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No more fear of trains

How does a child conquer her fear of trains? The prospect of a unique day in Plopsaland and a brief practice journey in advance turned fear into enthusiasm. Since then, for little Amber (8), taking a trip with the train and the tram also represents “a little adventure”.


A free day trip for the whole family was up for grabs, offered by the summer edition of a Flemish school magazine. The Nys family from Tienen was the lucky winner and chose a day trip to Plopsaland, including train tickets. There was just one obstacle: little Amber was afraid to travel by train. Finally the grandparents decided to take a brief practice trip in advance. It was a great success. Amber conquered her fear and the family was able to head off to De Panne. Moral of the story: going out for a day trip together is not just fun and relaxing but can be extremely instructive too.

A child’s wish come true

When the Nys family heard that they had won a day trip, they were over the moon. “Following a bankruptcy, we ended up in financial difficulties, which meant that holidays or day trips were no longer really on the cards,” says Marina, who shares the guardianship of granddaughters Amber (8) and Zoé (5) with her husband. When Amber celebrated her first communion last school year, she didn’t want a present. Instead, she dreamed of going on holiday to the seaside with her grandma, grandpa and little sister. In the end a holiday never materialised but when she heard that she was going to Plopsaland in De Panne with her family, she was just as happy.

Ground-breaking test run

However, Marina and Rudy saw a practical drawback straight away: the children had never travelled by train and since media coverage involving train disasters, Amber had developed a terrible fear of trains. Finally the grandparents decided to give it a go by taking the children on a practice run. They booked a train ticket from Tienen to Leuven. A one-way ticket, so they could return by bus if it proved too difficult for Amber after all. However, this precautionary measure ended up being unnecessary: after a moment of difficulty upon boarding the train, Amber’s fear quickly subsided.

What an experience!

“In the end, the children enjoyed it so much that the next day we went a step further with a train trip to Blankenberge,” says Marina. “In this way they were able to experience what it was like to go on a longer journey and, for example, to walk around or use the bathroom on a moving train. It was a real experience for them.” The actual trip to Plopsaland turned out to be memorable too. The girls were eager to ride on a coastal tram, so the family disembarked from the train one stop earlier so that the children could also experience a tram ride to the seaside. “Amber and Zoé have learned a great deal about travelling on public transport. And Grandma and Grandpa had a great time too,” Marina reminisces.

First ever visit to the theatre

The trip to in Plopsaland was marked by pure enjoyment from start to finish. The family went on nearly all the attractions and the theatre show made quite an impression. “It was the children’s very first experience of a live theatre show and we all enjoyed it to the full. All four of us even sang along at the top of our voices! The bond with our granddaughters has always been strong, but being able to share such extraordinary moments nevertheless has an effect on a family.”

An enjoyment still shared today

The trip still regularly forms the topic of conversation. The children recall their memories of how much they enjoyed it, they regularly look together at the photos and everyone dreams of – yes indeed – a return trip to Plopsaland. Until then, the family will enjoy the wonderful moments as much as possible at home. “Being able to go on a trip like that is of course fantastic, but you can also do fun things at home together,” says Marina. “Putting up a paddling pool in the garden on a hot day and splashing around together is also a source of great happiness for us.”

Authored by Griet Bouwen Bilzen