Wooden railway is an absolute classic toy – popular in most homes and nurseries. It was a huge hit with my boys particularly when they were younger, and now that N is moving out of the baby stage into the toddler years, we’ve started to reintroduce it again. Wooden railway is really open ended and can be played with many ways. The versatility is one of the reasons why we like it so much!
We were sent a great bundle of new wooden railway items from woodenrailways.co.uk to refresh our collection. We have various wooden tracks already, but some of it is quite battered from years of play so it’s always nice to start again with some fresh ones – plus wooden railway tends to be compatible across brands so if N wants to expand her tracks with some of our older accessories then that won’t be an issue.
N is 18 months, and I would say between 18 months to 2 years is a great time to start introducing these type of toys. At a younger age, when we tried introducing her to the track she would just pull it apart. You need to wait for that ‘destructive’ stage to pass otherwise it’s quite frustrating for everyone involved! But now at one and a half, she was much more able to understand the idea of the wooden railway and drive the little trains along saying choo choo. By 2 years old, the train obsession had well and truly set in with my boys and I remember wooden railways being their favourite toys by far – especially my eldest. From 2 years old, every birthday or special occasion he would always choose a new accessory for his tracks – whether that be a new bridge, a new crossing or a new crane. That’s another great thing about wooden railways – every time you expand with a new accessory it breathes new life into your track and allows for even more creativity.
Adding these crossroads or multi direction sections to the track are great for getting kids thinking – how can they be added in while keeping a good flow of the track? This all helps their problem solving and engineering skills!
I’ve also found wooden railway play great for story telling, developing vocabulary and imagination as the little ones narrate what is happening in their play as the trains move around the track. I have such fond memories of the stories my eldest used to make up with his trains when he was only 2 years old – heavily inspired by Thomas the Tank engine which he used to love at that time!
Sets like the animal trains are really good for developing this type of imaginary play and story telling too, especially as it pulls in other interests.
Playing with the trains also gives you a chance to explore magnetism and see how they go together. How many can join along in a row before the carriages start falling over? What happens if you put two repelling sides of the magnets together? These are simple ways to learn and explore while playing with the wooden trains.
When we get the wooden trains and track out, my boys still enjoy getting involved in making large track layouts. You can make up your own, or challenge the kids to follow a set pattern – maybe see who can complete a certain track design in the fastest time? You can even use the wooden tracks to shape up letters or numbers.
In the past we’ve set up tracks with seasonal themes, like making a winter snow world by adding cotton wool and other craft materials around the track for a festive theme. The possibilities are endless, and it can be different each time you play!