Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The twelve trains of christmas!

Calvin got a huge delivery of Brio train tracks from Santa this year, and he's been having a ton of fun with them so far.  Luckily, I'm home from work till January 7th, so Calvin and I talked about it and decided that doing a new track each day would be the greatest thing we've ever done.

We used a bunch of websites as our e-muse's:

Next Stop: TRAIN CITY!!!!!

Day 1 - Santa's Design: TRAIN CITY!!
Review: The first train track layout we've had with more than a figure eight.  Calvin LOVED it - he kept driving around saying "this is AMAZING".  We might have more fun layouts later on, but this will always be my favorite.

Day 2 - Dragon Castle

Review: Parallel bridges on the bottom were a big hit. It allowed  us to race a bit, and because some of the bigger trains can't make it through the wooden tunnel, the open bridge was essential.  All the different splits and routes gave a lot of fun for Calvin to talk through and make some decisions on.  The big layout helped as Calvin really likes to jump into spots in the middle of the tracks.  This gave him room to do that without knocking everything down.  We added some of his other Christmas presents to the track - a dragon, a castle and a knight, so that we had some other fun things to run into as we drove around.  

Day 3 - The Belly of the Beast!
Review - This one got a little crazy in the middle, with the track going under a bridge then over a tunnel before looping around to another bridge.  Because of the tunnel/train issue, we have to always build in an alternative to the tunnel.  We also got into some issues here with some trains unable to get out of a loop, but figured out its important to have one continuous perimeter. Also, the holes for Calvin to sit in might have been a little too tight in the middle, as Cal-zilla kept knocking stuff down constantly.  With all the bridges in this one, we've realized that they will need to be repaired constantly, but that he loves him so much, they are worth it.

Day 4 - Rival Towns

After yesterday, we tried to make one that was a little more open and clean.  This one was fun because of all the decision points.  We added in some other toys, like his castle, dragons, etc and pretended that they needed rides.  So Calvin would load up his dinosaur on the train at the castle, and we would say that he needed a ride to the cargo area, then he would look at it and figure out how to get there.  FUN

Dinosaur is going for a ride
Day 5 - The G.O.A.T

You might not be able to tell from this picture, but this is the best train layout ever conceived.  Two little "towns" with loops on each side, connected by a three option road - either the mountain tunnel, the bridge of the old tunnel.  Smooth driving and easy to get everywhere.  Overall great.  We actually REBUILT this one when we had some friends come over on a playdate a few days afterwards.  

Day 6 - Two cars enter - 1 CAR LEAVES

The night before, Calvin found some old remote control cars that the Dwyers gave us a year ago for Christmas. He had NO INTEREST in trains this morning, so I just built a big loop that we used to fence in the RC cars.  Functional, but boring.

Day 7 - Hill Country

Sprawling track with that gave plenty of space for Calvin to jump around inside of.  The biggest feature was that we used books to hold up the track for an elongated time.  Also, the small tunnel loop was added on, so it could be avoided by the bigger trains.

Day 8 - Loop de Loops

The title kind of nails it, just a lot of little loops....

(also, the bridge in the middle of the picture is accessible from one direction - and then only one time.  OOPS)

Day 9 - The Well is Dry

uh....lets combine days 5 and 6....

Day 10 - Golden Gate to the rescue!!

BAM - just as we were running out of ideas, Grammy and Poppy dropped a double length suspension bridge on us.  Now we are cooking with gas again.  I think the bridge itself could have been a separate track because Calvin just kept going back and forth on it.  

Day 11 - Santa's Track - Supercharged

We decided to get a little nostalgic on the 2nd to last day and rebuild what Santa had left, just with ALL the pieces and bridges we had.  So the basic structure is the same, everything is just BIGGER.  And I have to say, it's an awesome layout.  

Day 12 - Postage Stamp

This is the last day of my vacation, so we can't really leave the train tracks over 1/3 of our living room anymore.  Pre-Christmas all of Calvin's tracks were kept in an upside down table we didn't use anymore.  We figured that because Brio sells a train table for $200 or so, that this would work perfectly.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the Brio table is 5-6 inches bigger each direction.  Which can mean a BIG difference. I described it as Michelangelo going from the Sistine Chapel to a Postage Stamp, but I'm just humble, what can I say. 

 As it is though, we were able to fit in the bridges, the tunnel the cargo with a few loops, decision points and turns, so I think we did well here.  Now it's something sustainable that I will stop tripping over.  AND when we expand to take over the floor again on the weekends, it will be fun and special to be unleashed again.  So win wins all around.  

Also, some key lessons -
- Always make the outside loop continuous
- Try to build in turnaround spots (but don't worry if you can't - Calvin just manually does it himself)
- bringing in non-brio toys just adds to the fun
- no matter how big or small the track is, Calvin will want to sit inside of it, so don't get too fancy or complicated on the inside
- bridges might collapse, but build them anyways
- It's a toy, so ALWAYS pick fun over function

Conclusion - 
The trains were a hit - Santa (Tomten) did a great job by getting all these previously loved pieces to our home.  I don't think Lisa expected as many squeals of delight and giddy laughter as we heard....and Calvin had fun too!

One of my favorite memories from Christmas 2013 will be Calvin driving around on Christmas morning just repeating over and over "this is AMAZING" - it doesnt get any better than that.

Whenever I had to step away to make some food / clean the kitchen / anything else I "had" to do, he would come running up and say "i want to play trains with DADDY" - and I would always run back in there.  We had a lot of fun and that time doesn't come back.  thats the whole point of parental leave and i'm so glad that I was able to take advantage of it.


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