I have several types of construction toys which are never all out because there is not enough space and too many toys is overwhelming. The various construction sets are placed in the block area bins as one complete set or a combination of two or more partial sets. Selecting the set(s) to have available is dependent on the interests and ages of the children enrolled at the time.
The train tracks are one of the construction sets that sometimes cause issues in a mixed age group. Some children enjoy building large elaborate track systems but this requires cooperation if there are several children involved. When infants and toddlers are present this is not always possible and many young children find building with the train tracks to be frustrating.
My current group of infants and toddlers may be the exception. The train tracks have been available in the block area for almost three months now and the children are showing no signs of getting tired of playing with them. I have changed the other items in the block bins several times since the tracks were introduced – now we have the stacking cups – but the train tracks remain.
At first the toddlers were mostly just interested in the trains and rarely attempted to use tracks. Those that did use tracks were content to just put a few pieces of track together and drive a train back and forth on it. Then one day they wanted to make a circle so we learned that eight small curves make a small circle;
Curve, turn, flip, and direction were some of the words we used often during the process. For a couple weeks they were content with these two designs and became experts at building them without assistance. Then I suggested we change things a bit and use both types of curves – four small and four large – still eight pieces but arranged in pairs first.
By this point several of the toddlers had become expert builders able to connect several shapes together and create their own shapes. My role was mostly just observing and introducing some new words like ‘elongate’;
With this group of toddlers the train tracks may be out for a while yet – they are still showing no signs of getting tired of building train tracks. In fact, the two year old was super excited to build and name this ‘heart’ all by himself.