Classic Train Set

Playing with the classics is always a good time. In 1936, Skaneateles Handicrafters were one of the first toy companies to make a wooden toy train and track very similar to that used by most companies today.

Engineering Skills for Kids

My kiddos love playing with the wooden trains. It isn’t their first choice in toys but once they get started they will play for hours. Learning about magnetism with the cars connections and track layout are great skills gained from wooden trains.

IKEA vs Kids Destiny Brand

When I started to look for my kids first wooden train set, I didn’t realize there were so many options. We originally purchased Kids Destiny Wooden Train Track 59 Piece Pack which states it is 100% Compatible with All Major Brands Including Thomas Train Wooden Railway System making this a great starter kit.

A year later, we were gifted an IKEA train set. I assumed the two sets were compatible. However, the two sets are not compatible. The plastic connectors of the IKEA train tracks doesn’t fit in the inserted connectors of the Kids Destiny tracks. Both are great train track sets but not together.

As you can see in the photo below, we mix and match them but it takes extra planning where the different tracks can go. Kids get a little frustrated and I have to help make it work.

When researching what skills are developed from wooden trains, I was surprised to find a long list at Here is some of the concepts that I found interesting. Check out their website for a full description.

• Understanding/recognising items.

• Vocabulary.

• Following instructions.

• Turn taking.

• Counting.

• Requesting.

• Grammar.

▪ Pronouns.

• Moving Concepts.

• Imaginative play skills.

▪ Boundary setting.

▪ Motivator.

▪ Expand play.

Building Rollercoasters

For the last day of January, we received our Stem Club toy from Amazon. This month we received the Roller Coaster Challenge by ThinkFun.

Thrill Ride Building Game

Game time. My daughter loves this game. While playing, she asked me if I liked the game too since it is similar to my favorite game Mouse Trap. Not sure if it is my favorite game but I remember being obsessed with playing Mouse Trap as a kid. I recently gave my girls Mouse Trap as a Christmas gift.

This game was amazing because it is challenging and educational. There are 40 roller coaster challenges to solve starting at easy level going up to expert. My daughter completed the easy levels with little help from me. She is doing math and engineering problem solving to figure out the different post and track configurations.

Once she thought she constructed a successful roller coaster track, she gave the little roller coaster car a push and watched it go.

Toward the end of the easy level, the challenge includes a loop the loop. I think my daughter finished the first 9 challenges so she can try the loop the loop.

We didn’t get a chance for free-form play yet but I’m sure my daughter will be excited to mix tracks up and be creative.

Engineering- Robot Hand


4H Challenge is to build a robotic hand. I found this great example while on Pinterest. Check it out here.

Just one more day to enter into the 4H photo contest. I just checked the number of entries and there are over 1.1 million. Crazy but happy for the interest of getting kids ‘inspired to do.’

The Activity

Today we traced my daughter’s hand to try and make a robotic hand.

Once her hand was traced, we cut it out then proceeded to bend the paper hand at the same location of her finger joints.

Next, we cut and taped small pieces of straw about the same length of her hand bones.

Did you know? Your hand has 27 bones, 14 of which are the phalanges (small bones) of the fingers and thumb.

After adhering the small straws to the paper hand, I helped her thread the straws with different colors of thread. The different colors will help us figure out which digit we are going to move without having to try them all.

Last, we taped the ends of the thread to the paper finger tips and the paper hand to the table. This way the hand doesn’t move when we pull the strings.


  • 5 different colors of thread
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Thick paper like cardstock
  • 5 straws

Engineering- Boat Race


Today is the boat race challenge for the 4H photo contest. By participating in the photo contest, you have a chance to win a $10,000 scholarship. Check out all the activities here!! Download the list here.

The Activity

Since we live in Washington state, we are surrounded by ferries that will take you back and forth from the San Juan Island. The ferry rides are about a half hour one way and if you ask nicely you can go round trip. It is just long (or short) enough to be exciting versus boring.

During the ferry ride is a great time to talk about different types of boats which will aid the kiddos in designing a boat for the boat race. Once the kids are familiar with the different types of boats, this is a great time to play eye spy with boats on the water.

Book Review:

  • The Activity

    We started the project by coloring 4×4 inch pieces of paper for the sail then we lined up popsicle sticks and glue support braces.

    I recommend assembling it upside down. Let the glue dry then flip it over and glue a few popsicle sticks on the sides. Voila!!

    Engineering- Egg Drop


    4H’s daily challenge is accept and conquer an egg drop challenge by designing and creating a container that will prevent your egg from cracking when dropped from let’s say the second story of your house. To check out future and past challenges look at my earlier post, 4H 30 day challenge, or go to to learn about the chance to receive a $10,000 scholarship.

    The Activity

    Egg drop is a great activity that promotes creative thinking and problem solving. We used K’NEX to create a vessel to protect our egg. K’NEX are a great engineering educational toy. They come to tons of different kits so kids can build cars to trains to planes. Oh my.

    My daughter created this rectangle container with support braces on each side then I helped her attach the egg inside with a twist tie and egg carton holder.

    The Result

    A broken egg. Sorry to say it didn’t serve the fall from the second story but it was great fun trying.

    Engineering – Building Shapes

    For our August STEM project from Amazon, we received Magna-Qubix 29-Piece Set. This toy is “the Original, Award-Winning Magnetic 3D Building Shapes.”

    My 5 year old loved it’s creativity aspect and I love it’s educational aspect. Learning the difference between a pyramid and triangle. Or cube and square. The 3D shapes really help my kids understand the difference between 2D and 3D.

    My 1 year old was ready to take them apart to get the small magnetic balls inside them. She was unsuccessful thanks to the quality of this toy. Yeah!! She got bored of them or maybe sister wasn’t sharing very well. Either way she moved on.

    Needless to say, my oldest was excited she got to use them all to make this magnificent castle. At least I think it is a castle. Maybe robot?!? Either way she was exercising her creativity making me happy!

    Sometimes my kids need a jumpstart on their creativity.

    What can you do with this toy?

    So I made some exercise for you and your kiddos to do to get the juices flowing. Enjoy!

    Here are some other puzzles to assemble:

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