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Posted by Casey
In Babies, Bugs, By Age, Dinosaurs, Dramatic Play, Foundation & Prep, Play Spaces, Preschool, Small World Play, Toddlers, Uncategorized, Under the Sea   on  October 19, 2020

Alright. I’m just going to admit it. I’m obsessed with our train table! One of my most popular blogs over the years has been my Kmart Table Hack, so I thought it was time to share all of the wonderful things you can do with it!

Many years ago on Lilly’s first birthday, my mum @myteachingcupboard gifted Lilly her very own train table. My mum had been using train tables in her classroom for years. They were the perfect height for little ones to sit at and explore, so she knew Lilly would get a lot of use out of it. Little did we know that five years later, we’d still be using a train table for our play every single day.

We’ve since upgraded to a newer model but our first was bright blue which we spray painted to fit in with our home a little better. You’ll see a picture of it below with one of the very first small worlds that I ever set up for Lilly. We bought a piece of artificial turf from Bunnings which we cut to size and just sat on top of the table. I added our Fisher Price barn and our very first collection of Schleich animals!

I love so many pieces of furniture in our playroom, it’s hard to have to choose a favourite! Recently I talked about why I love our FLISAT table especially for sensory play, but since we LOVE to set up small worlds I just can’t go past the simplicity and the versatility of the Kmart Wooden Train Table.

We use this table for small worlds still to this day and tend to rotate the theme every few weeks based on the children and their requests. But I’ll talk about that some more later in this post!

So what can you do with a Train Table?

I get so excited about our train table because there are just so many ways it can be used! One day it might be a beautiful discovery table for theme-based learning, and the next it might become an inviting small world landscape – the possibilities are endless!

Perhaps one of THE most popular invitations I’ve prepared on our table is the one below using our Connetix Tiles* on our light panel. I popped it on the train table with our folding mirrors and some other translucent items and the kids just loved it. The mirror blocks* and rainbow blocks* were both from The Creative Toy Shop and the translucent letters in the little bowls up the back were from Modern Teaching.

But my FAVOURITE way to use the table is for small world play. It’s so easy to set up interesting small worlds – just add your favourite animal figurines and some natural loose parts for some exciting imaginative play. We’re constantly foraging in the gardens and at parks to find some interesting loose parts to bring home with us to use in our small worlds. You’ll be surprised at what you can find when you open up your mind to the play potential that surrounds us day to day!

One of the reasons I love our train table is that it is really quite a flexible piece which transitions nicely as your little learner grows. I have such fond memories of baby Elliot pulling up to the train table to join in as his big sister Lilly played.

We would just have to be very mindful of the types of invitations we prepared when we had a younger baby and toddler in the home. Often this meant we’d go for larger loose parts like big wooden cookies and artificial plants.

Over the years, we’ve also used our train table to set up more formal invitations like this number table for Lilly when she first started school. I used some of my Natural Number Posters which hung on our big weaving frame. I added lots of loose parts and resources to help her explore numbers in a really concrete way. You’ll see our Montessori Sandpaper numbers, some wooden 10 frames from Works at Play, some DIY number cookies (I hot glued numbers to some wooden cookies) and things like buttons and number peg dolls.

If you’re feeling extra creative, you could order a piece of ply from your local hardware shop, cut it to size and paint it with a coat of chalkboard paint. Your little learners could draw their own small world or practise writing their name or sight words!

Some of our favourite small worlds

Over the last year in the Little Play Club, I’ve been able to share my love of small worlds with our playful parents and help them to create their own while we explore different themes each and every month. Below are some of our favourite small worlds!

Under The Sea – For this small world, I added a shelf with some extra sea themed materials like books, puzzles, vocabulary cards and even some loose parts from our adventures to the beach over the years! The small world table just has a piece of satin on top of the table to replicate the ocean. So much fun!

On The Farm – This is a theme that the kids request over and over! I just added our artificial turf and then some of our Schleich animals and props. We’ve purchased many of these on BIG clearance from our local Modern Teaching outlet!

Construction site – Elliot is big on construction vehicles so this is a theme that ties into that interest. I added some posters from my Construction Dramatic Play set with a few loose parts and construction vehicles. How cute are the little construction workers?!

I recently shared some simple construction themed play invitations on the blog which you could definitely set up your train table too!

Outer Space – For this small world, I actually added a sensory tub using some black beans and our Space Tube figurines with some silver pom poms and pebbles. I found some images on Google which I printed off and added to our Weaving Frame. You’ll also notice our little shelf next to the table which had some vocabulary cards, puzzles and books ready to explore too!

In the garden – Finally, this little small world is perfect for toddlers because these Insect figurines are HUGE! I added a square of artificial hedging from Bunnings with some natural loose parts and some of our favourite books. I remember Elliot LOVING the magnifying glass at this table!

As you can see, our train table is a very well loved piece in our play room. You’ll often find these for sale on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree and I truly believe it’s because many people don’t see past their obvious use as a boring old train table. There are soooo many possibilities…so will you you use yours for?

If you’re looking for more support in injecting more play into your time at home with your little learners, pop your name on the wait list for the Little Play Club using the button below! We’d love to have you join us as we explore different themes each month.

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). All of the products I link to are things we have personally used and loved!

About the author

Casey is an early years teacher turned stay at home mum to three little learners aged 6 and under. She is passionate about supporting parents that want to use play as a vehicle to bond with their little learners and create magical memories of childhood! You can follow Casey on Instagram right here.

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  1. THANK YOU! I will absolutely be using these ideas for my train table…which I was about to remove for more space..BUT now I am adding a whole new center. Thank you.

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