Exploring STEM Concepts Through Train & Car Play

Girl playing with dolls in front of dollhouse

Want a fun way to introduce your preschooler to STEM concepts (science, technology, engineering, and math)? Look no further than their toy train set! From early experiments with motion and force to building tracks and roads to counting and sorting, train and car toys offer a wealth of stem activities for preschoolers and toddlers. So hop on board and explore how you can ignite your child's curiosity while having a blast together.

Understanding Motion and Forces

Ever watched your child push a toy train or car across the floor over and over, marveling at how it moves? They’re already experimenting with basic physics concepts like motion, speed, and direction. You can support their curiosity by helping them experiment with different surfaces and inclines to observe how they affect the motion of the toy.

Take it up a notch by asking questions and having them form hypotheses: “Which one do you think will make it down the slide first? The big truck or the little car?” “What could we do to make them go faster?” “What if we try to roll them over the carpet?” This encourages their analytical thinking but also sets the stage for understanding how varying forces can impact the speed and direction of an object's movement.

Building and Designing Tracks and Roads

One of the many benefits of playing with toy trains – other than all the fun!– is that it can help your kiddo discover a love for engineering and design. As your child experiments with different track layouts or road configurations, they’re fostering their own creativity and problem-solving skills, figuring out how to connect pieces and keep their trains and cars on track through all the twists and turns. As they envision a track and bring it to life through trial and error, they just might find that they love the challenge and sense of accomplishment that come with a successful engineering feat!

Counting and Measuring with Trains and Cars

Who says kids don’t like math? You can sneak in lessons on basic math skills with your kiddo’s trains and cars – and they’ll just think they’re having fun! You could ask them to build a track with 10 pieces or to count the number of cars they have on the road.

To sneak in some measurement learning, try tasks like "Can you find something that's as long as this train?" or "Let's measure how far the car can travel in one push." These activities introduce them to concepts of length, distance, and comparison, and most importantly, they’re fun!

Sorting and Comparing

Sorting is actually an essential pre-math skill – and one of the easiest ways you can practice stem for preschoolers! And nothing makes it more fun for your kid than using their favorite toys! Ask your child to sort the vehicles by color, and keep it fun by making it a part of the game. For example, you can pretend that the red cars need to line up by color for a parade! Once sorting by color is easy, you can have your child move on to more challenging tasks like lining cars up from smallest to biggest.

Introducing STEM concepts into your child's playtime doesn't have to be daunting – and if you have toy trains or cars handy, you already have the perfect tools to do it! Remember, the key to teaching STEM to preschoolers is to keep it light, interactive, and age-appropriate. As you build twisting train tracks and race toy cars, you’re making memories with your child and helping them discover a love for STEM subjects.

Ready to hop aboard the STEM Express with your little engineer? From elaborate cityscapes to simple starter sets, we have a train set for every age and skill level! Shop our full line of train sets and activity tables, or check out our Top Train Set Picks for specific suggestions to match your budget and your child’s interests.