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Our dentist office has one of those ubiquitous Thomas the Tank Engine play tables for their wooden toy trains and the kids make a beeline for it as soon as they walk through the door and would play with it for hours if allowed. You do get some much cooler stuff, including a train mountain, a double decker bridge, and roads painted on the top to drive your cars around. Meet some of the best toy train sets for kids! For years kids, both boys and girls, love to play with trains and interconnecting train sets. For over 130 years, Brio, a Swedish toy company has been designing collectible and fun wooden toys. Thomas the Tank Engine and his train friends have been captivating children on television since 1984 and in books since 1946!
Every year, the Lionel Polar Express Ready-To-Run train set makes the infinite loop under our Christmas tree. This French-made and inspired wooden train set from Janod isn't full of talking characters from television.
While wooden train sets are great for toddlers and preschoolers, the VTech Go Go Smart Wheels Train set tracks are best purchased for kids ages 1-3. Written permission is needed for resuse of logo or images where the original owner of the work has asserted their own copyright terms.
November 23, 2014 by Jessica Petersen 74 Comments Holidays and birthdays are a classic time for a child to receive a first train set. I’ve broken down my recommendations by train brand, with the brands listed in my order of preference, starting with Thomas and Brio and then moving on to some excellent brands that are more budget-friendly.
Oh, and I should mention that I’ve added photos where I can to illustrate the general look of the different brands. Looking at the Thomas sets currently on the market, I would not be quick to recommend this basic set. If you’re game to spend a little more on a Thomas set, I like the look of this Tidmouth Timber Company Deluxe Figure 8 Set. Based on this year’s Thomas DVD movie, Tale of the Brave, the Thomas’ Fossil Run Train Set is another platform set, this time with an exciting, curving slope to speed down, trying to evade a rolling boulder! Among the newest Thomas Wooden Railway releases is the Musical Melody Tracks Set, which looks pretty cool. Finally, our favorite wooden train set of all time is the Gold Mine Mountain Set, which can be found online or in-store at Toys-R-Us. Thomas Wooden Railway also has a line of exclusive train sets that are only being sold in their online store and a handful of specialty toy stores around the US. Playing with those sets gave me a great appreciation for not just the quality of the trains but also the brilliance of the train set designers at Brio. Brio’s version of the entry-level train set is their Little Forest Train, which features a cute little steam engine with a log car, along with an oval of wooden track and a pair of trees.
Another simple set to look at is the Brio Safari Railway Set Train Set, featuring a monkey that swings from a tree until the train comes by and it sticks to the magnet on top of the cargo! Brio has also come out with a new pair of bright, colorful train sets that are recommended for 18+ months (instead of 2-3 years and up like most wooden train sets), the Brio My First Railway Beginner Pack Train Set and the Brio My First Railway Starter Pack Train Set. The Brio Roller Coaster Set Train is adorable and fun, and I was really happy to see that it does stay together and the roller coaster cars stay on the track. The Railway Station Carry Set allows you to pack up a small train layout inside of a very cool two-level train set. I especially love Bigjigs’ Heritage line of trains, featuring models of famous British locomotives. If you’re in the market for a train table as well as a train set, take a look at the current Imaginarium train table set.
By the way, the layout in the picture above was created using elements from our Imaginarium train table set and the Timber Log Spiral set (and lots of different brands of track). Ikea is perhaps your least expensive option for a first train set, and there are things to like about Ikea trains.
Once you have your train set picked out, you’ll want to browse our Train Play archives for lots of ideas of what to do with them! Related PostsBest Wooden Train Tables for Toddlers and PreschoolersWooden Train Tracks — The Play Trains!
It will likely be higher at your local Toys R Us.  It comes with a blank top and can be used more easily for other activities, plus comes with a single pull out drawer for holding trains, art supplies or whatever your children like to do. There are many different train sets and track systems available for kids, that can cater to their interests and skills.
It's not hard to find these super-fans, young children usually have 1 train character clutched in each hand, at all times. Although a very basic set it is compatible with the rest of the Brio range meaning you can add to your set over time. You'll get regular doses of goodies and first dibs on exclusive discounts and offers!Never fear!


From small beginner’s sets to fun themed sets to big complete sets, I have plenty of excellent options for you to consider.
If you click on one, we will receive a small commission — at no additional cost to you — on anything you buy at Amazon for a certain length of time afterwards. It looks okay, but the bridge is of a style that comes apart unless all the tracks in the layout are in perfect alignment.
There’s a crane and a log loader, the hill looks lovely and should stay together, and those curved tracks with the log piles attached to them might prevent some derailments of engines speeding down the hillsides. There’s a little gate at the bottom of the hill that opens for Thomas to escape through, and then closes to stop the boulder before it hits him.
Like the other sets in the Creative Junction line, the Mix, Match and Build Set encourages creativity by letting children assemble the pieces of the set in different ways, in this case to create different destinations.
I love to see Fisher Price experimenting with what can be done with a wooden train set, like the musical chimes on the long downhill slope in this set.
The Celebration on Sodor Set has a cute party theme to it and could be fun for a birthday present. This is an updated version of train layout that used to be at all the bookstores where my son fell in love with Thomas. It includes both a fantastic and versatile three-level mountain and Cranky the Crane, making it (relatively speaking) a good value. I want to mention them because the sets themselves look awesome and have been getting good reviews, but I have mixed feelings about this development.
If you’re hesitant about giving wooden trains that are rated for older children to a toddler, these might be a great option for a younger toddler who is interested in trains, and you may also want to check out the cute Brio My First Railway Train. The Little Engineer loved that it came with two passenger trains, one red and one blue, with drivers dressed in colors to match their trains.
My kiddo is already talking about using the pieces to design his own, bigger roller coaster.
Like Nuchi, their line is just a hair below Thomas and Brio in quality and far more affordable. Their My First Train Set is quite possibly your least expensive option for a small, high-quality beginner’s train set.
If your child loves construction vehicles as much as trains, I’d suggest taking a close look at their Construction Train Set. Though I would rate them lower than most of my other recommended brands, you get a great level of quality in comparison to the low prices, which can go even lower if you shop sales and sign up for Toys-R-Us’ rewards program to get coupons. While not as pretty as the Thomas-brand spiral set we also own, it’s functional and fun.
We have the one from a few years ago, and while the train table has gone on from taking up space at my mom’s house to a new home, the buildings, trains, and accessories from the set, especially the roundhouse, are still useful pieces in our collection. I was happy to see two new additions to the line last fall, a suspension bridge and a turntable. Their wooden train tracks were barely even compatible with each other sometimes, much less other train brands. You may want to read our Guide to Wooden Train Tracks for advice on expanding upon a basic train set as well.
There is also the possibility of a magnet coming loose, although the only time we’ve had that problem in the past three years was on a Brio freight container when the plastic square concealing a magnet came loose.
Please take this into account when buying a trains set for your children, as well as their own stage of development when it comes to putting things in their mouths. I’m planning to write a Train Gifts for Girls guide soon (if I can find the time), so you may be interested in that, too.
Brio sets not only include trains, but using a wooden track system, kids will love pushing around wooden cars, construction vehicles, monorails, safari trains, tow trucks, and fire engines. I have personally dried many tears when tracks children have worked for hours to desgin become unhinged. This is a 3 foot connected track that kids can play with immediately out of the box without assembling, using a few simple twists flips and rotations of the tracks. Start clipping your arts and crafts stores discount coupons, these train sets are not inexpensive. Then, using a battery-operated wireless remote, trains move forward and backward around the track. As the train cars maneuver over different places in the set, the toys flash lights, speak phrases or sing songs that are educationally relevant. The engine is battery powered which makes it extra fun as well as being easier if they haven’t got the hang of pushing it around.
The quality is even better than Brio and Nuchi’s, and the railroad tie detail looks fantastic in person. You would be better off spending ten dollars more for the Battery-Operated Percy and the Mail Station Set. The Mountaintop Supply Run Set has a similar feature in the curved tracks with stone walls attached, and it would be much more needed, because I believe those are our favorite extra-tall ascending tracks going up and down from the platform.


The artwork on this set is very detailed, giving it a story book feeling, and the set will appeal to any child who is a fan of both trains and dinosaurs. I think this is a great idea, and would be perfect for a child who would love having more destinations for telling the stories from the show and books. It comes with a super cool Thomas storage box (which is much larger than it appears in this photo) that has a cushion for a cab roof, so your child can pretend to be Thomas’ driver. The set has changed a bit since we bought it three years ago (the main differences seem to be more plastic and no gold dust paint on Salty), but I see that you can still get the older version if you really want to spend more money for more wood and somewhat better looks (though it’s probably not worth it). For a long time, I thought we’d never own any Brio trains, but then we started our Brio collection when our local Toys-R-Us was clearing it out over a year ago.
The Cargo Harbor Set was a birthday gift last year, and we just love the container ship and the lifting bridge. The Brio Monorail Airport Set comes with a control tower and airplane as well as a powered monorail train and special monorail wooden tracks.
Additionally, they make a lot of unique and extremely clever pieces, especially when it comes to their freight cars and destinations. While it includes passenger coaches instead of freight cars, and so doesn’t offer the fun of loading and unloading freight, it does include two people and two houses. All of our Imaginarium train stuff has stood the test of almost three years of train play and still looks great. The spiral supports can be used with straight or curved track to make any number of different elevated configurations, and it comes with a cute steam engine and two great freight cars (my son loves having the blue one for Thomas to pull). However, be aware that the plastic connectors on their track are a very tight fit and don’t work easily with some other wooden train track brands. However, they’ve completely changed the track now, so my hope is that they work better.
I also recommend signing up for our email newsletter to keep up with our new train ideas and activities as we post them. We were fortunate that the Little Engineer was beyond the mouthing stage when he was only one year old, so we were able to buy wooden trains from the start of his interest in them.
I’m hoping to write about all the cool stuff to add to the basic wooden train sets soon, too.
Most train sets have additional accessories like buildings, or even different trains that can be purchased, because we know children love to expand their collections. Other accessory sets offer fun ways for the trains to interact during their play with features where trains can unload cargo, activate a crane, and zoom across a drawbridge. They can connect accessories together around their tracks featuring horse farms, lighthouses, tunnels and bridges to make the ultimate village. However, they are a great investment that are easily loved by children in the same house before being passed on to another generation, donated to charity or sold used to other die-hard collectors. Popular themed Lionel train sets feature collectible favorites such as Harry Potter, The Major League Baseball Spring Training Trains, Thomas & Friends, Monopoly, Crayola, John Deere, and DC Comics. Best of all you don’t have to brave a pre-Christmas Ikea as it can be purchased online.
One thing to know about this set in general is that you’re only given enough track to connect two of the three levels of track on the mountain, so the set needs to be supplemented at some point with additional track. And while Brio does use a lot of plastic (their trains are mostly plastic), it’s extremely high quality, heavy duty stuff, and it looks great they way they do it.
This is a cool set, especially the passenger-holding airplane, but be aware that the tracks need to be secured in some way to each other and the risers (I recommend no-residue duct tape for wooden train tracks). Also, their trains are very small, so some larger trains from other brands don’t fit beneath Ikea bridges.
Of course, now their trains have non-magnetic couplers, which means that they are not compatible with other brands of wooden trains. Even so, I did put a number of smaller pieces away until I was sure, and I always closely supervised him with his trains.
If you’re looking for a very basic starter set that includes Thomas, take a look at the basic but classic Thomas Wooden Railway Oval Starter Set. I can understand having one line of sets that is made with more wood than the other, but the sets they’re putting into the regular toy stores and online shopping sites deserve as much thought and care in their design and play-testing as the high-end sets, even if there needs to be a difference in the quality of the materials. Their Village Train Set is an expanded version of the same theme, which is then expanded further in the Town and Country Set. I’m particularly fond of their freight cars, which make great Troublesome Trucks with the addition of some Troublesome Truck face stickers. Ultimate Wooden Train GuideAlternatives to Gluing Wooden Train Tracks to a Train TableWooden Train Bridges and Elevated Tracks — The Play Trains!




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