Best Toddler Train Set for 2017

Train sets continue to remain a fun and popular choice for imaginative play, even when compared to television and video games.  While there’s always some new trend popping up on the market, trains have been able to stay strong and there are plenty of reasons why. Toddlers and older children love playing with them and parents can enjoy the positive educational influence that comes with building train track sets and setting up whole new landscapes. These types of activities will really get a child thinking. The best toddler train set will feature plenty of easy to use tracks, small play pieces, and trains that are built solid without any small loose parts that can pose a choking hazard.

Train Toys for Toddlers Buying Guide

When it comes to train sets that are designed for recreational play, these sets are often not set to any specific scale. Instead, they feature replications of what a toddler would think of when they think of a locomotive. Many train toys for 2-year-olds and train toys for 3-year-olds will include the engine car and a number of additional cars that can be connected via a magnet or interlock. These models are popular with children under the age of seven and are designed with durability in mind, so they’re able to withstand plenty of wear and tear and rough use.

Finally, manufacturers are starting to realize that toddler girls can play with trains too. In the last few years, there have been several attractive and well-made trains produced that are designed specifically with girls in mind. These trains feature different, vivid color schemes and are often designed with popular TV and movie characters, such as the Disney Princess series.

But What About Model Trains?

Perhaps some of the most realistic and coolest options on the market are model train sets. This style of train set comes in a wide variety of construction types and are usually made out of metal. The train design is often based on real life models, so they’re equipped with realistic details. The scaling of these trains will vary from Z scale to G scale.

G scale is a popular size often used for model train sets and it features a 1:22.5 scale and is considered the biggest size for indoor model trains. A one gauge scale was originally the most popular size in America but lost some of its popularity during World War 1. The scale for this style of train comes in at 1:32. Zero scale gets its name because it’s smaller than the one gauge models. This size is popular in Europe for fine scale model making in either 1:43.5 or 1:48 scale. S scale is one of the oldest scales used and is modeled at 1:64. This scale size shouldn’t be confused with the S size scale used for toy trains, which is a very large scale type.

H0 scale is probably the most popular size. In Europe, it’s known as the OO scale and comes in at just 1.87.1.  The TT scale, at 1:120, equates to one inch, equaling ten feet. This scale size isn’t quite as popular in America but it’s considered very popular in Russia and Germany.

One of the smallest sizes of model trains, the N scale comes in at either 1:148 or 1:60.

These types of model trains are not recommended for younger children. While they’re definitely fun to use, they often come with very small parts and challenging setups. Typically, they also have age requirements listed, which will be very important to note, especially if you intend on giving the model train set as a gift.

Toy and Model Train Set Materials

There are many different kinds of materials used for both toy and model trains.

Wood Train Sets

Wood is one of the most common types of materials used for toddlers and younger children. In these sets, everything is made out of wood and they feature a variety of detail and increased durability. The tracks interlock within each other, while the engine train and additional cars connect by also interlocking or with the use of magnets. With the type of precision craftsmanship available these days, you’re looking at a set that can last several years and beyond.


Plastic is another common material that’s used for train sets for toddlers. These sets consist of both plastic cars and tracks. This style is easy to clean and durable, so they’re often a popular choice for toddlers, younger children, schools, or daycare centers. A plastic set fits together well, but it doesn’t offer the type of smooth ride on the tracks that you’ll get from a combination set or a wooden set.

A combination set features both plastic and wood, offering the best of both worlds. The tracks are typically made of wood, while the additions around the tracks and the cars are made from plastic. The plastic is durable and brightly colored and very easy to clean. The wooden tracks are easier to connect compared to plastic tracks and offer longevity for parts.

With model trains, metal is often used. Because of cost and safety reasons, these train sets are not recommended for small children. However, because this type of set is made from metal, the trains are usually the most accurate replicas of large train varieties.

Generally, with wooden and plastic toy trains, you get what you pay for. If the price is a major concern, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the most value out of your purchase. If you’re dead set on a wooden train set, you’ll want to look for both compatibility and quality. Metal, plastic, and hardwood will be your options for a moderate price, but you can still find a quality setup. Another major factor that can determine the price of a train set is the rarity and collectability of the set.

A train set can be a wonderful way to purchase parts for your old sets such as more track or new cars. Toy and model trains sets often come with a wide range of options to choose from. However, for recreational sets, you’ll want to keep your eye out for something that’s highly compatible with other brands. This ensures that regardless of whether a person purchases other trains to add to the collection that they’re still able to run on the kit tracks.

Train sets are designed to run on the floor, on a table, or other types of flat surfaces. They will often not come with a layout or landscape.

A train table can be the perfect option if your child doesn’t have a designated play are, because they offer the ability to store the sets, in addition to ideal conditions for play. Look for a train table that will meet the needs and interests of your child for the long term. While cute, childish tables are perfect for toddlers, they often won’t capture the interest of older children. Classic train tables that feature cityscapes, water, or mountain themes, are all popular choices for children of all ages.

As we have mentioned, the price will be one of the main deciding factors when it comes to the train set you choose. Keep in mind, electric train sets are not the same as toy train sets. They’re often intended for older children and adults. While most model sets are well-built, they can be incredibly pricey.

PRO TIP: A toy train set that’s designed with younger children in mind may not offer the same type of durability as a model train set can, but they’re lighter and do not come with sharp corners or parts that can easily be swallowed.

When you purchase a train set for your child, try not to go overboard and instead, start off small. Over time, you can add more tracks, cars, and accessories, once you’ve determined your child enjoys this type of activity.

Why your Child will fall in Love with Train Sets

So how do you go about choosing the right set for your child? You’ll need to consider the aesthetic appeal, the amount of available space in the home, the durability of the product and of course, your budget. Chances are, once you purchase a set, you’ll end up purchasing additional tracks, cars, and other types of accessories that will complete the setup.

Because these train sets are considered an educational toy of sorts, they come with plenty of benefits for your child such as improved problem-solving skills, higher creativity levels, and improved fine motor skills.

A toddler or younger child must organize the trains and build the tracks, so the train is able to move smoothly. This will help to increase their critical thinking skills, teaching them how to solve problems effectively and more efficiently.

This type of toy will also allow your child to set the tracks in a number of ways, which will only be limited by their imagination. They can also design and create different scenarios for the roles played using the set and create stories in their heads related to the train’s setting and any other toys they add to the fun.

Playing with a train set can often involve using small objects and accessories to create small towns and cities. Learning how to handle and navigate these pieces will help to improve a child’s fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are what helps children to manipulate objects in accordance with their expectations.

  • If you’re planning on buying a wooden or plastic set for your child, your child’s age should be an important factor. If a set is too hard to assemble, a child can become easily discouraged or bored and move on to another toy. On the other hand, if the set is too simple and not much of a challenge, the same results can occur. The goal will be to find a toy that can be challenging, yet simple enough for your child to use and experiment with.
  • The train set you choose can be a great tool for child development. Playing and assembling a set will help to improve several facets of a child’s development. These types of activities can also strengthen small muscle groups and can be beneficial when it comes to improving a child’s concentration levels.
  • Other benefits include improvement in both socialization and communication skills. While playing alone with a train set can still provide endless hours of fun, playing with this type of toy is often more enjoyable with a sibling, friend or parent.

Top 3 Toddler Train Toys Comparison Chart

ModelPiecesTableFeatureQuick SummaryPrice ComparisonLowest Price Link
KidKraft Ride Around Train Set
One hundred piecesReversible Table setTwo Storage binsWhile described as a fun, action-packed set, it isn’t very compatible with Thomas the Train set brands, without a little tweaking. $$$$Check lowest price
KidKraft Waterfall
120 piecesReversible Table setThree storage bins This set offers plenty of track length, storage space, and playtime options, but because laying the tracks can be difficult, we don’t recommend it for younger toddlers under the age of four. $$$$$Check lowest price
Melissa and Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway
130 piecesFour track configurations More tracks than the average set This is a large set that allows your child to truly use their imagination to create whole new worlds. But because this set doesn’t offer any storage options, we don’t recommend this set for homes that are short on space.$$$Check lowest price

KidKraft Ride Around Train Set and Table Review

The KidKraft Ride Around train set and table is our top selling product, based on parent feedback and the set’s overall quality. This is a large set that features plenty of accessories, trains, cars, and even storage space, making it the perfect setup for any playroom. The table is also reversible, so it can be used for a wide range of activities.  The painted landscape on the other side of the table features vivid colors and detailed imagery that will make any playroom pop.

Read Full KidKraft Ride Around Review

KidKraft Waterfall Mountain Train Set and Table Review

The KidKraft Waterfall Mountain train set and table comes with a hundred and twenty pieces, in addition to three large plastic storage bins. This set is very compatible with other wooden train sets, so you can choose to expand the tracks or accessories over time, based on your child’s age. For ultimate toddler safety, the table features T-molded edges that also work to prevent chipping.

Read Full KidKraft Waterfall Mountain Train Set Review

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway Train Set Review

The Melissa & Doug Deluxe wooden railway train set is the perfect starter set for younger children. The set features a classic wooden train design with bright colors and comes equipped with thirty accessories and a hundred wooden tracks, so there are endless possibilities for track design that will really get your child thinking. With an innovative twist on a classic style, this train set will keep your toddler entertained for hours on end.

Read Full Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Train Set Review