All Aboard! How to Take a Train Trip Right in Your Living Room
All aboard! Hop on the living room train and chugga-chugga-choo-choo your way through a day of dramatic play. All you need is some chairs, tickets, and a few pieces of luggage—anything from a grocery sack to a backpack can work—but wheeled suitcases were a huge hit with our preK train travelers. Let your kids decide if they’re headed to the North Pole, Hawaii, the moon, or simply let them enjoy the ride.
Materials & Preparation
- Dress-up clothing, such as overalls, conductor hats, kerchiefs, winter coats, shoes, etc.
- Small suitcases and handbags
- Things that might be part of a train experience, such as (toy) food, blankets, small pillows, book, and magazines
For making tickets:
- Construction paper in various colors
- Art supplies (optional)
Some children are fascinated by the notion of needing a ticket to participate in an activity, so make your own and get them in on the project. This can be as simple as cutting rectangles out of construction paper, or letting your petite passengers decorate them with stickers, pens or crayons, glitter, or images cut out of magazines (travel themes are great).
To create your “train,” arrange the chairs in a short line or, if you have a crew of kiddos, in two rows with an aisle down the middle. Set out any additional materials that you might find on a train or in a train station: luggage and handbags, toy food in baskets or boxes, blankets and pillows on chairs (or in a bag for the conductor to pass out), and stacks of books and magazines.
Once you’re set, encourage the kiddos to dress up in the train-theme clothes and role-play various characters, such as the conductor, engineer, stationmaster, and different kinds of passengers (a tourist, a commuter, a mommy or daddy, etc.). Your littlest ones may really enjoy being in charge of making the “choo-choo” sounds.
You can explain a little about who works on trains—the conductor collects tickets from passengers, the engineer drives—or ask your children what they know about trains, from passenger to freight, steam to diesel, locomotive to caboose, and Thomas to Chuggington. But when it comes to imaginative play, it’s also just fine to simply step back and let the children, ahem, drive this train.
Did you know that there’s more to imaginative play than just fun and games? It also helps children practice essential social and emotional skills, like empathy. Here’s how it works: When your child is playing a role, like passenger or conductor, he’s learning to consider other people’s perspectives and points of view. With imaginative play, children begin to experience what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes—or, perhaps, in their conductor’s hat.