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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! December 7, 2014 by Jessica Petersen 6 Comments Along with wooden train sets, wooden train tables are a classic feature in the children’s playroom at home and the preschool classroom.
But, before you read this list, there’s a question you should ask: do you really need a train table? If you already have a complete wooden train set, or plan on purchasing one separately, buying a train table that doesn’t come with a train set makes a lot of sense. If you buy a train table and need a set to go with it, you can find lots of great options in our Guide to the Best Wooden Train Sets (which now appears in both a US edition and a UK edition). You can also purchase Beka train trundle drawers separately (two will fit under the table) or buy the table together with two drawers for pretty much the same price as buying them separately. This is another good option that seems pretty comparable to the Beka table from what I can tell. Little Colorado makes their train tables out of Baltic birchwood, and the description states it can hold 300 pounds, so it sounds pretty solid. These tables are almost as high as the Beka table at 19 inches tall, which is great as preschoolers get taller.
These are somewhat more expensive than the Beka and Little Colorado tables, but they do look quite lovely.
International shipping may be available; the website says to contact for shipping quotes to locations outside of the 48 contiguous states.
I like the simple scenery painted on this table — solid green for grass, with blue in one corner for water. This play table is designed to work with the Brio Deluxe Railway Set, which has been a very popular set with our readers after we recommended it highly on our list of the Best Wooden Train Sets. The reviews generally rate this as much higher quality than the KidKraft tables, which is about what I would expect. This table includes a double-sided table top with a landscape design on one side and plain green paint on the other. While we don’t have any experience with Bigjigs train tables, we do have a number of their wooden trains, and I consider it a good brand to go with. This train table was available in the US on Amazon when I started this list, but now seems to be sold out. Plan Toys is one of the most eco-friendly toy companies making wooden train products that are widely available. I’m hesitant to recommend KidKraft train tables due to the mixed reviews, but many people like their KidKraft tables. This might be a good option for an outdoor train table, or one that you could do sensory play with trains on (like our Pretend Snow Sensory Play with Trains, for example). A all-in-one train table and train set package can be an exciting gift, and has the benefit of coming with everything you need to play included. Note: this train table and set seem to have some serious design flaws according to the reviews. Bigjigs is a brand we recommend: the quality is decent, and the design of the toys is inventive and interesting. This appears to be a very small train table, which could be perfect if you have a very small space to put it in!
This table is very similar to the table we own, although ours is white with a blue two-piece top, and this has a natural look with a one-piece green top.
What I thought was especially cool about this idea is that it’s a temporary transition. I hope to eventually do a full post on DIY train tables, but for now I have a Pinterest board filled up with all the best ideas I could find. Once you have your train table picked out, you’ll want to browse our Train Play archives for lots of ideas of what to do with them!

On this page, you will find the best train sets for toddlers that I have found online…and there are so many delightful choices! You can find wooden train sets for a more traditional feel or more modern motorized train sets. Little People toys are a staple of childhood and this Fisher Price Zoo Train will be no exception! 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. It can be hard, however, to get an idea of all the options that are out there — after all, I consider myself a pretty expert train stuff finder at this point, and it took me several different search tactics to discover all the train tables here on this list! While I have a great deal of first-hand knowledge regarding the different brands of train sets, there are only so many train tables that one family can own (in our case, one at home and one at my mom’s house). If you’re unsure whether or not you should buy a train table, you should read my honest rundown of the pros and cons of train tables, based on my own experience and on conversations with other train parents.
Also, most of the higher-quality tables I found do not come with train sets included, so if you can afford to buy them separately, I recommend starting here.
It’s made in the USA out of unfinished solid maple with a Baltic birch two-piece top.
For toddlers, you can contact the company and request shorter legs for an additional price.
I like the look of this one a little better, and if you want to get the trundle drawers to go underneath, this is the least expensive option at this level of quality.
Because these come in two-drawer sets, the overall price ends up much cheaper than comparable drawers on this list. You can choose different play boards for the top, from Thomas-brand ones to solid wood boards that match the table.
The two-piece top is reversible, with a plain wood side and a chalkboard side, and beneath is a storage space that is painted with train set scenery, so a small train set could be concealed beneath the top during other activities or when the table not in use. This can save you a lot of money, but sometimes you get what you pay for (the only brands from my Best Wooden Train Sets list that make train tables with sets included are Bigjigs and Imaginarium.) Often the play board top for the table is painted or printed with a design that coordinates with the train set, which can look nice, but can also be limiting once your child is ready to build their own train layouts.
However, if you read those reviews, people have found ways to work around these problems, and once they do, they think it’s a fun set. Check the dimensions to make sure the drawer or drawers you order will fit beneath your table, because the dimensions of the KidKraft tables vary. I have no idea how it stacks up in terms of quality with, say, KidKraft and Imaginarium, but people seem happy with it. Bigjigs makes some really cute pink wooden trains and accessories, and here they’ve created a whole world of pink on a train table. Maxim is generally an okay brand to go with — not top quality, but we like our Imaginarium train sets. The play board is reversible, with scenery for a train set on one side and a LEGO-compatible surface on the other side.
It takes up much less space than a regular table, and it may be a good choice for toddlers because there are tracks built into the two upper layers. Please take this into account when buying a train set for your children, as well as their own stage of development when it comes to putting things in their mouths.

Today, there are several different train cartoons on TV that are aimed at toddlers and small children, so the demand for child-friendly train sets has reached a peak. Your child will enjoy many adventures with this toy train featuring two Zoo Talkers animals, a rotating ferris wheel and a storage compartment.
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. And so I hope this list of the best train tables for toddlers and preschoolers will be helpful in your search.
However, as I got into the research for this, I realized that we’ve played on many different train tables in bookstores and toy stores, and from carefully reading as many reviews as I could, I was able to tell which train tables were a good bet. It’s more expensive than the others on this list, but once again, it looks like a very nice option. I love the train track shelf between two of the legs, especially the possibility of building tracks up from the floor to it.
Also, the temptation to glue these train sets to their matching train tables is strong, so do yourself and your child a favor and read our list of Alternatives to Gluing Train Tracks to Train Tables to find out why and how to avoid this. So if you have a serious fan of both dinosaurs and trains, this might be something to consider. While our table has gone onto another home (it was still in good condition at the time), we still use a lot of the pieces from the train set that came with it. Here is another link for the same table under a different name so that you can compare prices. Building complicated track layout can be difficult, but not impossible on a square train table.
There’s also a crane to lift supplies from the second level to the third and back again, and the bottom level is meant to be built into a wooden train layout on the floor. When you put Michael the Engineer into his driver’s seat and press down, sounds and music provide even more stimulating play. 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.
Out of all the options on this entire list, the Little Colorado tables below sound like the best combination of quality and price. 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! I have two theories: there could be a wide variation in the quality of different products, and between production runs of the same product, or this could just be a brand that rides a quality line, and you get a lot for what you pay, but it may or may not last as long as you like it to.

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