skykomish. Once I read about it, I knew we had to go for a ride. On a whim, I looked at campgrounds around the town and found the nearby Money Creek Campground, popular with railroad enthusiasts because some of the camping sites have a view of an operational railroad. If that camping trip goes well, we may do the same when we go ride the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad and visit the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum

Create a Portable Train Set

If you’re planning a trip this summer and don’t want to lug your child’s entire train collection along, this portable pretend model train set in a pencil case is just what you need. Plus it makes a great – and easy – craft project to do together. 

Read a New Train Book

Reading a book about your child’s favorite subject is a great way to slow down and spend a quiet moment together during a busy summer. If you’re looking for recommendations, we recently put together a list of eight of our favorite summer train books

Train Pretend Play

We love playing with my son’s toy trains, but sometimes pretending his bed is “Big Engine” is even more fun for everyone. Train ticket booths are also a popular pretend play theme at our house (especially when there’s a big “ticket mix-up”). Our favorite is to take a ride on the Seattle Center Monorail and then come home and play Monorail Ticket Booth

Train Watch from the Playground

While Carkeek Park and Richmond Beach Saltwater Park, two well-known spots for watching trains in the area, are definitely on our list, we’ve already found a few gems closer to our home in the south end: Our current favorite place to spend a sunny evening, Georgetown Playfield has a playground in the shade and a new spray park. Right on the other side of the fence, freight trains slowly roll back and forth as their cars are being switched in a nearby train yard. When a diesel engine’s horn blares, all the kids go running for the fence, and the engineers always wave as they go past the playground. Fort Dent Park in Tukwila has an excellent playground, also shaded by trees in the afternoon. Looking across the duck pond, you can watch freight trains and the Sounder rush past, never having to wait long for the next train. 

Make a New Train Set Accessory

My son loves making his own scenery, destinations and accessories for his wooden train set, and I love showing him that he can create anything he can imagine. Most recently, we’ve made a recycled engine shed, pipe cleaner trees and a track platform from a cardboard box, and we have many more projects planned for this summer. 

Finding “Tracks” Around Town

My son has a knack for finding “tracks” to chug on everywhere we go: curbs, sidewalks, balance beams at gymnastics, the list goes on and on. The one we keep coming back to is the “railroad” he found inside Ikea, which is perfect when you have a wiggly toddler and you’re only halfway through the store. 

Take the Northwest Trek Tram Tour

My son loves animals as much as he loves trains, so we’re looking forward to taking Northwest Trek’s tram tour to get an up-close look at some native wildlife. 

Paint with Toy Trains

Painting with toy trains is a classic kids’ activity, and it’s especially suited for summertime when you can take the project outside. We’ve painted with trains on plain paper, but when we did it on an inexpensive canvas, we ended up with a beautiful piece of artwork for our family room wall

Explore Science with Trains

Summer is a great time for some science fun, and adding trains makes it that much better. Some of the activities my son has most enjoyed include baking soda and vinegar trains, ice trains and rescuing toy trains from a block of ice. If you’re looking for more ways to keep your young train enthusiast’s mind working in creative ways this summer, we came up with a list of our Top 10 Ways to Learn with Trains this Summer

Jessica Petersen is a full-time assistant engineer to her 3-year-old son, the Little Engineer. She shares activities, adventures and other fun for kids who love trains at Play Trains! When not playing with the Little Engineer, she is usually writing children’s books.

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