Trains and Train Sets Buying Guide
A hobby enjoyed by young and old for decades, trains and train sets are quintessential toys, whether they are for play or considered collectibles. From a track circling a Christmas tree to the happy, familiar face of Thomas the Tank Engine, this is one type of toy that never goes out of style.
Trains are intriguing for children - kids love to watch them go. And in the playroom, the child is the conductor, deciding what cargo will be dropped off next or where the train is heading this afternoon. From a figure 8 to a sprawling web of tracks, playing with trains will help shape your child's mind!
Features to Consider
When it comes to train railways and their associated trains and cars, it is important to note what fits together. For example, all the tracks in the Thomas Wooden Railway are interchangeable (and therefore, customizable!) and all of the Thomas engines and cars can ride the tracks. But, not all train sets and their cards are interchangeable, so keep this in mind as you purchase items. Often, you are committing to an entire brand and its accessories, so be sure to research your options and pick the train set that works best for your and your children.
We have several “introductory” train sets that will let you know to what degree your child latches on to this exciting new hobby, before you decide to invest into particular sets! Look closely at what fits and you can expand these introductory sets into full-fledged railway communities.
Some Age Group Suggestions
We have several introductory train and train set options, whether a child is showing an interest in trains at 9 months or 9 years.
Up to 2 years
2 years and up
Basic, usually one-piece toy trains or a train-themed toddler toy
Other toys, like puzzles, that have a train theme
Plastic train set with accessories
Thomas the Tank Engine toys
Other wooden train sets and wooden trains
Train Tables and Trundles
For train-lovers, consider building on interest with collectible train sets
Where Will They Use It? (Play Environment)
Other than the smaller, one-piece train toys where track is not an issue, one thing is certain: a level playing surface is needed. The simplest solution is a cleared off coffee table or dining table. Or, if your child is fine with it, why not use the floor?
You can take the next step and give a train a fitting home - a Train Table! There are also coordinating Train Trundles that make extra storage easy. These high-quality tables and trundles can also serve as a spot for other playtime activities as well.
Ways for Adults to Play/ Adult Involvement
Of course, parents and other adults like to see kids having fun, but a train set is one kind of toy that can be absolutely fun for any age. (Maybe even more fun for the adults!) You can be there to assist with putting the track together and offer other support needed.
Watching a train go ‘round and ‘round is simply a joy to watch! Your child will grasp the concept of something being “far” and “near”. He can also look at the train from the side or from above for different perspectives, while building unique track configurations help develop spatial skills.
Playing with trains will emphasize your child's fine-motor skills, with the focus of playtime on setting it all up (before watching it go!), and then pushing trains round and round the track!
Similar to coloring within the lines, a train's proper place is within the tracks. Of course, during early development, as well as pretend play, the goal of the train may not necessarily be to go around the track. And there's nothing wrong with that!
A train set is all set for independent play. Your engineer-in-training will likely spend hours of time around the train, whether they are just watching it in action or planning out the route.
Every ‘real' train has more than one person running it and why not do the same for playtime? Kids can share ideas on how the track should be set, where trees should be, what order the cars should be in, and so on.
Types of Play
Trains are so rewarding: you take the time to put together the track setup, then you can enjoy the work by watching the train go around the track! This three-dimensional, puzzle-like activity helps your child with hand-eye coordination and the reasoning needed to be sure that everything fits.
The train may be moving, but your kid is too! Whether he is pushing a toy train back and forth on the rug, or walking around the edges of a train table to put everything in its place, he'll be up and active watching his train in action.
Most everything about train play is dramatic - kids can build tracks and towns, and then send their trains to the perform the necessary work to keep the town functioning. Or, they can just have fun acting out whatever scenarios come to mind!
If your child is playing trains with a friend or two, it's a wonderful opportunity to work together to build, pretend, and send trains up and down the tracks for a play date of fun.
Save for the sound of the train going around the tracks, many sessions of play will probably just be your child and the train, playing quietly in his own world. And, since most wooden train sets don't include a sound component, play tends to be on the quieter side.