How to make Interactive Train Art & “Can I Play Too?”

A Fantastic Book (Series) & Interactive Train Art!

After reading Samantha Cotterill’s “Can I Play Too?” we decided to create some fun interactive train art! We made tape resist tracks, sponge painted in honor of Cotterill’s illustrative style in these books & added in some science using magnets to make this sensory/art project interactive and super fun! I’m excited to walk you through it, so let’s get started…

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Summary of “Can I Play Too?”

“Can I Play Too?” by Samantha Cotterill is a fantastic book which is part of a sensational series called Little Senses, a collection of children’s books as Samantha Cotterill says ,”is created with love for any kid who sometimes feels anxious or overwhelmed, but especially for kids who are on the autism spectrum or have sensory issues”. We LOVE this book & the Little Senses series! You can see more bookish play we’ve paired with another book from this series here!

"Can I Play Too?" book opened to traffic signal train page, with the interactive train art components on a yellow tray in front of it

“Can I Play Too?” is the story of a little boy who has difficulty reading social cues and isn’t very flexible when his friend joins him in playing with trains. Things quickly escalate into a fight, until the little boy is shown visuals using traffic signal colors paired with social cues and prompts! After a “do-over” the little boy is more mindful & flexible & knows what he can do in that situation to be a good friend!

Cotterill’s illustrations are also superb and many of the books she has illustrated are out of this world detailed little worlds that are photographed creating such a unique form of art. Highly recommended. You can learn more about Samantha Cotterill and her amazing work here. Thank you to Samantha Cotterill & Penguin Random House Publishing for gifting us a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


How We Made Interactive Train Art…

hands placing painters tape on paper to make train track art

We tend to keep the activities as simple as possible around here. We’re not interested in complicated or costly. We are also all about fostering independence. For this activity I knew I wanted to implement the traffic signal colors in our train art. We’ve been doing a lot of tape resist art lately and my daughter loves it, especially peeling the tape off when its dry! Our first step was to divide the paper into 3 sections (one for each color – red, yellow, & green. We did this by folding the paper like a letter you’re gonna mail. This was in itself a great life skill lesson of how to do that!

Then we created train tracks…well, actually I created ladders & she showed me how to make them look more like tracks by overlapping the tape instead of having it too neat inside the long lines of tape. We made one track on each of the 3 sections. This is great for working your fine motor skills & of course being sticky it has the sensory component as well. 😉

After we were done tearing and creating train tracks out of painters tape, we sponge painted the 3 colors, one on each track. Then came the tough part… lol waiting for the paint to dry before peeling the tape off.

Tracks with No Train?

free printable of trains with scissors and colored pencils on a yellow tray

It quickly occurred to us that our track would be empty! I originally had the idea to trace the beautiful trains drawn by Samantha Cotterill but realized that would be against copyright if I created a printable for you. 🙁 Back to the drawing board (literally, lol); I asked my daughter to draw them for you, and she did! So these adorable little trains are available as a FREE printable if you want to use our trains instead of drawing your own!

We also made double the amount of trains so you have options…

  • Color the trains using the signal colors found in the story and match the color to the corresponding track.
  • Leave the extra set of trains white so your child can match the emotion to the corresponding track.
  • Personalize the empty train with a different emotion, your child’s name or initial or anything you want.
  • Cut the paper in half and two kids each have their own set of trains using only 1 piece of paper!

Magnetic Trains?

3 trains cut out of free printable with scissors ad bottom showing uncut/uncolored free printable for train art

For another layer of fun, we wanted these trains to be able to move down the tracks, but how?… MAGNETS! So, we colored half of our trains, cut out all of our trains & glued paper clips to the back. Then we went over to the fridge and borrowed a few different magnets to test which ones worked and which did not. *NOTE: This is part of the fun, please don’t do this part for them. They can spend quite some time testing all the different magnets and seeing which ones work and perhaps even hypothesizing why these worked and those didn’t…which is MORE SCIENCE!

magnet, scissors, paper clips and paper trains both colored & uncolored cut out on yellow tray.

Once you found one that works you can leave your paper flat or you can tape it into a 3D triangle as you see pictured. Then you place the magnet on the back side (if flat) or inside (if 3D), match the train to the position of the magnet & run the magnet along the track and watch it carry the train with it!

Check out our Instagram @parentingnotperfection Story Highlight “Interactive Train” to see ours in action!

Wait?!? Am I Supposed To Be Making One Too?

I highly recommend getting hands on and doing art projects with your child. If you’d rather not, thats okay too, but please do not correct anything they do. If you want the art to look a certain way – make your own.

close up of front and back of free printable trains with paper clips glued to the back.

Especially if your child is little, its okay if it doesn’t turn out the way you imagined. Maybe its what they imagined. Also, its a process. They are learning. They will learn more through trial and error than if you correct them or do it for them. All they will learn if you “help” is that they didn’t do a good enough job on their own or they can’t do it; not exactly the message you want to give your kid. Am I right?!?

hand holding 3D tracks and train being moved by magnet.

Believe me, I know it can be really challenging to let them make “mistakes”. Try doing the project along side them. It will allow you to focus on your own work, give them appropriate modeling of how to use the materials, and show them that you like art too! A lot of what I talk about in “What about the Sensory Mess?” applies to Art projects as well, you might wanna check it out! I love how each art has its own identity. I would suggest Interactive Train Art if you’re looking for a captivating and super fun sensory/art/science activity to connect with your child.

Materials We Used

  1. “Can I Play Too?” book (from the library or buy it here)
  2. Cardstock paper
  3. Painters tape
  4. Paint (red, yellow, & green)
  5. Sponge
  6. FREE Printable of Trains
  7. Colored pencils, crayons, or markers (red, yellow, & green)
  8. Scissors
  9. Paper clips (one for each train)
  10. Glue
  11. Fridge magnet or magnet wand
    Click HERE for Free Printable copy (Email Subscribers Only)

How to Make Interactive Train Art?

  1. Lay the white cardstock paper down vertically in front of you.
  2. Fold the cardstock paper as if you were going to mail it in an envelope, into 3 equal parts.
  3. Press the creases firmly, then open it back up.
  4. Lay the paper vertically on the table.
  5. Rip a piece of painters tape almost the length of the one section.
  6. Tear the piece of painters tape in half to make 2 narrow pieces.
  7. Place them onto the paper. Repeat, making one track for each of the 3 sections.
  8. Tear smaller pieces and rip in half making them narrow and place over the 2 long lines of tape creating tracks.
  9. Once all 3 tracks are constructed out of painters tape on the paper, use a sponge to paint red, yellow, and then green using one color on each track.
  10. Let dry.
  11. Print out (or draw your trains).
  12. Color your trains to match the colors of the traffic signal (red, yellow, & green).
  13. Cut out your trains.
  14. Glue a paper clip to the back.
  15. Find magnets from the fridge & experiment to see which ones stick strongly to the paper trains.
  16. Once dry, peel off the painters tape to expose your tracks.
  17. Choose whether you will leave the tracks open or 3D.
  18. Place the winning magnet on the back of the train track & the train on the front.
  19. Slide the magnet along the paper & watch the train go down the track!
    Click HERE for Free Printable copy (Email Subscribers Only)

Wait, There’s More…

Sample of “Communicating & Connecting FREE Bonus Printable.

I believe you can easily strengthen communication skills and foster independence all while playing and connecting with your child. To help you do this; I’ve created a FREE printable for each activity called, “Communicating & Connecting”.

It will give you a list of suggestions I’ve found very helpful as a Mom & as a special education teacher; to help you build lifelong skills. Please don’t feel obligated to do everything on the list (but if you do, you’re a rockstar 😉 ).

As a Thank You for subscribing; this is a special FREEBIE for our Email Subscribers Only. 🙂 Click here if you’ve already subscribed. Otherwise, Sign Up below to get the password & access to our entire FREE Printables Library today! 😉

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