Sunday, July 5, 2009

Train Table

I'm just entering my 3rd trimester and the nesting instinct has kicked my lazy butt into high gear. I'm cleaning, rearranging, and in every way trying to clear things out of my house that cause clutter and affect my peace. And this brings me to the train table...

In November the mother of a friend offered us a hand-me-down train table for our boys. At the time, Charlie had a limited number of trains and tracks, but played with them frequently. We jumped at the offer, and gave him the table and some new trains and tracks for Christmas. He initially loved them all, but soon lost interest.

While the table has gotten some very limited use during playdates, overall, it sits idle, taking up precious space in our living room. The trains have been used very rarely, if at all, since January. I had begun to think that Charlie just didn't care that much about his trains, until this past weekend. At the request of one of our children, Mr. Red put a new battery in one of the engine trains. He then brought all the trains into the kitchen area. All 3 children played happily with the trains for hours! Augustine (18 months) and Charlie (3.5) have returned to the trains as their toy of choice all weekend. On the kitchen floor, the children have built an extensive track. In the past, the train table severely limited their options for using bridges and switch tracks. It was only with our assistance that they could design these sorts of track schemes within the table confines. But on the floor, the sky is the limit.

And so all of this has left me ready to post our train table on freecycle. At present, it's only justifiable use seems to be the storage bins beneath the table. Am I being hasty here? Besides storage, is there another reason that I should keep the table?


Sophie said...

I too have felt that any time my kids have been at others' houses and used train tables they loose interest very quickly. I think part of the fun of train tracks is the ability to go crazy with them, all over the room, and see what fun combos they can come up with.

On the other hand, those tables are generally so well built. Is there a way you could re-purpose it? Put a sheet of plywood on top and make it a regular kids table. Or fill it with sand for a standing sand box outside?

Or perhaps they would enjoy it more if it was only gotten out on special occasions...those insane days in February, perhaps! Do you have a basement to store it in when not in use?

I don't think you're being hasty. 6 months is a long time to have something taking up a lot of space!

Charlotte (Matilda) said...

Well, my kids go through train table phases. They like to play with the trains, then they don't. Then they like for me to remove the track layer (ours was glued down by the store that we bought it from on display) and play on top of the piece of plywood that sits underneath it as a cool table with walls. Then sometimes, they love to have the track and use it as a marble run. They may not play with it every day, but the creativity it inspires keeps it around. But then again, it sits where I would probably have a coffee table anyway so it really isn't in the way.

B-Mama said...

Our train table is currently in the attic until we can decide what to do with it. The boys have gone through plenty of phases with and without it. The table seems to serve the younger engineer better than the older ones as it is the right height for little toddlers and gives them something to do while standing up. Beyond the 2's, however, track-building seems to be more of the focus and the table really limits creativity. Sophie's thoughts above are good ones--do you have another use for it? You could potentially store it for a few more months and then take it out when the baby's born to help captivate the kids' attention when you need it most! I also like the February play thought!!!

Should we start a Building Cathedrals Craigslist? :)

Kate E. said...

I say ditch it. My mom has one that my son uses, there is one at our local coffee shop that he uses, but I think for the bulk of his train playing the floor is better. We really spread out with our trains and right now we are using unit blocks for bridge supports and can make it go and go and go into the next room, etc.

And I think it is actually easier to clean up because you just toss in a bin and it's done.

Having said that I made my mom buy (yes I'm a picky toy person)a NILO table for her table and I would recommend it for those who have choice. It is well made by an independent small USA company. It is really innocuous looking and can have different leg heights put on so it can be used as a lego table or desk or art table at other points.

Good luck!

Karen B. said...

Kids love empty space to play in.

You may want to see how easy it is to obtain a used train table. If you can easily or inexpensively get another one, then pass it along now, and make someone's day. If you find you would not be able to replace it, you will need carefully consider space vs. usefulness.

Having said that, the train table would be great for play table. If your children have toys like Playmobil or Calico Critters that have a lot of pieces, having them set up on a table means less of a chance of stepping on one of the pieces or losing them. Also, the height of the table makes those toys much easier to play with. My children played with their dollhouse a lot more after I took it off the floor and put in on a coffee table. Must add that it is a lot easier to vacuum too.

Maybe it could be the spot for rotated toys, every week change the toy on the table.

Anonymous said...

I'd keep it, if space isn't too tight. The train obsession will one day give way to lego and then you could, as someone suggested, redo the table (I stuck down some lego sheets with double sided tape). The nice thing is that lego can be issue when there are little ones around (especially during playdates) and with that set up it's easy to put the bins on top of the table so the contents are out of reach of the infants and toddlers.

Juris Mater said...

Agreed on keeping it for a multipurpose table. These are GREAT suggestions here!

Also, just a spin-off, I have one particularly introverted child who is happiest when he has the option of alone time to play with small toys like legos, trains, animals... we have an extra table that I set up in a spare bedroom during the day for him to have his "workshop" time, to retreat from the action of the household and set up a creative play space for himself. That really nourishes him. Maybe for now you could set it aside in a quieter room if you have a child who loves to play alone sometimes.

Anne said...

No suggestions, but I'm looking for a train table like that, so you can freecycle it straight to our toddler's probably-too-small-for-a-train-table bedroom. :) I'm looking for used ones too and would love to hear where people found them. Love your blog! I just discovered it.

Mary Alice said...

See, I do think that there is a 6 month stretch when a train table is ideal, and maybe your younger boy is just coming in to it? What if you had a set of tracks that was set up at the train table for the 2-3 year olds and a bin of loose tracks for building for older kids? Your C has very good spacial sense, but my John is just now able (at 4.5) to build his own tracks around the dining room, before this he always begged for a train table. Now, I wish that I had one for the in between stage with Leo, who right now seems to get in the way of the big kids more involved train play.

So, how annoying to say that I think you need both?

Also, location may be an issue -- if your train table was where you do school work, you might find that it kept the little guy entertained but within view.

As JM mentions, some kids love to go play alone, but I have at least one who does not like to be too far from the group, even if he is doing his own thing, so for him a train table in the corner of the school room would be just the ticket. He won't go play in his room because he says it is too lonely!

Blair said...

I've been wondering about our train table too. They usually make the tracks on the entryway floor anyway! Then yesterday after reading this my toddler fell and cut his head open on the corner of the train table...maybe that's my sign?

Catholic Mommy Brain said...

I found one! I will get back to you with my response in 1 year. :)

realmommyof5 said...

I know 3 families trying to pass on their train table. we may join & be the 4th family. It just takes up too much space & we cant justify keeping it with the amt of time the kids play with it...I just hate to get rid of it having a 2 yr old a 1 yr old and 1 on the way (all boys)- so we may keep it-somewhere- until I get all crazy and donate all the junk in the garage!