Trains At Home For Toddlers Through Kindergarten

Trains At Home for Toddlers and Preschoolers

At the museum, we are always looking for fun ways our visitors can play with trains. Through scouring the internet and talking to parents and teachers, we have collected some really fun activities. We have included some of our favorites below. Some are educational, and some are just for fun. All of the activites below require adult assistance to get started. Please remember to supervise your children if they are playing with small objects.
Trains At Home for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Train Sensory Box

Train Sensory Box 

We have the locomotive sensory box at one of our family learning areas in the museum, and it is very popular with the toddler/preschool age group.  It is a flexible activity that you can adapt to your child’s age, abilities, or preferences. 



What can you learn?

Shapes, colors, textures, sounds, motor skills

Sensory box elements:

  • Blue items (we use blue vase filler, but anything blue and friendly to small hands will work, you could even use food items such as blueberries)
  • Black items (we use black vase filler, but anything black and friendly to small hands will work, you could even use food items such as raisins)
  • Scoops (we have a large stash of kid size buckets and scoops we use, but cups and spoons work just as well)
  • Fire/heat (we use led tealights, but many things can replace fire, such as red paper, orange paper, orange crackers, etc.)
  • Steam Locomotive (Our practice steam locomotive is made from a grocery bag holder to which we attached some wheels, but any container will work.)
  • Large plastic container (Some sort of large container is useful in keeping the small pieces contained.  We started with a cardboard box and then adopted something easier to clean)

How does it work?

Introduce all the elements of the box to your child.  Tell them what each one represents.  You can show them the pictures of water, coal, fire, locomotive that are included below.
Give them a chance to play with each element and identify size, color, and feel.
Take a scoop of coal (small black items) and put it in the container you are using as a locomotive
Take a scoop of water (blue items) and put it in the container you are using as a locomotive
Add fire (tealights or red paper) and put it in the container you are using as a locomotive
Pretend the items are working together to make steam and push the locomotive forwards.  We like to make steam sounds and train sounds when everything is ”working.”  If you have a book or movie about trains, there is often a steam locomotive with steam you can use as a visual.


Even if your child only wants to play with the elements, they are still learning motor skills and identifying shapes and colors.
You can practice letters and counting with this exercise also.  T is for train.  W is for water.  C is for coal.  F is for fire, etc.  You can count how many coal pieces go into the train.
A boiling pot of water (used under parent supervision) can show how it takes heat to create steam.  Talk about how the heat changes the water from liquid to a gas.
Another idea to illustrate the power of steam is to pop a bag of popcorn.  You can show how the steam comes out of the bag and explain how people open the bag slowly to let the steam escape to prevent burns.
Learn Train Signals

Tooele Valley Railway Signals

  1. Find an object at home you can use to practice the signals, such as a lantern, bucket, flashlight, glow sticks in a basket, any item you choose (you can even use your favorite stuffed animal).
  2. Practice the signals used by train engineers, conductors, and depot workers listed below.  Talk about other types of signals people use, such as lights, signs, whistles, horns, etc.
  3.  We like to play stop and go games with the signals at the museum.  Some children get to send signals, others act like engineers and follow the signal. ***the signals show below are the actual signals used on the Tooele Valley Railway.  They came from the 1910 rule book.
Make Train Cars out of Shapes

What can you learn?

Shapes, colors, and develop creativity

Activity Elements:

Paper, scissors (adults only), glue

  1. Cut out some shapes.  We try to provide a variety of shapes and colors.  If you don’t have construction paper, use regular printer paper, cardboard boxes, magazines, or even wrapping paper.
  2. Go through the different shapes and colors with your children.  Show them how the shapes can fit together to make something different, like a train car.
  3. You can color or draw your favorite train freight on some shapes. 
  4. Make it into an art project by gluing or taping the pieces onto a piece of paper. You can also save the pieces to play another day.
Coloring Pages
Number Train
Use the number train to learn numbers. You can learn the numbers individually or combine them to make a long train.


Number Train
Letter Train
The letter train can be used to teach numbers and words. When using the number chain, introduce the letter, make the sounds the letter makes, and point out objects that start with that letter “T is for Train.” Your child can use these as coloring pages also.


Letter Train
Make a Paper Train & Practice Counting
img_20200530_152200364-1 (1)
If you don’t have a train set at home, you can make one.

Counting Train Locomotive
Counting Train Car

Counting Train Caboose
What can you learn?

Colors, counting, and train cars

How to build it:

  1. Print the templates for the cars you want to build.
  2. Color the cars.
  3. Cut out the train car along the exterior solid line.img_20200530_145732575-1
  4. Cut along the dotted line.
  5. Fold along the solid vertical lines.img_20200530_145929663-1
  6. Use tape or glue to assemble the cars.img_20200530_150100964-1
  7. Attach the cars together using glue dots or string.img_20200530_151707581-1

How does it work?

Count the number of cars you add to your train

Look around your house or yard and find some freight

Load and unload the freight counting out each piece each time

Practice counting to 100

Practice counting in a different language

You can also teach concepts like half by splitting freight from one car into two cars.

Practice your even and odd numbers by counting in 2s or 3s.