Teaching Old Tracks New Tricks!

Kids are full of imagination and creativity. Watch kids on Christmas morning. Boxes are almost as much fun as the toys that come in them! The great part about this creativity is that it can be harnessed to create some amazing things. The new book Old Tracks, New Tricks by Jessica Petersen gives kids a great opportunity to re-purpose old toys and create new ways to have fun. It also presents an opportunity to do a lot of fun train activities with your kids!

Standard Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. In order to support this blog and continue providing free content, I may receive a commission from purchases you make through the links in this post. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All ideas and opinions are my own.

Old Tracks, New Tricks was written by Jessica Petersen, the creator of the blog Play Trains! This book follows a set of tracks who are excited that they will finally get to play with the trains and the other pieces of tracks. They soon find that the trains make the rules and don’t encourage creativity and originality. These determined tracks refuse to fall in line and end up having a lot more fun. They teach the old tracks and the trains that they can have more fun doing new tricks and playing games. This is a great book to encourage kids to think outside the box and be creative!

Painting with Trains – Gather some train toys (preferably ones that are easily washable). Set them out onto a table with some paper plates and some paint. Have kids roll their trains through the paint and then roll them across the paper. They will love making train track art using their favorite trains!

Hop along the train tracks!

Train Track Obstacle Course – Using masking tape, create a set of train tracks on the floor. Have kids follow the train tracks from one end to the other. Make the game increasingly more difficult by having them hop along the tracks, or follow the tracks backwards. You could also have them jump from square to square counting by twos or spelling their name. There are a lot of ways that you can adapt this activity for your kids and their skill levels.

Train Track Trivia Hop – This is a fun activity to get kids moving while working on desired skills. Using masking tape like above, create two sets of train tracks on the floor. Have kids stand at one end of the train tracks to start. Ask them a question based on the skills you are working on (math facts, spelling, shape/letter recognition, etc). If they answer correctly, they can jump to the next square on the tracks.

Kids who are working on the same skills can compete to answer first. If you have two kids playing at different skill levels, you can have them take turns answering. If you only have one child playing, you can stand on the other set of tracks and take a step forward if they answer incorrectly, or have them ask you a question that you have to answer! (Better brush up on those Paw Patrol characters!). The first one to make it to the end of the tracks wins!

Take a ride on the alphabet train!

Alphabet Train – This is a fun activity which can be done in two ways. Cut 26 rectangles out of colored paper and write one letter of the alphabet on each one. Lay them out end to end on the floor or on a table top. Tell your kids that they have to search the house to find items that start with each letter of the alphabet. When they find one, they have to bring it out and place it onto the train car with the right letter. (You could also have a preset group of items for them to sort if you would rather keep them contained).

Another way to do this activity is to have your kids search through old magazines to find pictures of things that start with each letter of the alphabet. Cut them out and glue them onto the respective letter squares.

Old games, new tricks

Building New Track Tricks – Use the photos in the book to create new tricks for your train tracks to do! Encourage kids to use their imaginations to use the tracks in new and different ways. The author shares ideas on her website and asks that readers do the same!

Recreating Old Toys – Do you have pieces of old games and toys around that no longer have matching sets? An UNO deck missing half of it’s cards, or puzzle pieces without a board? Encourage kids to repurpose these old toys into something new! Let their imagination run wild and see what new games and hybrid toys they can come up with! You might accidentally create a new family favorite.

It is so important to encourage kids to be creative and to think outside the box, and this book is a great starting point! These fun train activities will also help them to use their creative thinking skills. These skills can help your kids to be more adaptable and resourceful, which will help them later in life!


  • Emily

    April 17, 2017 at 7:40 am Reply

    Yes! My kiddos love playing with cardboard boxes. I get a few things delivered from Target and they have hours of fun playing in the big boxes. 🙂

    My daughter painted with trains and loved it! Great ideas.

    • Vicki

      April 17, 2017 at 12:45 pm Reply

      Thanks! I remember when my parents got a new fridge when we were younger, and we spent hours rolling each other around the back yard in the box!

  • Belle

    April 17, 2017 at 9:56 am Reply

    Those are such fun activities! Will absolutely try these with my kids!

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

    • Vicki

      April 17, 2017 at 12:45 pm Reply

      I hope you have fun with them!

  • Jessica Peresta

    April 17, 2017 at 9:58 am Reply

    What a cute idea! My 2 year old son is super into trains right now and would love this activity!

    • Vicki

      April 17, 2017 at 12:45 pm Reply

      I hope he does! My daughter loves watching all kinds of vehicles and machines right now.

  • Victoria

    April 17, 2017 at 10:36 am Reply

    This will be a great addition to our day on my next maternity leave.

    • Vicki

      April 17, 2017 at 12:45 pm Reply

      I hope you enjoy it!

  • Ellie Augustin

    April 17, 2017 at 10:49 am Reply

    My youngest is all about tracks actually so I will have to try the alphabet train with her. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Vicki

      April 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm Reply

      I’m so glad! I hope she has a lot of fun with it!

  • Adree

    April 17, 2017 at 3:28 pm Reply

    Such fun ideas! I love the idea of painting with the train. My little man is entertained by the simplest things.

    • Vicki

      April 17, 2017 at 8:52 pm Reply

      I hope he has fun with it! My daughter loved it!

  • Lisa Sell

    April 17, 2017 at 4:08 pm Reply

    I love this! I’m sharing this with some mums and a childminder friend.

    • Vicki

      April 17, 2017 at 8:52 pm Reply

      Thank you! I hope you all have fun with it!

  • Fi Morrison

    April 17, 2017 at 6:10 pm Reply

    What an absolutely gorgeous concept for a book! I’m definitely going to get this for when I start back teaching later in the year!

    • Vicki

      April 17, 2017 at 8:52 pm Reply

      It is a great book! I hope you have a lot of fun with it!

  • Sarah Clouser

    April 17, 2017 at 7:00 pm Reply

    Great ideas! My kids are 5 and 6 and still love playing with our wooden train set. One of their favorite activities is to make a “parking lot” with masking tape for all of the trains.

    • Vicki

      April 17, 2017 at 8:53 pm Reply

      That is adorable — and fits in perfectly with the theme of this book!

  • Katrina

    April 17, 2017 at 7:56 pm Reply

    Great post with some awesome ideas! Thanks for sharing ?

  • Meredith

    April 17, 2017 at 9:55 pm Reply

    I love all these cool activities!! You have such amazing ideas that I can’t wait to try out when my daughter gets older!!

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 11:36 am Reply

      Thank you! I hope you have fun with them!

  • Kate A

    April 17, 2017 at 10:14 pm Reply

    I love that hop along the train tracks idea! It reminds me of a game I used to set up when my oldest was very young. We’d take those little foam floor tiles, and set them up in a track down our longest hallway. And then he’d crawl over them like a little train, saying ‘chugga chugga’ on the way. So many fun ways to incorporate trains into playtime!

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 11:37 am Reply

      That is so cute! My daughter was enjoying running back and forth along them making the train noises too.

  • Shannon

    April 18, 2017 at 2:45 am Reply

    I like the train track activity hop idea, getting them up and moving whike learning.

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 11:38 am Reply

      Thank you!

  • Bobbi

    April 18, 2017 at 11:00 am Reply

    What a cool idea! I’ve never thought about using those old uno cards that are no longer a full deck for a new game but it makes sense and encourages creativity! Thanks for the ideas!

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 11:39 am Reply

      Thank you! I hope you all come up with a great new game!

  • The Momproviser

    April 18, 2017 at 12:08 pm Reply

    Love the painting with trains idea! What a great concept for the book, too. We are always looking for ways to repurpose old toys. Boxes definitely have the most bang for their buck, but this gives me something more to think about!

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 5:20 pm Reply

      Thank you! I think repurposing old toys is a great way to get kids thinking outside the box (no pun intended!)

  • Lisa

    April 18, 2017 at 1:08 pm Reply

    That looks like a cute book for train lovers! And I love the idea of painting with trains – I have a nephew that would love to do that! Great idea!

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 5:24 pm Reply

      Thanks! My daughter had a lot of fun with it!

  • Lane & Holly @ With Two Spoons

    April 18, 2017 at 2:10 pm Reply

    I love all of these activities! And I LOVE books!

  • Zakiyah Kelly

    April 18, 2017 at 3:04 pm Reply

    This looks amazing and definitely something I’ll try with my toddler! I’ve been looking for more activities to do with him during the day and I think he will really enjoy this!

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 5:26 pm Reply

      I’m so glad! I hope you have a lot of fun with it!

  • Dani Wagner

    April 18, 2017 at 3:53 pm Reply

    Sounds like a cool book and a lot of great ideas!

  • Davi

    April 18, 2017 at 4:00 pm Reply

    This isn’t such a cute themed post! Love all the activities you came up with for trains. I used to love building train tracks when I was a little girl. I can also remember putting tape down to make “roads” for toy cars (sort of like your idea for the train obstacle course). Thanks for all your ideas! Such a well thought out post.

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 5:31 pm Reply

      Thank you so much! I love that toy trains are such a great toy for encouraging creativity!

  • Amanda Appiagyei

    April 18, 2017 at 5:44 pm Reply

    Oh I looovve the idea of an alphabet train. My three year old is so uninterested at the moment, so I’m not pushing but just keep trying to think of fun things to incorporate learning ABCs into. He is going to love this!

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 8:07 pm Reply

      I am so glad! I hope it helps!

  • Rachel G

    April 18, 2017 at 5:50 pm Reply

    These are such cool activities! I love teaching that incorporates books, but takes lessons to the next level with all sorts of fun sensory activities!

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 8:07 pm Reply

      Thank you! I love elevating books with fun activities!

  • Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves

    April 18, 2017 at 7:39 pm Reply

    This looks like such a fun book! Some awesome toddler activities in here I will have to try with my son. Thanks for the awesome ideas!

    • Vicki

      April 18, 2017 at 8:08 pm Reply

      You’re welcome! I hope he enjoys them!

  • Amila Wickramarachchi

    April 19, 2017 at 3:23 am Reply

    Sounds like a great book for kids and moms.I got some new ideas to do with my kid.In our home,we dont have expensive or big toys.Instead we have small toys.I think that is the best opportunity for my kid to be creative.Using these small toys,we create lot of play activities… 🙂

    • Vicki

      April 19, 2017 at 12:58 pm Reply

      It is so great for kids to have an opportunity to be creative and make their own games.

  • Christina

    April 19, 2017 at 10:23 am Reply

    So fun! My son would love the train and paint idea! Definitely pinning this for later!

    • Vicki

      April 19, 2017 at 12:59 pm Reply

      I’m so glad! I hope he enjoys it!

  • Camesha | Mama Motivator

    April 19, 2017 at 12:29 pm Reply

    Sounds like a great book! I love anything that encourages kids to think differently and be creative.

    • Vicki

      April 19, 2017 at 12:59 pm Reply

      It is a great jumping off point for creative play!

  • Brandy Champeau

    April 19, 2017 at 9:43 pm Reply

    That is a great book and I love the activities that you share with it. I especially like the hopping game. My boys are kinetic learners so anything that involves movement gets a big plus in our house.

    • Vicki

      April 19, 2017 at 10:45 pm Reply

      I’m so glad! We had a lot of fun with the train tracks!

  • Jenna

    April 20, 2017 at 8:49 am Reply

    This looks so fun! My daughter is super into trains right now. I’ll have to check out this book.

    • Vicki

      April 20, 2017 at 12:43 pm Reply

      I hope you enjoy it! It’s a cute book!

  • Clarice | Pursuing the Simple Life

    April 20, 2017 at 10:07 am Reply

    What a cute book! I love the activities you’ve a included to go along with the book too.

    • Vicki

      April 20, 2017 at 12:44 pm Reply

      Thank you! It is a very cute one!

  • Ana Canon

    April 20, 2017 at 8:57 pm Reply

    We recently bought those train tracks for my son and he loves them!

    • Vicki

      April 20, 2017 at 10:29 pm Reply

      They are such a classic toy!

  • Melissa

    April 21, 2017 at 10:03 am Reply

    This book looks super cute! I need to add this one to our collection. I love the activities you paired with it.

    • Vicki

      April 21, 2017 at 12:52 pm Reply

      Thank you! It is a very cute book!

  • Stephanie

    April 22, 2017 at 7:17 am Reply

    What a cute book! Even better activity ideas. Can’t wait to try the Alphabet train!

    • Vicki

      April 22, 2017 at 9:51 am Reply

      Thanks! I hope you have fun with it!

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