Are you a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) teacher looking for a new way to develop your students’ interest in these subjects? Model railroading is what you need. It is not a new hobby, and the STEAM teachers can achieve their learning goals by introducing it to the new generation of students.
According to Greg Maas, a member of the Amherst Railway Society, Massachusetts said that model railroading has gone through a significant change over the last 25 years, from simple analog to more complex digital electronics.
The use of model trains is not limited to STEAM teachers; you can also use it to develop various skills like interaction and communication in children in a fun and enjoyable way; the train set is ideal for this purpose. Your child gets all these skill-development opportunities while pushing the train around the track. You can play this activity with children of all ages.
Whether wooded, plastic, or themed and licensed, you will find your child enjoying all.
Ways to Use Trains To Teach Skills
There are many ways to use model trains and teach your children a variety of essential skills. Following are some of them:
Motivate your child to take turns while playing with the train set, like moving the train around the train track (‘your turn,’ ‘my turn).’
- Colors: You can develop the understanding of colors in your child by simply asking him to place all the pieces of the same color together, like blue train carriages, red train tracks, etc.
- First/middle/last: If you have many carriages of the train, you can introduce the concept of first/middle/last to your child by making a long train and asking the place of the carriages.
- You can also make your child familiar with the concepts of stop/go and fast/slow by relating it to moving the train when playing.
- On/off; under/over: When your child is playing with the train, comment on what he is doing. Moreover, you can also ask your child to put items in particular places (such as ‘Take the man off the train,’ or ‘put the train on the track).
- Adjectives (like long/short; straight/curved; round): When talking about the train set to your child, use describing words (for example, this train track piece is curved/straight). Moreover, when your child is playing, comment about what the finished track looks like (for example, a round train track).
2. Understanding/recognizing items
Hide the train set items around the room and then ask your child to find the specific pieces like a carriage, bridge, etc.
3. Following instructions
According to the skill level of your child, provide him with the instructions to follow. Like for a 1-2 years old, give one level instruction like ‘Make the train stop,’ or ‘where the train is.’ Increase the level of instructions with age; for 2-3 years old, give 2 step instructions and for 3-4 years old, provide three levels of commands.
You can also introduce taking turns to give instructions to one another. In this way, your child will learn about joint-interactions and turn-taking.
Put the train carriage pieces and train track in front of your child and encourage him to ask for what he wants using a complete sentence or phrase like ‘I want a train carriage please!’
You can expand your child’s vocabulary by encouraging him to name the items you are giving him and talk about different parts on the train (like engine and wheels) and within the train set (such as a mountain, platform, station, bridge).
With the train set activity, you can encourage your child to tell who has particular items of the train, and it will develop his grammar skills. It will give your child the idea about the pronouns like ’his/her,’ ‘your,’ ‘my,’ ‘she/he.’
7. Imaginative Play Skills
Guide your child to expand his imagination by using the train set, and after building the train track, model and extend the play sequences. The train set comes with items; so, use them and place them around the track (e.g., train station, trees, buildings, signs), or you can use your imagination as well.
Motivate your child to use his creative imagination and act out scenarios like stop the train when it comes to the ‘stop’ sign. You can also include real-life sequences (traveling on a train). You can model this with the help of a toy character or people.
For example, you can explain to your child how this works in real life with the help of toys; you first have to buy a ticket from the train station, then wait for the train on the platform, and after the arrival of the train, get on the train and show the conductor your ticket.
With train play activity, you can also enhance your child’s counting skill by asking him to count the numbers of wheels on the train, train track pieces, and carriages on the train.
9. High interest
A lot of children, specifically with Autism, have significant interests in particular toys like trains. If you have a train set, you can use it to your advantage to make your child learn and use language in play. But you need to see if your child wants to play with his trains only and can be obsessive at times, then impose boundaries and a set of rules to develop their flexibility.
- Expand play: Gradually introduce other toy items (e.g., toy people, cars) into the play sequence when your child is playing with their train set. Encourage and model appropriate play sequences like toy people getting off the train and then going their home in the cars or the train and the car racing, which will develop your child’s interest in other toys.
In this way, you are not limiting your child to the train set only by introducing other toys.
- Boundary setting: Set a limited time for your child to play with the activity, like ten minutes; your child will be allowed to play for that duration only.
- Motivator: you can encourage your child to do the other tasks in which he is less interested with the usage of this activity as a motivating tool; for example, you ask your child to complete the puzzle first, and then he can play with the train.
How are Model Trains Useful?
Using the fun ideas mentioned above, you can teach the children to enhance their turn-taking, play, attention, use of language, social interactions, understanding, and listening. These are a few of the skills required for kindergarten, occasional care, and school.
Model Trains – A Useful Educating Tool
Train play can be very beneficial for your child, as it helps developing several crucial skills. It also improves the cognitive abilities as you are encouraging your child to develop language, grammar, vocabulary, verbal language, and to use his imagination. If you still have not introduced model trains to your child, it is high time to expand his toy range.