Christmas as a parent is amazing. There is, quite possibly, nothing more fun than seeing your kiddos enjoy the magic. And, for a three-year-old who loves Thomas the Train, nothing is more magical than waking up to a train board under the tree on Christmas morning.
Behold, the train jackpot:
Santa and his workshop may get all the credit, but I don’t mind. I had a blast making this because I knew Ike would love it so much. It’s most age appropriate for Ike right now, but this was the primary gift for both boys. They each had a stocking and one other gift from Santa. Along with gifts from generous family members, it was more than enough.
After researching and looking at inspiration on other blogs, I decided to make a board with an attached track that slides on the floor and fits under our guest bed (the guest room is sort of serving as a playroom the majority of the time). At this stage, I knew the boys would enjoy playing with trains on the tracks more than assembling the tracks, so I attached them using small finish nails and some wood glue, but I did it in such a way that we could pull it apart someday so that when the time comes the boys can build the tracks of their dreams.
To make our train board I used:
- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway set (which was on sale for $72 when I bought it)
- 3×4′ piece of plywood (Home Depot cut a large piece to size)
- Self-adhesive plastic discs used for moving furniture
- 1 sample size of green satin paint
- Craft-sized tubes of acrylic pain in blue, black, brown and light green
- Finish nails
- Wood glue
The Melissa & Doug set came with engines and accessories, but it’s completely compatible with the Thomas and Friends wooden railway trains, so Thomas can shunt, bust his buffers and huff to his heart’s desire.
Side note: I’ve learned way more train vocabulary in one year than I ever new existed. No matter what you do, do not confuse a funnel with whistle or a freight car with a passenger car. Ike will correct you.
My first step was setting up the whole track system on the unpainted board (it took about 30 minutes using the diagram provided with the set). Then I used pencil to sketch where the water and roads would be, and took the tracks apart. Then I painted the road and water and covered the rest in green and brown. It was fully painted in less than two episodes of Breaking Bad. (BTW, do you think Santa watches Breaking Bad in his workshop?)
I added the roads on each side of the board thinking that the kids would like to drive cars on the board along with the trains, but so far they’ve been just obsessed with the trains and the tracks.
Once it was all painted, I reassembled the tracks. It’s a bit tedious, but comes together really quickly.
You might be able to see the finish nails in the pictures. I used one nail per piece and didn’t drive them flush with the track so that we can easily pull them out someday. They stick out just enough to be snagged by a small hammer or pliers, but not enough to interfere with daily train use. I also used wood glue to attach the risers (where the tracks go up) then gently nailed the tracks into each riser.
The red bridge and the cranes lift off and can be stored laying down so that the whole thing slides nicely under the bed. But so far it really hasn’t been put away. On Christmas Day Ike played with the trains for almost five hours straight—it was a hit! And it’s so fun to hear him act out different train scenarios—most of which involve crashing and one engine saving the others when they fall off the track. He’s all boy, with a flair for the dramatic.
And here’s where I give credit where it’s due to the other bloggers who helped inspire our train board: Young House Love, Reasons to Skip the Housework, and Preparing for Peanut. We all used slightly different approaches, so check them out if you’re interested in taking on this project.
So, did you attempt a major homemade gift this year, or did Santa really come through for you? And does anyone else have the Thomas theme song stuck in their head right now?