Over on the left is The Usborne Book of Making Models. If you are interested in shopping for items related to models and model making, books, materials, etc, I've gathered these links together at the end. Read on for mini lesson plan ideas and for more details on this and other Usborne model books...
Model trains are such a favorite thing to have under the Christmas tree. Little boys who love Thomas the Tank Engine might just develop a love for model trains and railroads. There are some good articles on toy trains for children, including articles on Electric Train Scales for Children (about choosing the size of trains) and Electric Train Do's and Don'ts for Parents at About.com. For teens and adults try the National Model Railroad Association Introduction to Model Railroading. If you need to be inspired by visuals, take a look at the small layout scrapbook for lots and lots of layout plans and photos. I was particularly intrigued by the shoebox layouts.
Working with scale trains is a great exercise in math, design, art and electricity. You'll be planning track layouts, costing a variety of designs, learning electrical safety, and building scenery. For your scenery The Usborne Book of Making Models, pictured above, contains ideas and step by step instructions for making a tunnel, as well as bushes, shrubs, trees and paths.
I've always enjoyed visiting model railroads. It took a good bit of searching to find a website that lists places to visit - check out GreatestHobby.com, their list looks to be comprehensive and current... unless of course you know different! I'm lucky enough to live close to a very absorbing little model railroad store. At the Show Me Railroad Company they make their own limited edition HO scale rolling stock right in the store. It's a kind of mini rail wonderland with large layouts in several scales, and lots of tiny items to explore. If you don't have a miniature railroad museum, like the Twin City Model Railroad Museum, or the San Diego Model Railroad Museum nearby, visiting a store or a model railroad club could be the next best thing.
If you want the tradition of a train under the tree, it's worth spending some time reading to make sure you choose something suitable. Alternatively, if you're not sure you have an enthusiast, do what I did. Choose the least expensive little battery-operated train set you can find and assume it will get broken. Guess what - we've had our little plastic Santa train set for probably 9 years now and it's still as good as new! It was the right choice for us; neither of my kids has developed an enthusiasm for model railroads, at least not yet anyway.
Writing about mini lesson plans is almost as fascinating as doing them. I have a lot more to say but I'm out of both time and brain juice, so for now I'll say, "to be continued"... I will update later with links for those interested in shopping and continue in a separate article for mini lesson plans with other kinds of models beyond trains.
Places to shop for model trains and related items:
- Atlas Model Railroad Company - Atlas produce items in HO, N, and O scales.
- The Show Me Model Railroad Company makes and sells limited edition rolling stock in HO scale. See the Show Me Holiday Collectibles - these are affordable and could make a great gift for your model train enthusiast.
- Manufacturer Lionel has their own Online Train Shop. You''ll need a few bucks to invest in one of their sets. Set themes include Harry Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine, Polar Express and North Pole.
- Find a hobby shop close to you from the Greatest Hobby model shop directory.
- More links for model train enthusiasts and yet more from Model Railroad News.
- At Choo Choo Track they sell Brio compatible and Thomas items.
Brought to you in association with Amazon.com with Christmas train choices and plenty of Brio items.