You might not realize it, but building model trains can offer so many great educational and developmental benefits to pre-teens and older children. They offer a myriad of learning opportunities and real-world applicable skills. If you are looking for a hobby that can be fun and educational for children, model trains are a great choice.
Here are the top 10 educational benefits of model trains:
#10 Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills must be developed over the entirety of childhood. Although it is primarily developed at a young age, it becomes better developed over time. Model trains can require exact and intricate movements of the hand, whether it is assembling them, painting them or just building aesthetic settings for the track. These intricate movements, or fine motor skills, have plenty of real-world applicable benefits.
Fine motor skills can play a big part in the quality of your child’s handwriting, which besides the obvious benefit of being able to write more legibly is that better handwriting has been linked to better retention of information. (It is much easier to internalize, process and store information you can clearly read and understand with your own handwriting.)
What type of train set you buy your child not only ties into if they already have the necessary motor skills but what age they are, so here is a good guide for parents on what train sets are best for what age.
Building model train sets takes plenty of forethought: there are so many aspects that need to be considered that building one without planning ahead can end in disaster. Learning to take the time to consider where the track is being placed, where junctions make the most sense, where the logical location for stations would be is all part of this.
It may take some trial and error for this to start to take effect, but that’s not normal, that’s how people learn best. Learning to think multiple steps ahead, considering what needs to be done, and making plans about the final layout of the model train set is a crucial process that develops great planning skills.
Building a model train set can be a long process, and learning to work towards an end goal is a valuable skill. Until they start to get older, children typically struggle with things that don’t offer immediate gratification. That’s why when young kids play with LEGO, they are unlikely to want to follow the instructions and more likely to partway half-though and then just improvise. That is not always the case, but it is most of the time.
Learning that to achieve the goal of building the complete model train set won’t all be done in one sitting, one day, and even one week can be a big deal for children. It’s what comes after they have been patient, when they have experienced the end reward that the connection will be made. Many children struggle with longer ongoing projects, but it is so incredibly rewarding for them if they learn to persevere and model trains provide this opportunity.
#7 Time Management
Learning to manage themselves and their self-play is one of the first steps in mastering time management. Learning how to manage resources is the second, and something that is pretty alien to younger children. As they go off to school, their free time drops drastically with class, homework, and extracurricular activities.
Building model train sets can be very time intensive, so learning how to plan their hobby around their life and make the most of their available time is a skill that needs to be developed. Learning to make schedules can be a good exercise for children in this regard. Making train schedules for their set and making schedules for their own time are both great starting points.
#6 Following Instructions
Many model train sets come with a set of detailed instructions that must be followed accurately. Without following instructions to the letter, problems can arise during the building process. Learning that not following instructions can have real negative consequences is something that all children benefit from learning as soon as possible. It may seem a bit of an over-exaggeration, but learning that you need to follow instructions can be the difference between life and death in emergencies.
Even though model train sets come with rigid instructions, many offer plenty of room for creativity. Even if it is only choosing how, where and what with that you will decorate the surroundings of your set, learning to express creatively is something that needs to be nurtured in children. Providing a platform for this creativity to be expressed is crucial too. Whilst young children like repetition and familiarity, older pre-teen and teens much prefer being able to be different. Being able to be unique and expressing their individuality is a big step for them and model trains offer that avenue.
#4 Being Sociable
Playing with and building model trains is a great individual, self-rewarding activity if you want it to be, but it also has so much opportunity to be more than that. Model train clubs offer great chances for your child to share what they already know, to seek new information and just to spend time with likeminded people. Learning how to communicate with people, find common ground, and using that common ground to build a relationship is a real life skill children need to be able to master by late teens.
#3 Money Management
Train sets are not always cheap. One of the biggest educational benefits stemming from having an interest in model trains is how to manage your money. Pre-teen children are probably at the age where they start earning pocket money, receiving an allowance, or doing extra housework for a buck or two.
Teaching them to pick something they want to buy, look at the price, look at how much they save per week, and then budget how long it will take for them to be able to afford it is a great life skill. It also teaches appreciation for what they buy, especially when they experience for themself what is involved in being able to afford a purchase. It could take a while to save up to afford a new train, but your children will learn to appreciate it that much more because of this.
An interesting read is provided by this document in which the Australian government presents a new scheme for educating children about the value of money and good money management.
#2 Finer Details
We have looked at the bigger picture of having model trains as a hobby, but learning to appreciate the finer details is the next stage. Model train sets contain so many smaller parts and pieces that help add to the overall appearance of the set. Learning to take a step back and look at the finer details can give a new appreciation for what contributes to the finished product.
Such things as having a conductor on the station, sheep in the fields, and the correct signs at junctions may not be immediately obvious improvements but when taking a step back to appreciate the whole set they become more apparent. Learning to understand and appreciate the smaller details can be a big growing opportunity for teenagers, helping them to become more aware and considerate people before they reach adulthood.
As mentioned above, building a model train set can be a big project. Learning to keep going, and understanding that once you have started something you should finish it, is perhaps the biggest benefit. Being able to stay committed to a project from start to finish is such a valuable life skill to have. It is also applicable to school and perhaps most importantly so. Learning how to start a homework project and see it through to the end, without becoming lazy and doing halfhearted work, can help kids out with their whole schooling process.
There are so many benefits to building and playing with model train sets. These sets can provide a platform for so many life skills whilst coming from an area of fun, making them much more likely to sink in. If you were on the fence about whether model trains seemed an appropriate hobby for your child or not, I hope this article has given you enough information to convince you of all the benefits this particular hobby provides.