Hosting Train Parties

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Have a great tip you want to share?  E-mail us and we'll put it here.  Please be sure to include your name and city so we can give you proper credit. Check back for new ideas.

Parties for 1 year olds

At this age it's best to skip the fanfare.  Simpler is better.  Parties at home are the least stressful for everyone.  Schedule for when baby is at his best:  Just after nap time or a couple hours before nap time  if you want to have a quiet clean up.  If you plan on inviting other 1 year olds,  invite their parents too. Avoid kid only parties until grade school if you can.  Large parties can overwhelm babies, so it's better to keep it small.  Those with large families should plan for quiet time for the birthday child or a nap in the middle.  Now for the train part.  Party items featuring trains will set the tone for your party .  Add train cups, plates, banners, & center pieces,  plus train toys, videos, train music or sound effects on tape, and your party say "choo-choo."  Remember not to go overboard with activities.  Babies find shredding wrapping paper just as exciting as gifts and party games.
Safety note: latex balloons are a deadly choking hazard.  If you choose to use them tie well out of reach of young children and dispose of them immediately after the party.

Parties for 2 year olds

At age two, parties are less stressful (for the child, that is) and gifts are more interesting (although opening them gets boring fast).   In addition to decorations, showing train videos, playing train music or sound effects, and providing toy trains add to the atmosphere.  Home parties are still easier, but a park or party facility can work well also. Simpler versions of party games  can work, depending on how advanced and how interested the kids at your particular party are.  If you have space, train shaped "jump houses" (large inflated structures that kids climb into and literally bounce off the walls) can be rented.  Look under "party" in the phone book.
Safety Note: Station an adult to keep watch of kids in the jump house at all times.  For young kids a mom or dad inside the jump house is ideal.  Beware of older kids: they can seriously hurt younger children by falling on them.  It's best to have "big kid time" and "little kid time" rather than letting different age groups share the jump house.

Parties for 3 and 4 year olds

Many of the activities for age two still hold.  In general, at these ages the choking hazard prohibition is lifted (except for latex balloons, which are considered dangerous until age six), all sorts of train favors may now be used.  They come in every form imaginable. "Jump houses" and  also simple games can now be appreciated. 
  • using train music and/or sound effects transforms musical chairs
  • arts and crafts using train-themed stencils and stickers
  • "duck, duck, goose" becomes "boxcar, boxcar, locomotive"
  • Sing "The Wheels on the Bus" as "The Wheels on the Train"
  • Have an adult in an engineer costume (or an entertainer) read a train story, lead train games and songs
  • Have hats, bandanas, train whistles, etc. and let the kids dress up
  • Railroad Tag
    • As few as five can play but more is better. This is a version of tag where a group does the tagging rather than just one person. Choose two players to start the train. They join hands and chase the other players in order to tag one.  When tagged, a player joins hands with them and becomes part of the train. The game is over when all the players are part of the train.

Parties for 5-8 year olds
Caught between toddler hood and preteen a child's interests in the "tween" years is varied.  The party games above may still be a hit. Click here for printable activity pages.  If your child feels too mature for these activities, a more low key train party (favors and decorations) held at a facility (bowling alley, skating rink, etc.) might be more appreciated.  A ride on a tourist railroad is always fun.  Train rides can get expensive however, so smaller groups are better.  An alternative to tourist lines may be your local zoo.  Zoos of all sizes maintain miniature steam engines with tram cars to give visitors an overview of their park.

Parties for 9-12 year olds

Preteens are hard to please.   Parties that are "too adult" are boring, and "too immature" are insulting.  A train party at this age is best spent running electric model trains (if you don't have one already than you have the perfect gift!) and/or visiting a tourist railroad.  Check your local tour books: tourist railroads are popping up everywhere. (Check our Links page for some of our favorites).  Many have party facilities and some can even be hired for private rides.  Train museums are also a great option.  If there are no tourist railroads or museums nearby, or if you are more adventurous, you can try a train spotting trip.  Remember Safety First!

Train Parties for age 13 and up

If you thought the preteen parties were tough, you're in for a long road ahead.  Make sure you have your teen's input every step of the way.  Innovation is the name of the game.  For young modelers, a layout building party might work (keep projects small and easy).  Tourist railroads are always popular.  For the adventurous, train spotting can't be beat.  This is a hobby unto itself.  There are books and web sites on the subject and travel planners/tour operators who set up train spotting vacations.  For newbies, check with historical societies for locations of stored antique railroad equipment, old rail lines, yards and anything else of note.  Modern rail yards and depots are good places to start also.  Note: Safety First! Never approach working or idling locomotives, or trespass on railroad property.  Stay off of  tracks, crossings and especially bridges.  Using binoculars and standing on hills overlooking mainlines is the safest method.  Remember to keep guests to four or five kids and consider inviting parents along.  Bring a camera to record it all.

Parties for Adults

In addition to the suggestions listed for "age 13 and up," investigate local railroads (smaller ones might be better) to see if any offer tours.  Some large factories and farms even run a few engines to deliver their goods.  Look around, trains are everywhere!  Check out our links page for info on train spotting and tourist lines.

Beyond Birthdays


After a childhood spend with railroading, what else would you have but a train wedding? The ceremony and/or reception can be held at a tourist line.  Some will charter private rides and others have outdoor or indoor facilities with scenic views of  their trains. Wood whistles dressed up with tulle make great favors and can be blown in place of the traditional rice throwing.    For music you can  find several compilation CD's with various pop and county stars singing their favorite train tunes.

Holiday Decorating

Trains at Christmas are not a new idea.  The annual train around the tree has been popular for many decades.  But now that elaborate decorating for other holidays is common, trains are creeping in to other holidays as well.  Consider this:

Using electric model railroad cars:
Halloween: decorate cars with stickers and the stretchy "spider webs" (keep away from moving parts).  Gauze or cotton ball "ghosts" can peek out of box cars, and flat cars can (depending on scale), carry tiny pumpkin shaped gourds, a load of "tombstones," or other spooky stuff.  Turn a kit house or a pre-built one into haunted house, with paint.   For ready made: Lionel trains has manufactured a haunted house and halloween cars.

Easter: an assortment of rabbits, chicks, and eggs can adorn your favorite cars.  Combine with the newly popular easter decorations such  villages and easter trees.   Ready made: decorative easter trains are becoming more common.
4th of July, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco De Mayo, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, Mother's Day/Father's Day, etc.  Using the various holiday icons you can create seasonal displays for these and other regional favorites.  Use your imagination and have fun!

Don't Miss Our Party Games Page

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