The Four-Year Old

The three-year old will now affectionately be referred to as “the four-year old.” Today is his birthday. I may have cried.

I wanted to show you a present we made him. I didn’t think it was blog worthy at first, so I didn’t take very good pictures (what’s new?). But then I was overwhelmed with emotion during the process and decided to blog it.

I’m thrilled that anyone cares enough to read this blog, but my ultimate goal is not to become some established, legit, money-making blogger. If that can happen within the confines of my schedule, fine. Maybe. But really I’m doing this so that we can look back in ten years (like we wish we could over the last ten) and see what we were up to.

For that reason, I wanted to blog this simple project. I know I’ll want to re-read it someday when my babies leave home. I’m an emotional wreck, and this is all sentimental crap, so feel free to come back Wednesday if you don’t care about that kinda stuff. I understand.

First, some background, because this project has made me think of the first time we did something similar.

My oldest son (now eleven) had just turned two. He was enamored with cars and trains, though he hadn’t yet heard of Thomas the Tank Engine. (We discovered Thomas soon after when we started looking for more trains.) We were so broke then. Well, I don’t know if broke is the term. I hate to be deceptive about any amount of money we had. We weren’t starving and we weren’t homeless and we weren’t living off the government. Maybe rather than saying “broke,” I should say we were living within our means, and our means were humble. (I was staying home and my husband was just getting started in his career. You know how it is.)

My son turned two the week before Christmas, and right after Christmas we found some wooden track on clearance. It was not Thomas brand. Nor Brio or whatever all those fancy tracks are. It was similar to this train track. It was only $14.99.

Now, let me pause here to say that I hate when people say things like that. “It’s only ten dollars.” Ten dollars might as well be one hundred dollars if you’re sticking to a tight budget and living within your means and have put yourself on a strict schedule to be debt free or something like that. Stay with it! Someday you’ll have much more breathing room. Do not ten dollar away your future. Put down that latte! (And forgive me if I sound like a rich snob when I say things like, “this dresser was only $150.” I’ve been there. I understand.)

Anyway, life is short and giving your child something you know they will absolutely love is priceless. So yeah, find balance. (How’s that for advice? Ha.) We bought it. We were so stinking excited! (I wish I got that excited these days. Being broke is wonderful. Amazing memories that I would never trade!)

My husband and I spent a couple nights and nap times working on the perfect track configuration. I hand painted the board we used. It had a golf course and rivers and parks, as well as a painted road that went under a train bridge so that his Hotwheels wouldn’t have to wait on the passing train. We made little houses and a church and book store and Walmart out of wooden blocks (all the places that we ever went). We glued the track down so it couldn’t be reconfigured. Because we knew our first-born, type-A, loves-structure child. He loved it and played with it for years!

Our middle son, much to my disappointment, showed no interest in Thomas or trains whatsoever. He loved tools and Transformers. We got rid of the train board (it wasn’t so much a “train table,” because it just slid under the bed).

My third son loves Thomas! (Thankfully we kept most of the trains. We had several of the diecast take-n-play, but a box of wooden trains accidentally got donated to Goodwill when we had way too many moving helpers when I was 8 months pregnant.) Oh well. It happens. Some of the people in our home didn’t cry over it. So that’s good.

Just as well, my youngest son prefers the diecast. He loves the take-n-play track. He likes to make the track different every time. And he doesn’t care about detail nearly as much as my oldest. He’s fine, and actually prefers, to not have background scenes and all that “junk.”

Awesome! Easier for this project!

So we had this tri-bed, remember? And then we moved on to other sleeping arrangements. Well, that bottom bed was calling out to be a train table. It was whispering at me every time I walked by it in the garage.


We just pried off that front board (it was a bit too high to be comfortable reaching over to play). The train table needed to come out the end of his bed, rather than the side, because of how tight the beds are in their room. So we used a scrap piece that was already painted Tropical Foliage, and just nailed it onto the end and screwed it underneath with a brace to be used as the handle. (Of course I wasn’t taking pictures up to this point, since I wasn’t going to blog this.)

I filled the nail holes with wood filler and then sanded smooth once it was dry.

wood filler

I hoped to be able to sand the plywood. It was a super cheap piece of plywood that worked fine to hold a mattress, but it wasn’t smooth enough for this use. I realized right away that sanding wasn’t going to work, so we cut a piece of paneling that we had on hand into the right dimensions and then glued it to the plywood.

wood glue

He had no idea what we were working on, he just wanted to wear his Bob the Builder costume and help.


Once the glue was dry, I spray painted the paneling. I considered latex, but it was a gorgeous day and I already had the spray paint on hand, and only a tiny bit of latex left in a sample jar.

tropical foliageValspar Tropical Foliage spray paintlatex tropical foliage

I figure if the spray paint doesn’t hold up well, I can paint it again later.

So there it is. Just a super simple green board…

on casters…


for playing trains and building tracks…

20140224_022549 20140224_022541

with no detail and no permanent track…it will be perfect for my free-spirited, always-changing-his-mind, maybe-I’ll-build-Legos-on-it FOUR-year old.

It’s low enough that it can go under the bed, or under our sofa (where I figure it will usually reside), where it is hiding right now until Daddy gets home.

I promise to be back later this week to show you the finished-ish boys’ room. ‘Cause I know you’re dying to see it!



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