All Aboard to learning skills using a train set

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Choo–oo-oo!! All aboard for train play!

A children’s train set provides your child with the opportunity to have fun and to develop their communication and interaction skills, while enjoying pushing the train around the track.

Whether plastic, wooded, or themed and licensed (e.g. Thomas the Tank Engine) you’re likely to find one that your child will enjoy! Armed with a train set, let the games begin…

Some ways to use trains to teach your child a variety of skills could include:

  • Understanding/recognising items: Hide the train and accompanying set items around the room and ask your child to find a particular item (e.g. bridge, carriage).
  • Vocabulary: Encourage your child to name an item before giving it to them and to talk about the different parts on the train (e.g. wheels, engine) and within the train set (e.g. bridge, platform, station, mountain).
  • Following instructions: Give your child an instruction to follow depending on their skill level (i.e. For 1-2 year olds: one level instruction such as “Where’s the train?”, “Make the train stop”; for 2-3 year olds: 2 step instructions such as “Put the train on the bridge”; for 3-4 year olds: 3 step instructions such as “Give me the train, carriage and stop sign). You can take it in turns to give each other instructions so that your child starts to learn about turn taking and joint interactions.
  • Turn taking: Encourage your child to take turns in moving the train around the train track (e.g. “My turn”, “Your turn”).
  • Counting: Encourage counting skills by asking your child to count the number of train track pieces, carriages on the train or the number of wheels on the train.
  • Requesting: Place the train track and train carriage pieces in front of your child. Encourage them to ask for what they want using a complete phrase/sentence (e.g. “I want a track/train carriage please”).
  • Grammar: Encourage your child to tell you who has particular train items.
    • Pronouns ‘my’, ‘your’, ‘he/she’, ‘his/her’: “This is my train”, “That is your train”, “He/she put the train on the track”.
  • Concepts including:
    • on/off; under/over: Ask your child to place items in specific places (e.g. “Put the train on the track”; “Take the man off the train”) or comment about what the child is doing with the train (e.g. “The train went over/under the bridge”).
    • Use concepts related to moving the train when playing (e.g. fast/slow; stop/go).
    • first/middle/last: If you have several carriages for the train, make a long train and talk about which carriage is first/middle/last.
    • adjectives (e.g. long/short; round; straight/curved): Comment about what the finished track looks like when the child is playing (e.g. “You made a round train track”) and use describing words when talking about the train set (e.g. “I have a long green train”; “This train track piece is straight/curved”).
    • colours: Develop the child’s understanding of colours. Encourage your child to group items that are the same colour together (e.g. red train tracks, blue train carriages).
  • Imaginative play skills: Assist your child in using the train set to expand their imagination. Once the train track is built, model and extend their play sequences (e.g. ‘First take the train over the bridge, then stop at the platform’). Use items which come with the train set and place them around the track (e.g. trees, signs, train station, buildings) or use your imagination! Encourage your child to act out scenarios such as making the train stop when it comes to a ‘stop’ sign. Also, act out real life sequences involving travelling on a train and model this by using toy people/characters (e.g. buy a ticket at the train station, wait at the platform for the train, get on the train, show the conductor the ticket).
  • High interest: A number of children, particularly with a diagnosis of Autism, have strong interests in certain toys such as trains. If you have a train set, use this activity to your advantage to help your child learn and use language in play (see above items). However, if you feel that your child can be ‘obsessive’ at times and ‘only’ wants to play with their trains, enforce set rules and boundaries to develop their flexibility. For example:
    • Boundary setting: Set a limited amount of time your child is allowed to play with the activity (e.g. 10 minutes).
    • Motivator: Use the activity as a motivating tool to encourage your child to complete other tasks which they are less interested in (e.g. First complete the puzzle, then you can play with the train).
    • Expand play: When your child is playing with their train set, gradually introduce other toy items (e.g. cars, toy people) into the play sequence. Model and encourage appropriate play sequences (e.g. the car and train having a race, toy people getting off the train and then going home in the car) and hopefully this will develop your child’s interest in other toys.

 

How is this helpful?

Using the fun ideas above a children’s train set can teach children to improve their play, social interactions, turn-taking, attention and listening and understanding and use of language. These are some of the skills needed for occasional care, kindy and school.

 

Where can you buy this?

A children’s train set can be bought from Target, Toys R Us, Big W or Kmart.

For more information on a children’s train set or other suggestions for how to use this great toy, please contact our friendly Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists at Kid Sense Child Development.

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