Kieran is obsessed with trains. It started when we discovered a local railroad depot less than ten minutes from our house. We visit the tracks frequently. Kieran likes to walk up and down the tracks making train noises. He loves climbing on the old caboose they have displayed, and he is interested in the rusty old railroad spikes we occasionally find in between the railroad ties.
Trains still run at our depot, and we were lucky enough to witness a big old BNSF freight train go by the first time we visited. Kieran was floored by the enormity of the cars and the sound of the wheels rushing by on the track. But what really set his train obsession in motion was the conductor – when Kieran waved at him, the conductor stuck his arm out the window and waved back.
From then on, every time he saw, heard, talked about, sang about, or thought about a train he happily sang out “hiiiiiiiiiiii duc-duhhhhh!” (which means “Hi Conductor” in NeeNee speak).
We had to relearn our terminology after a particularly fortuitous encounter at the depot last month. My mom came to town for a visit, and Kieran insisted that we take her to see the train tracks. (Aside: I love it when Kieran gets an idea that is completely his own. No one suggested we take Grandma to see the train, that was simply Kieran sharing something he enjoys with a person he loves.)
When we pulled up, we were surprised to see several other cars in the tiny parking lot. The station was also open – something that I had never seen before. We quickly deduced that we were going to see a passenger train. When the Amtrak passenger train came chugging slowly around the bend, Kieran was transfixed. He was ecstatic when the train stopped and the conductor got out to let people on.
Kieran was able to peer into the train and hear the conductor say “All Aboard!” The conductor also spoke directly to Kieran, encouraging him to get a ticket and ride the train soon.
Now we know that the engineer drives the train and the conductor takes tickets. We also know that there are freight cars, passenger cars, tanker cars, engines, and cabooses. Whenever we see a train book at the library, we grab it. Our current favorites are A Train Goes Clickety-Clack and Hey, Mr. Choo-Choo Where Are You Going?
I was lucky enough to snag a box of wooden train tracks at a garage sale this summer for less than $5, and we currently have two wooden train pieces that we got free during a promotional giveaway. For his birthday (or Christmas) we are giving him this wooden train from Melissa and Doug toys this wooden train from Plan Toys.
But the best train present he’ll get this year will be part of a co-op class I am offering in December – we are going to ride the passenger train. Tom is taking the afternoon off of work, and we’ll do a round trip Lee’s Summit to Union Station and back. I cannot wait to see the expression on his face when we hear “All Aboard!” from the inside.
Perhaps my favorite part of his train obsession is the train song. We do “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” quite frequently, and Kieran likes to sing along.
Do you have a favorite train book or activity? I am always looking for new suggestions! I’m also in search of some arts/crafts activities to do on our next Monday Funday – let me know if you have a good craft for toddlers.
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