Let me start by explaining the title of this article. There is something about the modern day train table that annoys me. I’m sure many of you had them or have kids who have them now. Believe me, I am not judging you. When I visit someone’s house with my kids and they have a train table, I am delighted to know that my kids will flock to it and play quiet-ish-ly for at least 10 minutes. Still, there is something about train tables that annoys me. Maybe it is the idea of buying a pricy, yet temporary piece of furniture that my kids will outgrow in a few years. Perhaps it is the thought of bringing more things into a house that I have worked hard to minimize. Or is it the knowledge that my kids could slap their train down on the hard floor and play with it just fine, eliminating the need for that squatty behemoth. I know, I know, little Rocco can’t leave his train track creations in tact for any length of time on the floor and his sense of creativity will be crushed when he has to break down his tracks every day because he doesn’t have a train table on which to preserve them until morning. Since little Rocco is a walking bulldozer and wouldn’t know the meaning of preserving anything until lunch, let alone until morning or beyond, that last one doesn’t concern me.
Journey back in history with me to a time when our ‘train table’ was the basement floor of my parents house. It was (and still is) a multi-shade orange linoleum, patterned with what I can only describe as a glorified argyle. When I was growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s (my prime kid years), that floor was IT! My sister and I would head down there for all of our hard surface playing needs. Matchbox cars? ‘Lets race them on the Hard Floor!’. Fort Apache? Blocks? Lincoln Logs?… Hard Floor! (Side note, the aforementioned items were really our toys – as well as the toys of Opie Taylor and Beaver Cleaver). Tinker Toys, Barbie ice skating, bouncing ride-on Mickey, small super bouncy balls (we named them ‘man’ and ‘lady’ and swore that they would always bounce near each other because they ‘liked’ each other (???)). Before I digress into Toy TMI (T-TMI), the pinnacle of Hard Floor fun was my dad’s train set from when he was a kid (see childhood friends: Opie Taylor and Beaver Cleaver). It was a big electric train with real smoke that appeared when you put a potentially carcinogenic pellet in the locomotive. There was also a log carrier that dumped logs and a refrigerator car with a little guy that delivered milk onto a platform (Best. Thing. Ever.). Once every few years, my dad would get it out and set it up and we would play with it for a few weeks before it went back in the trunk in the closet. I’m pretty sure that the trunk came from Rose DeWitt Bukater’s luggage on the Titanic and it lived in the closet downstairs. This trunk was not breach-able by children, and therefore what lay inside was triple awesome. Anyway, I have great memories of playing with that train. Thank you Hard Floor . Thank you.
That said, the boy has recently shown an interest in wooden trains at a neighbors house so Santa is going to bring one this year. I realize he needs a hard surface and since our hard floors are limited in this house, I started thinking about train tables and then quickly ditched that idea and started considering train table alternatives. In an effort to minimize, I wanted something that was not going to take up a lot of space and something that could be easily put away and taken out when the kids wanted to play.
When my husband and I were cleaning out our basement, I came across a piece from a cheap wood laminate desk we were getting ready to throw away.
It is about 29 x 29 inches, just right for the figure 8 wooden train set coming our way next month (for inquiring minds, it is the PlanToys one on Wooden Train Set Reviews). This is where I attempted to get crafty. And I use ‘attempted’ in the loosest of terms. My first idea was to paint a scenic topography of hills, fields, streams and mountains. Then I had the idea to make it into a snowy scene instead. Less paint colors and festive for under the tree. Then I started thinking about what paint I would use. Would the kids lick it and get toxic-train-table-paint-poisoning? The questions was really WHEN, not if they would lick the paint. Being the responsible parent that I am, off I went to Joann Fabrics to get some no-lick inspiration. And there is was…felt. But not just any felt…adhesive felt! Each sheet had a peel-off backing. There was not a lot in stock, so I started gathering up the colors I needed … white for snow, blue for some water and green for some pine trees. I was so happy with myself. I would stick this on in no time and project done! The lady in line ahead of me even gave me her unused coupon for 25% off! It was meant to be.
Below is my finished product — It really is 3 different colors although it kinda just looks like black and white here. Basic, but it accomplished what I was looking for and will make a decent surface for Christmas morning. It only took me about 10-15 minutes. I repurposed/reused, and the train set I am getting for my son is made of environmentally conscious materials. Excuse me while I go purchase a Prius to finish defining myself.
So my minor annoyance was train tables and maybe the pressure to have one. Moms and some dads know that there is train table pressure in certain circles. I am glad that I escaped it (for now) and that my son will have a surface on which to enjoy his wooden train set, although I know it will never be able to live up to my Hard Floor. Thank you for the inspiration Hard Floor. Thank you.