Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Choo Choo!

As a follow-up to my earlier post, DIY Train Table Entering Retirement, I thought I should show you the new table in action.

I found this train table at a rummage sale for $25 dollars. This table is somewhat unusual in that it has a double-decker design. The table has a lid that you can put over the table so that you can play something else without having to dismantle your train set up. This concept was intriguing because it would provide a good place for the boys to set up their farm, build with legos, etc., There were some things about the design that I wasn't sure would work well, but figured that if I didn't like it I could always build the train on the lid and just act as if the inside didn't exist...at $25 it was still a good deal. Here is what the table looks like with the train and track set up on the inside of the table.

If you compare that picture to the first one, you'll see that after letting the boys play with it for a day, I moved the train setup from inside the table to on top of the lid. In the end, my misgivings about the design were well-founded. When set up inside the train table the set up is just too low to play with comfortably, even for Me Too. We considered raising the legs of the table, but then the sides would be so high I don't think Me Too could reach over or see inside. Maybe when the boys are both bigger that feature will work better.

Our table must have been an older design and only had support braces on the short ends of the table for the lid. I had my husband add supports on the long sides as well so that the boys wouldn't break the lid by leaning on it during play. If you own one of these and never know where to put the lid when you aren't using it, you might be interested to know I was going to also have him add braces under the table to provide a place to store the lid when not in use. However, right now would be unnecessary step. I added some stick-on cup hooks on the back side so the boys would have a place to hang their train engineer hats.

I found the Dazy USA website to be helpful when laying out the track. It provides free track layouts with descriptions if you have a pile of track and need a starting point. I adapted the "Double Oval With Turntable" layout. I chose this layout based on the following description:

The Double Oval with Turntable allows for two different trains to be played with at the same time, without them getting in each other's way. This is important when two children are playing with the railroad simultaneously.

If you have ever referreed a crew of children playing on the same table you know how important passing zones and areas for independent play are. It also helps to have a rule such as "if you run into a child smaller than you you have to turn around or go around."

I clipped the track together using Suretrack hoping that I could avoid using the Earthquake Putty this time. After it was clipped together it still slid around the board considerably and the clips were sliding off of the joints during normal play so I wound up using the Earthquake Putty in a couple of places to keep it steady. The Suretrack did really improve the stability of the raised sections. My boys tend to press down when they run the trains and the raised sections were breaking a lot. The combination of the Earthquake Putty and the Suretrack really did the trick.

We still have a lot of extra track that the boys can use to run track on the floor or anywhere else.

I will eventually remove the Earthquake Putty and Suretrack clips when they are both ready to build their own track. For now, they enjoy it like this and get many hours of use out of it every week. I know a lot of other kids the boys' age right now who have tables that sit unused. Their parents report that the track is always just torn apart in a pile. I think that for my boys, at this age, having the track fastened in place is increasing their enjoyment of the table.

That said, Kal-El is getting very good at laying out his own track and has been asking for his bin of extra track every day.

When they are older and building more complicated layouts we should get more use out of the Suretrack clips. I have read that older children have trouble keeping the raised sections together while building and this can decrease the frustration. It will be fun to add a battery operated engine when they are building their own layouts as well.

I'm sure that's much more information than anyone ever needed about our train table. I wrote about it because I know many parents of kids about the same age as mine consider it at some point and might be interested in the pros and cons of our setup.

1 comment:

  1. Acctually, this was a really interesting post. I've nrver heard of those suretrack clips. We'll definitely have to look into them.