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Wooden Rail: All Aboard!

Having fun playing with Wooden Rail

Playing with Wooden Rail is so much fun! And I’m talking about the grown ups as well as the kids! As a family, we spent many a happy hour playing trains. In fact, it’s the one toy from my children’s younger years that they just couldn’t part with. But how do you get started with train sets? Which bits are the best, can you join different brands and what benefits does it provide to your child? In today’s Blog, we discuss all this and more.

Where to start with Wooden Rail

Bigjigs Rail Figure of Eight Train Set

There are lots of options out there and, like many things, it can be tricky to know where to begin your adventure with wooden rail sets. At The Olive Branch, we would recommend a classic figure of eight set as a great starting place. With turns, straights, a bridge and and underpass, figure of eight sets cover all the basics in a neat way. You can build a loop like this from various parts, available to buy separately, or pick up a Bigjigs Rail set. There are plenty of options including the classic Figure of Eight, Fairy, or Farm themed designs. They make perfect gifts, they are compact and they provide a perfect opportunity to try out a small set with your child before investing in something larger.

It’s worth noting that Bigjigs Rail is recommended for children from 3+ years. If you are looking for something for a younger child, we also stock Hape Wooden Railway sets which are suitable from 18 months. Sets like the Music and Monkeys Railway are filled with multi-sensory elements that will appeal to younger train drivers!

How to grow your Wooden Rail Set

Bigjigs Rail Curves and Straights Expansion Pack

If your little one is enjoying a basic set and you are looking to grow it, what are the options? Bigjigs Rail have an extensive collection of expansion packs and track accessories, it can be tricky to decide! Everyone has their own favourites, tunnels, bridges, cranes and so on. We would always suggest looking for something that has “good play value”. By this, by this we mean accessories that can be used in multiple different ways, or that provide the potential for variety. For example, we love the Railway Viaduct – not just one underpass to send a train under the bridge but several! Also, junctions and turntables which add additional scope for building unique tracks each time you play.

Similarly, my children have always loved the Car Loader Train because they can play with the cars in connection with the trains or separately. And, the cars even run on the rail tracks too! Great “play value” equals engaging and new ways to play which keeps it fun!

Bigjigs Rail are also absolutely brilliant at combining themes into their railway accessories. In this way, you can tailor-make your set to your child’s interests and combine a love of trains with another favourite. We love the dinosaur rail collection including the Dinosaur Crane and the Dino Riser Tunnel. There’s many more including Farm, Fairy, Pirate, Construction and so on! They make lovely gift ideas to suggest to friends and family for Birthdays and Christmas, helping to extend a toy your child loves.

Add on Straights and Curves can be purchased separately if there is something specific you need for your track although its always worth considering an expansion pack like the Low Level, Curves and Straights or High Level which can work out as better value for money.

Which brand should I choose?

Bigjigs Rail Container Shipping Yard with child

The great thing to note here is that most leading wooden rail brands are all compatible with each other! Whoop whoop! So if you have sets or pieces from different places, they will most likely all fit. Sometimes the peg joints can look a little different but they all fit the same sockets. Similarly, some bridges and arches can be lower than others so you can sometimes find it tricky to lay another track below. But generally speaking, it’s great news if you have some old wooden rail sitting in the loft or if you are given some second hand pieces!

At The Olive Branch, we stock Bigjigs Wooden Rail because we love the variety of items they offer, the creativity in the designs, the quality of the products and the great value in the price. In fact, their collection is so extensive, we could fill the whole shop with it! We have chosen our favourites from their range but if there’s something you have seen from Bigjigs Rail, and you haven’t seen it in our store or online, do ask us as we can order other Bigjigs Rail items on request. Cool huh?!

What are the benefits of playing with Wooden Rail?

Wooden Rail playing with trains together

There are plentiful benefits! Where do we start! Firstly, it is a wonderful way to encourage the development of your child’s dexterity and fine motor skills. Piece together the different sections and carefully drive the trains around your track. Load and unload freight with the magnetic cranes, couple up carriages, it’s all great exercise for those little finger muscles!

It’s also brilliant for developing language skills as your little one brings their train adventures to life with speech. “Choo choo” and “Train coming” will quickly develop into “Look at the train going over the points.” There is so much learning to explore with the names of the accessories, colours of the trains and counting the carriages. I love the invitations for imaginative play too. Add-on accessories like the Train Washer help your child to come up with stories for their trains. “This train needs a wash after it got muddy at the farm!”

Train play is perfect for families and friends too. I can remember my youngest as a baby watching his older sister playing trains. He couldn’t wait to have a turn. I was worried that he would pull apart the tracks she had so carefully built. But no – he absolutely loved playing alongside her. He was mesmerised by the trains going round and she was learning key life skills about sharing, teamwork and explanation! Winner winner!

And as they have grown older, its become less “awe and wonder” of the trains going round, but more about problem solving, track design and engineering. How can we build a track that navigates this obstacle, over a doorway, down from the sofa and so on. The Short Curves, Mini Track and Crazy Track pieces have been godsends for those tricky to join up sections!

Any Top Tips?

Having fun playing with Wooden Rail

As you can probably tell, we are big fans of Wooden Rail play! The most important top tip we can offer is to HAVE FUN! Playing with your child is just the best. We have so much to learn from each other and moments to enjoy from spending time playing together.

Plus, the memories your child will have from playing trains with you will last a lifetime. I can remember staying up long after the children had gone to bed to build the best tracks I could for them to find in the morning. Making sure every exit from the turntable had a connected loop of track. Creating different routes in and out of the station. Perhaps there’s a little part of me that is glad the children have chosen the train tracks as their keepsake toy when others have long since found new homes! We love it and we hope you will too!

If you have any questions about Bigjigs Rail or Wooden Trains in general, please feel free to ask and we will do our very best to help. We would also love to hear about your wooden rail play and see photos of your layouts and designs. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

The Olive Branch Toy Shop Team