The 7 Best Train Sets For Toddlers
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Anything with wheels holds my 2-year-old’s attention. Garbage trucks were his first love, but now we’re graduating to trains. The best train sets for toddlers are age-appropriate, fit your space and budget, and will have the power source (i.e. pushed by your kid or battery-powered) that you prefer.
A "toddler" can be ages 1 to 3 or even up to 4-years-old depending on who you ask, and a lot of train sets are geared toward this age group, but the size of the parts vary. Are you shopping for an 18-month-old who still puts toys in their mouth or a more mature toddler who will soon be headed to preschool? To help make shopping easier, I’ve listed the manufacturer’s age recommendations for each pick.
Train sets are powered either manually by your industrious toddler or a set of batteries. Kid-powered train sets are delightfully low-tech and good to go out of the box, and pushing the small trains helps your toddler practice fine motor skills and understand cause and effect. Battery-powered trains are more impressive to a toddler since they run faster and on their own; just keep in mind you’ll need to eventually replace the batteries and these sets tend to be more cumbersome to pack away. Also, your toddler will need to resist touching the track while the train runs.
Most train sets come with tracks for the train to ride on and can include accessories like bridges, tunnels, or mountains; beginner sets will have simpler tracks that don’t take up as much room, and you can usually add on with expansion packs for an easy birthday or holiday gift. The best train sets are made of FSC-certified wood, an environmentally responsible choice of wood with quality and durability in mind. Wooden sets are more expensive upfront but can last longer and have an heirloom-quality to them; plastic train sets are lightweight and can incorporate well with an existing LEGO set or play exciting train sounds.
Either way, your toddler will spend a lot of quality time with their new set. Here are the seven best train sets for toddlers, including one pick they can even sit and ride on.
1. The Starter Wooden Train Set
- Recommended Ages: 18 months+
- Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 4 inches
The best wooden train set for a first-timer is a kid-powered, highly rated pick with over 1,500 reviews on Amazon. The BRIO toy trains and track are designed without small parts so it's suitable for 18-month-olds but even older toddlers will love it. This 18-piece set includes guiding ramp tracks that help with getting the train on the tracks, a rainbow bridge, and a fun rattle wagon. One feature that sets this train set brand apart is the reversible magnet connections that are easier for little ones to connect.
A helpful review: “This is a great beginner set for a budding wooden train enthusiast. [...]These 'My First Railway' sets are nearly identical to the other Brio sets, but the trains and cars are constructed in a way that minimizes the likelihood of any small pieces falling or breaking off. For example, the magnets that connect the cars are fully enclosed beneath a plastic cap that is fused to the body of the car, so the magnet cannot come loose and become a choking hazard. [...] The track pieces fit together well: not too tight, but not too wobbly once connected. Included are several 'ramp' pieces that allow train cars to be rolled onto the track from whatever surface the track is on. These are a nice touch, especially for small hands that may have difficulty getting the train cars onto the tracks otherwise. [...] It isn't cheap, but with Brio you definitely get what you pay for. This set will be around for a long time.”
2. A Battery-Operated Train Upgrade
- Recommended Ages: 18 months+
- Dimensions: 19 x 27.75 x 5.25 inches
Now, to really wow your toddler, check out this battery-operated train for wooden tracks from BRIO. This train set looks similar to my first pick (they're from the same brand), but the engine runs on its own at the push of a button. The 25-piece set includes a starter train, elevated supports for the track, and a tunnel. Toddlers 18-months-old and up can enjoy this set since it's thoughtfully made without small parts.
Keep in mind you may have to show your toddler how to leave the train alone so it can run on the track, but once they understand the concept they'll delight in watching it go. The magnets on the train cars work both ways so your toddler won't get frustrated trying to connect them. Plus, this set is compatible with all BRIO World toys, so you can expand on it with more tracks or trains (be aware that expansion pieces have different age recommendations).
It's nice that this FSC-certified wood pick is easy to set up and then will keep your toddler occupied for a while. Just add a AA battery (not included) and your curious toddler will be entertained for hours.
A helpful review: “It's a nice little set that doesn't take up much space and can be extended across the whole room if you want. It comes with 4 ramps for the train to ride up on the tracks or just make it one piece little circle to go round and round. Great Nana was very sick but wanted us to get her great grandson a train set for Christmas. So we found this one to be affordable for her and looks good. Our son wasn't even 1 at the time but has had it for months and it's still intact. The train and tracks get thrown around and pressed on and chewed on but it goes right back together good as new. [...]"
3. A Train Set That Lights Up & Sings
- Recommended Ages: 1 — 5 years
- Dimensions: 16 x 23 x 6 inches
For more bells and whistles, this VTech train set — with a singing motorized train — is certainly going to entertain your toddler. The highly rated set with over 1,400 reviews includes a train station, bridge and tunnel, a hill with a conveyor belt, and — and this especially great — at 10 points along the 32-piece track, it will play phrases, music, or other sound and light effects. You can also add on train cars that work at these "smart points" as well.
Little ones will love the talking train station that greets in English, Spanish, French, or German. Three AAA batteries are required to power all the special effects, and they're conveniently included in the plastic set. One- to 5-year-olds can safely play with this train set.
A helpful review: “My girls love this train and it has been going non-stop since Christmas. Their dad and grandpa both enjoy playing this train set with them. [...] Pros: great for 1 year old and 7 year old.sturdy, safe for young and older, fun, holds attention, educational.The track can be configured to exclude the blue and orange ramp when necessary for younger audiences."
4. The Train Set They Can Ride
- Recommended Ages: 1 — 3 years
- Dimensions: 27.75 x 13.1 x 17.5 inches (just the train)
Thomas the Tank Engine may be a familiar face for your toddler, so imagine their surprise at seeing this life-size version they can sit on and ride. What's no surprise is this pick's impressively high 4.7-star rating with over 2,000 reviews. The ride-on Thomas train can ride on or off the included track loop, up to 1 mile per hour and 2 miles per hour, respectively; just be sure to keep it indoors only. The track measures 18 feet long.
This train suits ages 1 to 3, and reviewers report their kids ride on this train for hours at a time. One parent even commented their 2.5-year-old "fell asleep after being on it for 4 1/2 hours." The necessary rechargeable 6-volt and AA batteries come with the plastic set.
A helpful review: “Bought this for 15 month and 18 month old grandchildren over three years ago. It has been used by a toddler for three years. We just got it out of storage, purchased a new 6volt battery. Just set it for the next two grandchildren ages 15 months and two years. Sturdy, easy to assemble and a favorite of 5 little ones used frequently over three years. Wish all toys were made this well."
5. The Disney Character LEGO Train Set
- Recommended Ages: 24 months+
- Dimensions: 13.94 x 7.52 x 2.76 inches
The perennial favorite that is Toy Story lends its classic characters to this Disney train set, and toddlers will love setting up scenes with Buzz and Woody. For 2-year-olds and up, the addition of these characters may also encourage storytelling skills in your toddler.
This kid-powered set includes 21 pieces, though notably no track. The wider wheels of this plastic steam train were designed to be easier for toddlers to hold. With a 4.8-star rating and over 4,000 reviews, one parent commented, "my children played with this set for hours." And if you have a toddler in your life, you know that's saying something.
A helpful review: “We love Legos in our house and most of our fav ones are the Disney legos. My daughter loves playing with duplos alot right now because its safe to have around my play room so my almost 1 year old can't put them in her month. This set is so cute. Toy Story is the best. I love that it has Buzz and Woody together."
6. The Train Table To Invest In For Years Of Play
- Recommended Ages: 3 — 10 years
- Dimensions: 48.75 x 34.4 x 16 inches
If you have some more room to dedicate to a train set and like to buy toys with a long lifespan, check out this train set and table. Your toddler can still play with this more detailed set up to age 10, so it's a good investment. (Keep in mind there are some small parts that could be choking hazards under age 3.)
This kid-powered train set comes with 120 pieces and three storage bins that slide right under the table during clean-up time. The wood and plastic pieces are attractively colorful and highly detailed; pieces include an engine, train cars, eight people, and even a helicopter with landing pad. Keep in mind the average assembly time for this train table is 1.5 to 2 hours and requires two people.
The playing surface of the table is wide enough for kids to play together, and the silk-screened landscape on the board can be flipped for a plain surface that's perfect for coloring or crafts. This one is another highly rated train set with over 2,000 reviews, including from one parent who commented it was "one of the best purchases we've made for our twins."
A helpful review: “This train table lasted for YEARS!! My son got it when he was 3 and we got rid of it when he turned 8! It was a great investment. He loved to come home and play at the table with Legos even after the tracks were taken off.”
7. A Train Set With A Vintage Vibe That Will Be A Hit For Years
- Recommended ages: 4+
- Dimensions: 22.88 x 6.13 x 13.75 inches
This Lionel train set will remind you of toy trains from when you were a kid, and your kiddo will love the remote control function of this battery-powered train. It's worth noting the manufacturer recommends this train for ages 4 to 15, so it's better suited to older toddlers who will keep playing with the set for a few years.
The 32 pieces of track can be arranged in three loop shapes, and you can push buttons to make the train move forward or in reverse. Sound effects include a whistle and a bell; just be sure to pick up three AAA batteries for the set and six C cell batteries for the locomotive. The set also comes with a gondola with a crate load and a caboose. The locomotive is more detailed than the train cars of some other sets, and it even has working headlights. Plus, you can extend the train's path by adding straight tracks and curved tracks.
A helpful review: “Lionel will always make great trains, for a starter set the quality is amazing! The locomotive has logic which is great when small children are behind the controller, the train slows to a stop before going in reverse. Bought this set to put under our Christmas tree and worked out perfectly, and my daughters love it!!!!”