There is no question that wooden train tracks are a great toy to have in any preschool classroom. Most Little People enjoy them, and not to be sexist, but my personal experience is that Boy Little People really love them. However, I find that they can be kind of problematic. Primarily, the Little People can find it difficult to figure out how to make a concise track layout that doesn’t sprawl every which way and that – well, actually connects. (To be completely truthful, I sometimes find this hard myself.)
To combat this, I decided to create some train track templates for our trains at school. Basically, I wanted to provide an easy-to-follow model that the Little People could use their matching skills on while helping them be successful in making a functional track.
My base material was clear vinyl. I got mine at our local hardware store, where they sell it on the roll by the foot. (I have also found that you can buy a package of it in the fabric section at Walmart.) I bought several yards, although the piece that I used for this template was just about two feet wide.
Here’s how I made the model. First I laid out the track that I wanted using the actual wooden pieces. For this track I just chose a simple loop. Once I had it laid out as I wanted it, I made color copies of all of the pieces. You actually want to copy the top of pieces of your track, since the copies will be taped to the bottom of the clear vinyl. After accidentally copying the wrong sides once, I built the track again and placed a post it note on the side of the track that I wanted to copy. Then when I took the pieces to my copier I took the post it off at the last minute and placed the marked sides down on the printer.
The next step in the process was to cut out the copied pieces, and lay them next to the actual piece that they go with.
As you can see my track had a hill on it, and as you might imagine, it was impossible to color copy the hill and be able to show the dimensional aspect of it (well, at least without the color copy being extremely blurry). Instead, I just used a copy of a flat track piece that was actually the same length as the base of the hill.
To indicate that these pieces were actually hill pieces, I drew these arrows on the color copies to indicate that they were pieces that went up.
I then put pieces of scotch tape onto the hills and marked them on the tape with a Sharpie the same way as the copies.
Next, lay your cut-out copies directly on top of the wood pieces. Using scotch tape, tape the copies together at the ends, using the connected wood tracks as a guide.
Once you have all the pieces tapes together, you can remove the wood pieces, leaving you with your connected template.
Next, turn your paper track over (wrong side up) and tape it with clear tape directly to the vinyl.
Turn over, and voila! You have a model for a train track.
I usually only put out the wooden pieces that actually go on top of the template. This makes it easier for the Little People to use their matching skills to place the wooden pieces directly on top of the template.
Another way to further modify the templates for those who really have a hard time matching the track pieces with the template is to sticker-code the pieces. Simply put a distinctive, matching sticker on each of the template pieces and the coordinating wooden pieces. I don’t have a picture of this, but this would make it even easier to match the pieces to the copied template.
I am also planning to make several other track formations as templates, to provide some track variety. For now, however, this has provided a great model for the Little People to be successful in their track-building skills, while at the same time using matching and connecting skills in the process.