GUEST POST: In praise of the wooden train set!
If there’s been one toy that has truly stood the test of time in our house, it would undoubtedly be our wooden train set. When I say set, it’s turned into rather more than that since we first hit the toy shop for a starter pack of train and track, back when my son was about two. In the intervening six years, it’s been much-loved and added to at Christmas and birthdays. We now have two large-ish storage tubs full of bits and pieces from tunnels to stations. Yet it’s all been worth every penny - even though my son and his friends are pushing nine, it’s STILL getting played with – something which perhaps surprises in this age of gadgetry and gaming and children growing up too fast. How it’s played with has evolved though. Whereas once, way back when he was a train-crazed toddler, I had to make the track layout and then he would zoom locomotives and carriages around (with the occasional derailment), for the last couple of years, it all revolves around my son creating the most elaborate layout he can come up with. Much pondering and thinking goes on about each design. Other toys and items get dragged into the scene too – for example, LEGO bricks are built into platforms or stations, or made into signposts for a station name, with a bit of paper stuck on and scrawled upon and placed alongside the level crossings, tunnels, points and more. For me, both as a parent and parenting writer, a toy’s worth is all about what I call its play value – how much use kids can get, how many ways they can play with it, how long it will last, how much it fuels their imagination. There’s absolutely no shortage of this with a wooden train set and when my son (now quite a medium sized kid who’s hurtling towards the tween and teen years) does eventually stop playing with it, I’ll be packing it up and putting it in the loft in the hope that, maybe one day, the grandchildren might get just as much joy out of it as he has. This guest post was written by Liat Hughes Joshi. Liat Hughes Joshi is a parenting journalist and is the author of Raising Children: The Primary Years (Pearson/Prentice Hall Life) and What to Buy for Your Baby (Carroll & Brown). She's written for a range of national newspapers and leading magazines and is a features writer for AOL Parentdish. Lia was a judge in the 2013 Slow Toy Awards.