How to Get Your Child Interested in Building a Model Train Layout:
If you're looking for a hobby that will engage the interest of your children, pique their creativity and allow them to learn an amazing amount of information about the world in which we live, not to mention learning lots of basic skills requiring hand and eye coordination, you've found the right place.
You could begin getting their interest at a fairly early age using the Thomas trains that you can buy in your local toy store. Then move on to the table top wooden "layouts", also available at most major toy stores. You have to do more than just buy it for them however. You will want actively play with them, teaching small bits of information as you go.
If you already have your own layout, you could dedicate a small section of the layout on which your child could work and experiment with your guidance. It's important to work with them on little projects, but try to avoid doing the whole project yourself. They need to feel that they did it "by themselves" so they will be proud of their accomplishments, no matter how small they might be. If you do everything yourself while they watch, they will quickly lose interest.
If you don't already have a layout, you could work on one together with your child. Start by buying a train set that you both will enjoy. Take him or her with you and pick one out together. Or, if you're going to buy one as a gift, go to the hobby shop first and see what s/he likes. Then purchase it later.
Setting Up Your Model Train Layout with Your Children:
You could set it up on an inexpensive folding table at first that you can buy from most home improvement stores. I set my first train set up on an old ping pong table, which I later learned was a fairly common way for model railroaders to get started. Then start adding a few simple structures, which you can build together. Remember it's not necessary for everything to be done perfectly at this point. The important thing is to do the projects together and have fun with them.
When you're ready to take the next step, you can go on to design a more permanent track plan and begin building benchwork.
What Your Child Can Learn from Helping to Build a Model Train Layout:
By this time, your child has already learned a lot of stuff, like...
How to have fun with your spare time
Learning to be constructive rather than destructive
Developing creativity and learning how to use imagination to create something real and tangible
Developing self esteem and sense of accomplishment
Working with tools
Improving hand-eye coordination
Learning some basic carpentry skills
Learning basic electronics and how electricity works
Developing artistic talents.
Also, as you develop your layout together, and you make a theme and purpose for your railroad, your child learns about basic economics and how products get from manufacturing plants to the stores and how industries make a profit by buying raw materials, making something out of them and then selling them to customers for a profit.
Use Your Model Train Layout to Get Your Family Together:
You may want to enlist other family members or friends to help. This hobby has so many facets to it that you could almost always find some project that would be interesting to anyone. And don't think for a minute that girls wouldn't be interested in working on this with you. Many of the best model railroaders are female. There is a large part of building a model train layout that is creative and artistic. Your layout could be made to be quite humorous as well, which is always interesting to everyone. Working with others on various projects will teach patience, respect for others, and learning responsibility and social skills.
You could even plan some of your family vacations around visiting model train layouts in museums or on railfanning adventures. Your children can learn about photography at the same time.
One of the more important reasons for working with your family and friends on a hobby like this is the memories it creates. Your children will never forget the quality time you spent with them building your model railroad together.