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Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Tommy has been collecting Thomas Tank Engine toys for too many years now; as a result, he has an impressive collection. At first, he simply lined up the tracks in a straight line, lined up his engines along the track, placed his eye at engine level, and peered along the lineup. Over time, he became much more ingenious about his track layouts; now he not only creates complex layouts, but also finds unique ways to show off his engines.

Last year, he got interested in the idea of creating a "model adventure" layout featuring elevated Thomas tracks running around the living room. He tried over and over to get the tracks to hang together with supports under them, but they're just not built to do that. Peter taped a length of track to a 2X4, which Tom could then suspend between two piles of blocks - but the whole endeavor was very unsatisfying.

We tried interesting him other, more "appropriate" building materials - legos, Kn'ex, and so forth - but he couldn't wrap his brain around the idea that he was to use a blueprint to build the cool toy on the box. In fact, he couldn't even work out the process of connecting one K'nex to another (which, frankly, isn't as easy as it might be!). Instead, he squirreled away the little bits and pieces ... and over time it became clear that we were contributing at great expense to a pile o' junk.

But Tom continues to have an interest in engineering and building. We had given him a marble maze, which decided to build a full story high - and lean up against a wall. But that wasn't good enough. He wanted something bigger. His Dad, who is amazingly talented at going with the moment and inspiring perfect teachable moments, decided that now would be a great time to build that giant marble maze. We have dozens of cardboard tubes (long story), and together they designed and build a TWO-story high marble tube that starts at the old plastic maze, continues across the top of a wall (suspended by string on hooks) and then continues over the loft and down to the floor below.

In the first photo (below) you can see the tubes, connected by masking tape and suspended by string, running above the two windows in the loft.

This (below) is the looooong tube that runs from the loft down to the floor below. At the very bottom there's a bucket to catch the marbles. The bucket has a string attached, so the kids can haul the marbles back up. It's a big hit with visiting pals!

I'd love to see this "maze" expanded, but so far Tom seems happy as a clam with a system that's very close to being a simple chute... It's becoming more and more clear to me that the things I love (complex marble mazes, for example) may not be of any interest at all to Tom... Bummer.


The Glasers said...

My David (NT) had one of those plastic Fisher Price train sets. We just saw one advertised on television that had remote control activated trains! He was born about a decade too early!

He loved building anything out of Legos, including a fleet of triremes and the seven wonders of the ancient world. Sadly, that has not translated into designs of being an engineer. He still plans to major in history.

It would have been cool for the tube-building to blossom into a family project! Maybe a little time and maturity will do the trick.

Lisa Jo Rudy said...

Thanks so much for your note - and sorry to take so long to reply.

David sounds absolutely amazing... do you have any pix of his work? What are triremes??