Monday, January 17, 2011

Choo Choo Ch'Boogie!

I learned several important lessons over the course of train week:

  1. Do not mention an exciting trip to see trains as you are tucking your two-year-old into bed for the night. It's a miracle he was good the next day after talking to himself until 11 pm in his crib the night before our big field trip.
  2. Two-year-olds don't really understand that museums close, and that one cannot go see the trains at bedtime.
  3. Nothing beats the real thing.
  4. A great book cannot be over-read.
  5. Toddlers have no sense of perfection, and toys for toddlers should reflect that.
But first things first. I already posted my favorite train book recommendations from last week. Here are a few other things we enjoyed from the week.  We sang along with John Denver's "All Aboard", an awesome collection of folk songs and fun songs about trains.  My favorite is the "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie".

I made Soren felt board trains, resulting in revelation #5. Toddlers have no sense of perfection. Toys for toddlers should reflect this.  I spent hours tweaking digital images of trains to transfer with iron-on paper to felt, and only after printing and transferring them realized that the obsession with perfectly straight lines was ridiculous at best.  However, after spending so much time on this craft, I can't bear to keep it to myself, so if you'd like a copy of them, I'd be happy to email them to you to use however you'd like! It'd be a crime and waste of time to let them sit on my hard drive.

Here's what they look like printed:

On Friday last week, I took Soren to the Naples Train Depot. Starting around the 30's, Southwest Florida was a vacation destination for the affluent. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford had winter homes in Fort Myers. Naples, my hometown, was the last stop on the way to Miami - and then Cuba - down Florida's Gulf Coast.

The old train depot just underwent a big remodel and the city turned it into a train and transportation museum.  Volunteers maintain an enormous model Lionel train display in the back, and running around the whole property is a small diesel engine. It runs on 7.5" wide track and takes visitors for a thrilling 8 mph tour of the facility.  

Wondering why he's making that face? Because it was amazing (and so is Grampa).

Finally, the museum boasts two retired railway cars: an ancient red caboose and a 1960's era "dining" car. Soren and his Grampa practically recited Marian Potter's "The Little Red Caboose" while touring the caboose and dramatically saving the train from sliding down the "long tall mountain" (mountains brought to you by our imaginations).

"Look out, Little Red Caboose! The train is starting to slip down this long, tall mountain!"
"Not if I can help it!"

Grampa explained to Soren that the brakeman and train crew would have lived in the caboose, sleeping and eating there. If there was an emergency, the brakeman would apply the brakes using the wheel at the back of the train.

For a meager $5, Soren, his grandparents, little sister and I had the time of our lives. I don't think the concept of what a train is sunk in until Soren saw a REAL train car. And I know he had a blast. If it weren't for the lure of food, it would have been very hard to get him to leave.

If you live in Southwest Florida and haven't visited the train depot, I HIGHLY recommend you do. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience, the volunteers who operate the trains and models are excellent, the museum is beautiful.

And with that, train week is over!  We're moving on to a week reading about plants and gardening, just in time to plant some tomatoes after what will hopefully be the last frost here.

Happy reading and happy learning from me and my preschooler to you!

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