I never thought that vehicles would take over our household, but as Budster’s interest in all things wheeled continues, garages, bridges, tracks and roads spread from wall to wall. This handmade set of wooden road tracks and ramps was among the birthday gifts for our son, to feed his fancy. We threw it together in one evening as a last minute project, and it has featured in a lot of fun.
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– two 4″ x 1/4″ x 4′ boards (poplar boards are a good choice – they are light and inexpensive)
– six 1/4″ x 36″ square dowels (can usually be found at the same store where you look for boards)
– a handsaw
– wood glue (I like Weldbond glue)
1. Divide the length of on board into halves. With a 4-feet-long board, like ours, each half will be 24″. Using a handsaw, cut the board. These two halves will make two longer road tracks.
2. On the other board, mark four squares, their length equal to the width of the board. In our case, the width of the board is 3 1/2″. It always puzzles me: when you buy a 4″ wide board in the store, it actually means that the width will be 3-1/2″. The four squares you cut will make corner pieces for the road tracks.
3. (optional) If you have a scroll saw or a jig saw, you may want to round one of the corners on each of the four squares. I used a play-dough jar to mark the curves before cutting them.
4. Cutting the corner squares will take 14″ off our board, so it will leave us with a 34″ board. Using a handsaw, cut it in halves to make two shorter road/tracks.
5. Now, let’s take a look at the dowels. In the following steps, we are going to glue them to the side of the tracks, so as to prevent cars from sliding off the road. It is especially handy for when they are going to be used as ramps.
6. Cut four @ 24″ long, four @ 17″ long and eight @ 3 1/2″ (2 1/2″ if you rounded corners) long strips off the dowels. Now, let’s add some colour!
7. On a piece of paper or a plastic plate, mix together black and white acrylic paint to make a grey asphalt colour. Paint one side of each board. It helped me to use a little roller to do it quickly and evenly, but there is nothing wrong in using a big brush. Paint all the dowel strips white on three sides. One side can be left unpainted because it will be glued to the board.
8. For perfectly straight lines, I created a little stencil for marking the median lines. Print it on a stiff piece of paper, then cut the black parts out with a paper knife and use as a stencil.
9. Mark the road either with a stencil and some sponge, or with a ruler and a brush. My lines were white, but my husband told me later that if I was intending to denote two lanes of opposing traffic, I should have used yellow.
10. Glue the dowel strips to the sides of the tracks. Use clamps or heavy books while the glue is drying, to keep them in place.
11. As a final step, once the glue was dry, I painted the sides of the tracks white. They were unpainted before, and this reduced any possible gaps between the boards and the dowels.
Ideas for Play
1. I couldn’t help but notice that our toddler’s favourite thing to do with his building blocks is make ramps – the observation germinated into the idea for this project. We have a great set of Melissa & Doug wooden blocks: they are big and have many interesting shapes, and some of them make pretty good ramps. Unfortunately, not very long ramps, nor very sturdy once twenty block have been stacked together.
So I thought that a couple of long wooden boards will go a long way as an addition to the block set. Buddy stacks a few blocks together and puts a board onto them to create a slide. More blocks make for steeper grades!
2. I included the project of wooden ramps into my to-do list, but in the meantime Budster was falling in love with wooden trains and little cities that he could build around it. I made him little house blocks, and there was a Metro Railway Set waiting for his birthday, as well. Some of the sets I saw in the store had little roads for cars, combining two of his favourites: cars and trains.
That’s how the wooden ramps got corner pieces. They connect the tracks together and make it possible to build an oval-shaped road track.
3. Even without coupling them with railroad or wooden blocks, these boards have seen a lot of use already! When we lean them against the low tables, chairs or benches, they create ramps, and Budster can race his cars down. Sometimes I join him, and we race cars against each other.
You know what we found out? The winners are usually old cars that came to Budster from his Daddy’s childhood!
If you liked this craft, you may also find these related activities interesting:
– Rainbow House Blocks: make a little rainbow city with wooden house blocks
– Waldorf-Inspired Wooden Blocks: cut nature blocks for setting up forest scenes
– Toy Tree House: build a tree house for forest folks, animals or fairies