It seems that we go through seasons where we spend more time on the road, especially during the holidays to visit family! Add in doctor appointments and other errands and it can be a lot of time spent out and about. My boys have minimal screen time and I don’t use it as entertainment when we are out, so I like to have other fun options for them. DIY exploration or play kits are one of my boys’ favorite activities when we are on the go. They are perfect for encouraging imaginative play and often build in other skill exposure as well like fine motor and language.
I’ve made play kits with animal figures, play dough, bug figures, and types of trucks- there are so many possibilities! I try to base them on the boys’ current interests and lately they are all about trains! So, I created this on-the-go trains kit for them using Safari’s Trains TOOB set. We’ve used TOOB sets for so many of our play kits since they are the perfect size for taking out and about. Here’s how you can make one too:
What You’ll Need:
- Wooden craft sticks
- Small wooden dowels (or toothpicks)
- Small wooden squares
- Hot glue or craft glue
- Paint or markers
- Some type of travel case, box, or zippered pouch
Step 1- Make the Tracks
For this set, I used my hot glue gun, but craft glue or wood glue would also work. To make the tracks, I set two of the wooden craft sticks side by side. Then, I glued small dowels across the two craft sticks, leaving about a half inch in between each dowel. I did this until I had eight track pieces completed, but you could make more or less depending on your own preferences. I let these dry overnight. When I flipped them all over the next morning, they looked like an awesome set of DIY train tracks!
Because I was creating this as an on-the-go kit, I wanted to have a way for the tracks to stick together easily. For this, I used small adhesive magnet strips. I flipped one of my track pieces back over (upside down) and attached two of the magnets to the ends of the craft sticks on one side. Then, I took another track piece and attached magnets on one end on the topside. I kept alternating this pattern with each of the track pieces so that the pieces would line up and be able to attach together with the magnets.
Step 2- Make the Signs
It seemed like this mini trains kit should include some railroad signs for the boys to play with, so I quickly made a few of those too! For the signs, I used small wooden squares and the small wooden dowels. I attached each dowel to one side of a wooden square using glue (hot glue worked well for this step because it dries faster). For these, I made sure to glue the dowel fully across the back of the square for more support. When these were dry, I started to work on the bases for the “signs”. I glued the other end of the dowels so that they were standing straight up in the middle of another set of wooden squares. I had to use a generous amount of hot glue around the wooden dowels and I held them up until the glue dried well. This helped to make sure that the signs would stay up! Finally, I painted the signs with red and yellow liquid craft paint. I think bright colored markers would have a great look too!
Step 3- Travel Play Time!
Once the tracks and the signs were completed, this kit was just about ready for some imaginative fun! I added the tracks, signs, and the Safari TOOB Trains set to a plastic travel case. I had a couple of these cases on-hand because we use them for various play kits, but a small recycled cardboard box or zippered pencil case would be great options too! I’ve found that any of these kinds of “cases” just help to keep things together and more organized when we’re out.
My boys were so excited to use this new trains kit when we recently traveled! They both really enjoy trains right now so this matched their current interests well. Now, I keep this in the car so that we have it easily available for appointments and road trips. This DIY Trains Kit was the perfect on-the-go setup and the Safari Trains TOOB worked so well for it! What kinds of activities have you tried on the road?