Written by Tirzah Jane Baker
We’ve been crazy for trains this winter at the New-York Historical Society! To accompany our exhibition Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection, we’ve created lots of train art projects and crafts for our weekly story time Little New Yorkers, a drop-in program for 3–5 year olds and their caregivers every Tuesday and Friday from 3:30–4:15 pm.
Below are three of our most popular lessons that you can easily recreate at home. Make sure you check out the exhibition before it closes on February 26, and try out these crafts to keep the train fun chugging all year round!
This craft is great for discussing types of train cars and their uses. We read The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill Peet and learned about all kinds of train cars such as engines, passenger cars, container cars, tank cars, gondola cars, and cabooses. The project is super easy and can be made several different ways.
The first way is to color the trains on the template and then cut out the cars and glue them to another sheet of paper to make a train collage. Another option is to color the train cars on the template and cut them out, but then make a chain of trains by hole-punching each train and using string or pipe cleaners to connect them, like in the example above. The template below is available for you to print out and use!
Train Engineer Hat
This was by far our most popular craft! Below is the template we created in two versions: with an “E” for engineer and blank to customize with your own initials. Just print out the templates on cardstock paper and provide your train enthusiast(s) with crayons and markers for decorating. To attach the various hat pieces, make sure you cut the tabs on the brim of the hat and use staples and a bit of clear tape (pictures below). Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk, is a great companion book for this project because it can help start a conversation about all the important things a train engineer does.
Steam Engine Collage
This project is a great one to highlight steam engine trains. At Little New-Yorkers, we read Steam Train, Dream Train written by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, and discussed what steam is and how an engine runs on steam. The collage is made out of a dark blue piece of construction paper, the same engine template used in the train chain (see above), and cotton balls. Children love the unexpected use of cotton balls as an art material. You can also provide special silver and gold markers to draw beautiful night sky details!
We hope you try out these crafts at home and add your own creative twists. For more fun stories and projects, be sure to join us at Little New Yorkers!