I recently scored some new Brio trains from my local Buy Nothing Project group (if you’ve never heard of the Buy Nothing Project, you should definitely check out this article about it by Krisbee Mama. It’s been amazing for our family!)
Since I finally had some quality brio, I was feeling less attached to the off-brand, cheapo train set that my students have been beating up for years now. I decided to upcycle some of the pieces by dyeing the wood and I’m so glad I did!
Mounting a little loop of track on a board (or a piece of cardboard) makes it a perfect toy for toddlers, who often enjoy driving toy trains but aren’t really ready to assemble the tracks yet.
Best of all, this little play set was actually pretty quick and easy to make- and it looks so pretty!
To make your own Rainbow Train Set, you will need;
-Enough wooden train tracks to make a little loop (and a train to go with it, of course!)
-A large sheet of cardboard (or plywood if you’re feeling fancy)
-Black acrylic paint
-Liquid Watercolors or food coloring
-A hot glue gun
Directions for making your train set
1. Cut your cardboard to the size you want.
I actually made my train set so it would fit as an attachment on top of my EASY DIY 2-in-1 Light Table and Sensory Bin, so I used the lid from the sensory bin as a guide. I glued two rectangles of cardboard to the underside of my larger sheet, as you can see, to keep it from sliding around. I also attached Velcro to the bottom and out the corresponding pieces on the lid so the train table can be placed on top and easily removed.
2. Lay out your tracks the way you want them in a loop that fits on your board
Make sure the number of track pieces you use is divisible by the number of colors you have so you can make an even loop. For example, I used the six rainbow colors so my loop has 12 pieces.
Tip- Take a picture when you’re done in case you can’t figure out how to reassemble it later!
3. Paint the board for your train set
I used black acrylic paint so the colors would really pop!
4. Set up your dye
I used food coloring to dye my tracks. (Liquid watercolors would work too). You will need six ziplock bags or containers with a little water and a generous amount of food coloring.
5. Dye the tracks a rainbow of colors
Make sure to take one piece of track at a time and put them into the bags in rainbow order, so when you reassemble the track, the colors will be in the right order.
When all of your pieces have been added, close the bag/container and shake, shake, shake!
(If you need more detailed directions and more photos about this method, you can check out my post Autumn Pasta: A Sensory and Fine Motor Activity)
5. Spread them out to dry
You can use paper plates, wax paper, cookie sheets, or whatever you have as a surface. Be aware that anything that drips off the tracks as they’re drying could stain.
6. Reassemble the tracks on your board and hot glue them in place.
Add a train and you’re ready to play!
*Optional Bonus Step!*
As I said above, I mounted my train track on top of my EASY DIY 2-in-1 Light Table and Sensory Bin so it would be the right height for a toddler to hold the train and walk in circles. I simply attached it to the lid of the sensory bin with adhesive Velcro so it can be attached and removed as necessary.
Here’s the finished project in place;
Now we have a light table, sensory bin, and train table, all in one piece! This would be amazing for a small house or apartment. With the Velcro closures it’s so easy to access the different functions!
Here it is with some magformer “houses” for the trains;
This could so easily be combined with a ton of different toys! How will you use your rainbow train set for toddlers?
Leave a comment and let me know!
Toddlers that love this would definitely have fun with a chalkboard activity table- find out why in this post: 5+ Ways to Play with a Chalkboard Activity Table!
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