Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Waldorf Train Track Hack

waldorf train

My kids love trains, and playing with model train tracks. Meanwhile, I love the dreamy quality of a Waldorf inspired play environment, and the natural materials that most Waldorf inspired toys are made form.

Enter: Hand painted toy train tracks!

waldorf train

While there are many lovely brands and wooden train products available on the market, most of them are above our price range. Plus, many of the trains themselves are mechanical. I like the idea of having "back to basics" toys that don't use batteries. If my boys want their trains engines to roar, then they can use their own voices to make that happen!

Keeping these goals in mind lead me to Ikea of all places! Over the years, I've grown to regret most of my furniture purchases from this Swedish giant. But, I've found a lot of nice wooden toys there, and even a some good nature inspired kid's books.
One of our favorites is their inexpensive wooden train sets.

If you don't live near an Ikea store, you can order them from the manufacture on line. Or, since their shipping can be expensive, you can also find the trains on Amazon:

I am very inspired by the ideas and concepts of Waldorf education, and I make an effort to create an environment for my children that reflects this philosophy. One of the things that intrigues me visually about a Waldorf inspired space is the color. Dreamy rainbows and soft colors grace many of things in a Waldorf classroom.

In fact, one of the main mediums for creating art (in the Waldorf method) is through the use of watercolor paint.

Looking at our wooden trains stretching across the floor one day, I had an idea. I could use watercolor paint to add some beauty and magic to an otherwise plain looking toy!

waldorf train

I knew that the transparent nature of watercolor pigment would add lovely color, while still allowing the natural beauty of the wood to shine through.


Unfinished wooden toy train tracks

(If you don't want to use the Ikea ones, you could also use these):

Watercolor paint

A soft watercolor brush (sable is the best)

Jar with water (for rinsing brush)

This turned out to be a rather easy project. Both kids and adults could participate, and enjoy creating their own unique train set. Also, you could use any wooden train tracks for this project, they don't have to be the Ikea version.

Because I knew I wanted an ethereal airy quality, I decided to use two colors for each track. My goal was for them to blend together, and have one hue fade into the other.

waldorf train

To make this "blended" effect more seamless, I chose only analogous colors (colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, or in the rainbow). 

This lead me to chose from the following color combinations: 
Red and orange, orange and yellow, yellow and green, green and blue, blue and purple, and purple and red. 

waldorf train

To start, I covered one end of a track with one color (in this case green). I wanted the pigment to be saturated near the outer end of the track so I applied a heavy coat (more paint, less water). 

Then, by diluting the paint with water, I pulled a small amount of the pigment toward the middle of the track. Eventually, it included such a small amount of color that it was practically clear. 

Also note that, if your brush is too wet, you can always remove a bit of the water by dabbing it on a paper towel. 

Next, starting at the opposite end of the track, I did the same thing with my second color choice (this time yellow).  I made the paint thicker at the end, and then thinned it as I worked toward the middle. 

I over lapped the two colors for about an inch. In this way the two hues blended together, one fading seamlessly into the next.

Or, if you would rather keep it simple (or perhaps if you are working with young children) you could simply paint each piece of track one color. The result will still be lovely! 

Some tracks are two sided. So after one side is dry, be sure to paint the other side too.

waldorf train

waldorf train

This is such a great way to create wonder and intrigue, and a beautiful play space.

waldorf train

Assemble your tracks, and enjoy!

waldorf train

Thanks for stopping by and happy crafting!

Linking up to these fun parties:



  1. Wonderful post! I'm also pleasantly surprised at the selection of children's toys in ikea. I can't wait to try this out sometime.

  2. What a cute train painted like that. I haven't seen it before! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

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