The Appeal of Wooden Train Play
Stop by any local specialty retail store, and watch the kids gathered around the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway play table. They are mesmerized. Lost in the world they are creating in their minds and in the treasured Thomas the Tank Engine stories they are recreating using the wooden track and vehicles with familiar faces. We've had moms tell us their kids will play literally for hours – and these are young kids, kids whose attention spans are known for being about as long as the inseams on their 2T trousers!
The sheer fact that a toddler can and will play with a single toy for hours on end is reason enough for Mom to get on board with a toy. However, wooden train play appeals to parents and kids from so many other perspectives that it's no wonder it's been a part of our American heritage for more than a century.
Child development experts recognize that wooden train play helps children develop physical, social and cognitive skills, as well as a sense of pride and accomplishment. These developmental benefits are not lost on parents today who are seeking toys that not only provide great play value, but offer developmental value as well. In addition, wooden trains have an heirloom look and feel, and they tap into the power of trains in a young boy's world – the fascination with motion, power, control, action, movement and how things work.
A Boy Thing
We have learned through extensive research, and through our own experiences, that while girls do play with wooden trains, young boys are the most avid wooden train play enthusiasts. This will come as no surprise to those of you who have young boys. You know they crave action and motion. Train play is one of the only miniature worlds that enables these little engineers to experience and control the motion and action they crave, and, in a wholesome, non-violent way.
The non-violent nature of wooden train play is critical when you consider that even kids as young as 2 years of age can and do play with wooden trains. Train play is open-ended, yet unlike other open-ended toys such as blocks or play dough, train play has a variety of stimulating, challenging potential activities for kids to discover within a structured world.
Oh, the Possibilities!
Wooden train play also offers an unending number of levels upon which children can enjoy the play patterns. When they're young, they can find great pleasure in moving a single engine or two around a track. As your kids age, they can discover more and more complex ways to interact with the train and track world – it's a building toy, then it's a thinking toy. It grows and changes with kids.
Train play is also so very engaging because it is not just one activity – it is a multitude of activities. Unlike most toys, train play feeds an almost unending circle of curiosity to confidence, no matter what the child's age. Train play allows for exploration and discovery. This pleasure leads to repetition of experiences, and experience leads to mastery. This is the basic pattern of all learning as set forth by Dr. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., in his "positive cycle of learning" model. Mastery leads to confidence that in turn leads to the willingness to engage curiosity in another area. In this regard, wooden trains are almost perfect toys.
Fun for All
Wooden train play not only captivates kids, but offers a great way to spur interaction between parents/caregivers and kids. With children taking the lead character-wise and Mom or Dad getting involved in the intricate details of track architecture, it's an activity that appeals to multiple generations.
Father and son or daughter build the track layout together and play together, too. This is a significant benefit for fathers today, who are more concerned than ever before about being in touch and in tune with their children. I know, as the father of two boys, that train play is a great way to connect with preschoolers and to get involved. Thanks to wooden train play, I didn't have to wait for the traditional older boy "sports" activities to be able to relate to my children in a play and learning environment.
Age-old Appeal Meets New Age
The nostalgic appeal of wooden train play is one reason this type of play has withstood the test of time. Today's parents remember playing with their parents and grandparents and want to pass on that familial bond to their children.
However, as much as the core play patterns have remained the same over the years, today's wooden train enthusiasts have so much more to choose from when selecting sets and systems. From the story-based, character-driven Thomas Wooden Railway to generic train engines and rolling stock to sets that feature licensed characters in train scenarios, the opportunities for wooden train adventure are endless. It's no wonder people are still getting on board with this timeless, developmental and sought-after type of play!