Train sets (like building sets) are among some of the best toys for kids because they can engage them for hours by allowing them to combine both physical and imaginative play. With a train set, a child must manipulate the toy train while spinning a story to go with the motions. Plus, there’s the engineering challenge of building the track. The tricky thing for parents, though, is choosing from the many train sets on the market because once you start with a set you are likely to keep adding to it.
This round-up of plastic, remote control and wooden train sets can be toys for toddlers to tweens. (OK, tweens is pushing it, but my tweens still occasionally pull out the Thomas trains.)
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In my book, Thomas the Tank Engine sets the standard in train sets. The wooden trains (Shop Now), in particular, are my favorite. What sets Thomas apart from all others is that the trains each have distinct (and sometimes annoying) personalities. This adds infinitely to the possible play scenarios. The are the equivalent to dollhouses, except with wheels.
This elaborate set of wooden trains with a roundhouse and a train table (Shop Now) is a great all-at-once start for your child’s train-set adventures. The table (with a storage drawer) comes with 100 pieces in all, including 23 feet of track, 4 people, 4 street signs, 7 trees, 4 street lamps, 1 helicopter, 1 truck, 1 car, 8 train cars and 12 pieces of cargo. And while not inexpensive, the whole set packs a lot of bang for your buck.
This figure-8 set wooden train track set (Shop Now) comes with a buffer stop. This little piece, of course, is not strictly necessary for train tracks that go in a loop, but it's always a favorite for the kid who like train wrecks. (And really which kids don't?) But also you get an engine with a coal car, track, and a bridge. Ages 2-7
Kids can pull out the rest of their Legos and build more than just just the tracks with these Lego train sets. Like Legos, the construction toys, Lego trains come in different sizes for different ages. The pictured Lego Duplo Legoville Train Set (Shop Now) is meant for ages 2-6, while Lego City electric trains (Shop Now) are for the for the big kids
While Lionel is known for its model railroad sets, which often are not appropriate for little hands, this remote control set from Lionel is meant to get kids started with the joy of trains. It has snap-together track and a simple remote control. Kids can take the train off the track and drive it around the house. This 49-piece set (Shop Now) includes steam engine, tender, gondola and caboose; track layout with bridges, railroad crossing and freight station, plus working switches and accessories. Ages 2 ½ and up