Are you a mom like me?
With a toddler like mine?
He wants to play trains, but you don’t want to build the train tracks?
You’re too pregnant, too busy, and too #overit.
Don’t worry, I have a suggestion for you, and it works amazing.
I’m sure by now, you’ve googled “how to glue down wooden train tracks to make mom and toddler happy” without much success. Every.Single.Person on the internet forums is telling you PLEASE DON’T DO IT, and you should probably listen to them.
THERE IS ANOTHER WAY.
You don’t have to pull out the wood glue to make your train dreams a reality, just a screwdriver and some screws. It’s way easier than building a Pikler Triangle.
Why? Because one day he’s going to want to build independently, and then you can take the train board apart.
So, lets beat the frustration and let’s screw those train tracks down. We choose screws for the following theoretical reasons
- Potential to re-use train tracks.
- Potential to re-arrange train tracks.
- Less ‘messy’ than glue.
Instead of a traditional table set up, we opted for a ‘train board.’
- It’s cheaper than buying a table.
- Fits under the couch.
- Can’t be climbed.
PRETTY MUCH THE BEST IDEA WE HAVE EVER HAD.
The wooden train board has been set up and in the living room for several weeks now and my toddler (19months) LOVES IT. He has yet to get bored, and I’ve yet to mutter curse words at him for throwing train tracks at my head.
Updated – March 2018
He did get bored of it one day.
But this screwed down train board lasted us a solid 7 months of pure play enjoyment.
Sometimes you need to do the little things to make life good and not scream every time a train track is destroyed and a toddler is thoroughly upset by the track.
I unscrewed this track in December of 2017 and the tracks went into our regular rotation with zero issues. One curve broke but that it. The pieces are totally functional and well loved by all the toddlers in my house.
Wooden Train Board Supplies
Before we even get started, let’s talk about what you’re going to need if you plan on this endeavour. Please note we decided on a train board, instead of a table. It was cheaper than a table.
- Wooden Board ($20 from Hardware Store).
What size? Whatever size you might like. We just went to the store and said that piece looks like a good size. Our board is about 2 feet by 4 feet. I think its just right. Maybe a little wider would be nice, but realistically, it is just right.
- Sand Paper.
- Paint (I raided my leftover house paint).
- Paint Brushes ($5).
- Train Tracks ($$$***) – we ended up with an assortment of Melissa and Doug Pieces that we crafted into our own unique track set up (mixed with IKEA).
- ScrewDriver & Drill Bits.
- Wood Glue – There were a few bridge pieces we weren’t able to screw down and had to glue down instead.
- Felt Pads.
*** honestly, I wanted to go cheap as possible. I looked second hand but train tracks second hand are hard to come by and go fast. People know these things are gold. We had a few pieces from our last shop at IKEA and then stopped by our local toy store for some more. #shopsmall? This project definitely ended up costing us more money than I wanted it [disclaimer]. We estimate we spent $100 CDN on tracks for this project between the bridges, and fancy connectors.
Wooden Train Board Assembly
- Finish wood board.
Our wood board had a few rough edges, so we took some sandpaper to the edges and made sure it was all nice and smooth for baby hands.
- Paint Board.
We opted to keep it easy and just painted one, maybe two coats of leftover green paint on the board.
- Configure Track Layout.
Where and how do you want the tracks to lay on the board? This is the fun creative stage of the game. We had to return to the train store a couple times to get new and different pieces to make the layout work better for us.
- Test out Track Layout.
Check and make sure the trains roll nicely and under bridges. As you can see in the above image, our big remote control Brio train didn’t fit under the bridge. This required some additional planning and scheming. We were able to flip the bridge supports for additional height.
- Trace & Number Tracks.
Optional: because my husband insisted the tracks needed to have ballast, we traced and numbered the tracks, so he could paint the ballast. This is completely optional. This is a good time to consider if you want to add any additional paint features to the board.
- Optional: Paint Additional Features.
i.e. the ballast, water features, etcetera.
- Re-lay track.
- Screw Down Tracks.
We opted to screw in from the bottom up. This gives the track better visual appearance.
This step is a little more complicated than that, so I’ll break it down even further. We had a couple of fears with this – the first being splitting or breaking a track, so we opted to pre drill ALL our holes. It did consume time, but not much.
- Move track piece slightly, and mark where you would like to screw it down (we opted for 2 screws per track).
- Pre-drill hole(s) from top to bottom.
- Screw in both screws from the bottom, but just enough for a little tip to be exposed.
- Lay track down in place and gently tap on screws. This will leave a screw indent on the track.
- Using this indent, pre drill a hole in the track. This is my husband’s strategy for keeping the tracks from splitting. I’m not sure if this is a legitimate fear or not.
- Lay track down over screws and finish screwing in the track.
- Repeat for all other track pieces, including bridges.
- Pieces on top of bridges were just predrilled and screwed from the top to the bottom. It’s not super pretty, but it works.
- Glue Down Tracks.
but you said no glue! I know, but I lied. One of our bridge pieces couldn’t be screwed down. It had to be glued down. This was the last and final piece and we used regular wood glue from the store.
- Felt Feet on the back!
Keeping floors scratch free!
- Play! Toddler Play!
Bonus: Nicely fits underneath our couch! Win. This was an unintentional perk of our project. And the wooden train board gets stored nicely there when we aren’t playing!
That’s it: Wooden Train Board
And that was all there was to it. Our Wooden Train Board conveniently fits under the couch. Some bloggers purposely built to fit under the couch, but honestly, that was just a fluke for us. We were more concerned with the height of the modern Brio engines fitting under the bridges.
Are you tired of picking up train pieces?
Then a Wooden Train board might be the answer for you!
It might be temporary, but the joys it brings your toddler last forever.
Let me know if you build a wooden train board.