One of the only ways I can convince my kids to take a screen time break is with a hands-on toy that promotes problem-solving and requires the use of their imagination. Without fail, they always enjoy playing with one of their train sets. It is something that they can play with together or on their own. There are a lot of different ways to play, and I have peace of mind knowing that it is a great toy for their overall development.
You will discover all sorts of train sets in this guide. The best part is that I have broken them down by age group and chosen the top 3 for each. It will be easier than ever for you to find the right train set for your little ones. I took the time to research each set thoroughly and also included the sets that we currently own, so you can get an idea of what to expect.
Table of Contents
- What Should I Look for in a Train Set?
- Here’s How I’ve Determined the Best Train Set
- Our Top Picks for the Best Train Sets of 2021
- Train Set for Toddlers: Ages 1-3
- Train Sets for Younger Kids and Beginners: 3-6 Years
- Train Sets for Older Kids: 6 Years and Up
- What Ages Are Train Sets Good For?
- How Else Can I Expand on My Child’s Love of Trains?
- Verdict: Your Best Train Set
What Should I Look for in a Train Set?
There are several things that you should be looking for before you decide on which train set to purchase. Below you will find a few important features that will need to be taken into consideration. As always, there are going to be some optional things that will enhance your child’s experience, but there are also basics you will need.
Luckily, we have grouped the train sets by age, so you will not have to worry whether or not the one you want is safe for your child to use. This way you don’t have to try to figure it out on your own.
Assembly and Ease of Use
Depending on the ages of your children or child, you will want to make sure that the train set you buy will be easy for them to use and easy for them to assemble. Remember, most kids will want to do it all independently.
Some of these sets will require batteries to use all of their functions. Make sure you check what type and how many you will need, to make sure you are prepared before the kids start playing.
If you know that your little ones are going to enjoy their new train tracks, then you may want to choose one that can be added to through expansion packs. That way, you know exactly what gift to buy for the next special occasion.
Once set up, each of these sets is a different size, so you will want to make sure that your kids’ play space has enough room for the train set that you choose.
Here’s How I’ve Determined the Best Train Set
I compared some of the most popular train sets and looked at their price in comparison to the value. I then used what I found and took a look at what they had to offer compared to the train sets that my children own. You will see that they are broken up into two categories based on the appropriate age group. This is because certain sets aren’t best for toddlers and some aren’t best for older kids. I also read reviews as well because they can be most helpful when you are trying to see what the product is like before you buy it. I only picked the highest-rated train sets for this list.
Our Top Picks for the Best Train Sets of 2021
Train Set for Toddlers: Ages 1-3
Vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Train Station Playset (Best Overall)
I almost didn’t include any train sets for such a young age, but I realized that it’s never too early to introduce your child to something new and fun! This train set is perfect for the tiniest of tots and the smallest toddler hands. The pieces are made for little ones, so no choking hazards here, moms! So why not get your little engineer started in the right direction? Keep reading to find out some more features of this train set.
It Features VTech Smart Point Technology
What does this mean? Well, the track of the set has 10 smart point locations that interact with the smart point vehicles when they approach each of the locations. This triggers sound effects, phrases, and music, which add even more to the fun.
The Tracks Pieces Are Interchangeable
This train set comes with 32 track pieces that you can not only interchange with each other, but with another set as well. The VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels and Animals track can be connected to this one to create a completely different track design.
Let’s talk about some other features of this train set for kids.
- Rainbow bridge and track to help learn colors
- Requires 3 AAA batteries (included)
- 1 motorized Smart Point train and an educational cargo car with the letter “T”
- Hand crank that moves the conveyor belt
- Additional vehicles and animals sold separately
Just like with other VTech products, this one was made for early learning. The sound effects and phrases will help with verbal skills while pushing the train along the track develop motor skills. Overall, this is a great choice for toddlers because of how easy to use, fun, and engaging it is. The colors and sounds will keep your child entertained for long periods of time.
Train Sets for Younger Kids and Beginners: 3-6 Years
#1: Orbrium Toys Deluxe Wooden Train Set (Best Value)
This is the second and most recent train set that my kids own, and they love setting it up and playing with each other. It is a little more challenging compared to their first set, (the KidKraft Figure 8 train set), but they were ready for one with more pieces and a completely different way to play. I found that it was great for the development of their fine motor skills, which I find to be very important at this age. Keep reading to find out some of the reasons why I chose this as the best value wooden train set for kids.
It Is Very Versatile
One thing that my children love most about this wooden train set is that you can set it up in different ways. There are 9 layouts to choose from, making it a new experience every time they play. With 52 total pieces, there is so much to do. The best part for me is that if my kids are struggling to play with each other, they can set up smaller tracks and play separately.
It is Compatible with Other Brands
You will notice that the #2 pick, the best premium, is compatible with this train set. You can use the train cars interchangeably. This is also true for both Chuggington and Thomas & Friends as well. So if your children want a couple of trains that resemble some of their favorite characters, you don’t need to buy a whole new train set.
Here are some more features of this wooden train set.
- Recommended for ages 3 years and up
- Includes 3 destinations: long bridge, train station, and railroad crossing
- Tracks made of real wood
- Scenic background
- Includes buildings, figurines, trees, road signs, and more, for 52 total pieces
- Wooden storage box
When we decided to get another train set for my kids after their first was such a hit, this ended up being a great choice. The tracks are very easy to put together, and the kids need almost no help from me. It keeps them entertained and engaged for such a long period of time, much longer than some of their other toys. I also like the possibilities. The expansions available make playing with this a whole new experience each time. My favorite part is the cost. It is a great mid-range wooden train set that your children will want to play with over and over again.
#2: Melissa & Doug Wooden Railway Set (Best Premium)
Melissa & Doug has always been one of my favorite companies, so we own a lot of their products. Much to my surprise, they actually do make a train set. I discovered this through my research and, of course, the ratings are very high. It is more expensive than the other train sets made for younger kids, but it is well worth it if you can fit it into your budget. Let’s go over some of the standout features of this premium train set.
It Is Very Intricate
With over 100 track pieces, you know that your child will be developing their fine motor skills by putting this set together. Kids can mix and match to create so many different kinds of tracks that the fun won’t ever end as long as they keep using their imaginations. Melissa & Doug recognize how important hands-on play and social skills are and always have those in mind when creating new toys for your children.
The Cranes are Functional
A unique feature of this train set is the magnetic cranes. They can be used to raise and lower cargo onto the train cars, adding even more ways to play. You will not see this with any of the other train sets within this age group. If you have construction fans in your home, then this may be a great choice if you want to purchase a new train set.
What else does this train set have to offer your kids?
- Recommended for ages 3-6 years
- 30 accessories and pieces included such as train cars, figurines, trees, and buildings
- Made of high-quality materials
- 100% happiness guarantee
- You can add on a train table
The bottom line with this wooden train set is that it comes with a lot of tracks and accessories, making it well worth its high cost. If you have the budget and enjoy this brand, then I would say this would make a great gift for your children. This company understands that it can sometimes be hard to pull your kids away from screen time, and that is why they create high-quality and engaging products to help promote more hands-on playing and learning. If you are already a loyal customer and can afford it, this train set could be the perfect match for your children.
#3: KidKraft Figure 8 Train Set (Best Low Cost)
When my kids first showed an interest in trains, they were a bit younger than they are now. One of my biggest concerns was making sure there weren’t any really small parts that could become choking hazards. I did some looking and found a great inexpensive wooden train set that they still ask to play with a year later. It is the cheapest option for younger children, but I feel like it gives you just enough as a beginner train set. Read on to see some of the main reasons why we love this set.
It Is Easy to Assemble
My kids are very independent for their ages, and I knew that I didn’t want their first train set to be complicated. After all, they don’t want their mom’s help with putting it together. All they do is use the picture on the box, and they can set it all up on their own. It also doesn’t take up a lot of space, so they can have it out with some of their other toys if only one of them wants to play with it.
It Comes with Just the Right Amount of Pieces
For a beginner set that consists of only 38 pieces, I was impressed. It comes with different train cars that my kids recognize, along with other cars that they like to use to build towns, such as a bulldozer. They really enjoy using some of their other toys like their dinosaurs with this train set, and it is really interesting seeing what their imaginations come up with.
Here are some more features of this train set that are worth mentioning.
- Recommended for ages 3-6 years
- You can buy additional accessories and expand it
- Comes with step-by-step instructions
- Perfect for toddlers’ hands
- Made of real wood
This product costs under $20, which is about 20% of the price of the Melissa & Doug train set. It is extremely affordable and perfect for your little engineer. It is very simple and easy to assemble but doesn’t sacrifice any of the fun and learning your children will experience once it is put together and ready to use. Like I previously mentioned, my kids still ask to take out this train set often because they have so much fun with it.
Train Sets for Older Kids: 6 Years and Up
#1: Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer Lion Chief Freight Set (Best Value)
This train set comes with a lot of value for its cost. It is a great option for an older kid and can be enjoyed through adulthood. It is unique and very realistic; you will probably have fun setting it up with your kids. You can buy this train set as a gift for the whole family to enjoy on Christmas morning. Keep reading to see what the best features of this set are.
It Can Be Controlled Via Bluetooth
This model train comes with a Lion Chief remote control that allows you to make it go forward, backward, and even make life-like train sounds. There is also an app that can be downloaded on your smartphone that allows even more control options. It connects via Bluetooth, and it is the most high-tech train set on this entire list.
The Track Is Easy to Connect
The design of the track pieces makes it very easy to put together. The train track that comes with this set consists of 12 pieces and forms a simple oval shape. Each piece has pins that are made to fit snugly into each other with a click.
What are some other features of this model train set?
- You can purchase additional tracks and other accessories
- The locomotive has working headlights and smoke
- Recommended for ages 14 years and up, but can be used by 8-13 years with adult supervision
- Requires 3 AAA batteries to operate the Lion Chief remote control
The great thing about this set is that it is not just a train set for kids. You can purchase this track with the intention of playing with your child, making a fun new tradition together. It is a beautiful train with so many realistic details that it is perfect for the little train lover in your life. If you want something that will spark joy and provide entertainment for years to come, this may be the right choice for your older kid.
#2: LEGO City Cargo Train Toy Set (Best Premium)
Lego sets are generally more expensive compared to other brands because of their high-quality products loved by parents and children alike. They are made of small pieces that are, in my opinion, great for developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. The Lego City sets are intricate and at times complicated, but they are perfect for kids who love trains and Legos. Read on to see why this is at the #2 spot as one of the best train sets.
It Has the Most Pieces
At 888 pieces, this train set has the most to put together. Lego sets are made to be enjoyed during assembly and after, making the whole process a fun experience. Your kids will never get bored with this set. There is so much to do to put it together, and you can be imaginative and creative as well. It’s also great for learning and sharpening social skills.
The Toys are Compatible with Other Lego Sets
You get a few Lego mini-figures with this playset that can be used with other Lego sets. This is also true for some of the other toys, such as the actual train cars and vehicles. The nice thing about Legos is that they are designed to be able to be used interchangeably with other sets to create a whole new experience every time you play.
What are some other features of the Lego City cargo train toy set?
- Recommended for ages 6-12 years
- Includes locomotive, cattle wagon, fuel wagon, cable drum wagon, truck, crane, and forklift
- Also has a cargo train station for the motorized cargo train
- Requires 9 AAA batteries
With all its functions and unique features, your train lover will want to play with this set all the time. It has a lot of pieces to keep track of, which is why it is the most ideal for older children. However, your child will have countless hours of entertainment while they come up with new and interesting track designs.
#3: LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Toy Train Building Set (Best Low Cost)
Here is a great train set that is very affordable for a Lego set. If you have a Harry Potter fan at home, then they will love this train. It is a replica of the Hogwarts Express, which is an iconic symbol from the book series and the movies. Your child will have so much fun putting this together, and it would make a great gift for a birthday. Keep reading to find out some of the big reasons why this train set made it into our top list.
The Details Are Very Well Crafted
This Hogwarts model train makes you feel like you are living in the story. It’s a perfect size. The character figures that come with this set also give you so many options for imaginative play. Lego designs their sets to promote creative thinking, and this train is no different. All of the parts of this train set make you feel like you are in the wizarding world yourself. What child wouldn’t love that?
There Are Many Pieces for Many Possibilities
Lego creates their sets so you can make your own adventure, and this train set is no different. There are several ways to build and play, and there are no tracks for the train, so it can ride anywhere you’d like. It is great that this toy isn’t just for train lovers, but it may turn your child into one.
What are other features of this train?
- The model train and carriage has 4 seats
- Includes a bridge and Kings Cross train station
- Hidden compartments in the train cars
- 7 mini-figures
Lego pieces and figures are interchangeable between multiple sets, so you could buy another Harry Potter set to combine with this one. This will increase the fun play possibilities and really let your child’s imagination run wild. I love the details on this train because it was modeled after the films and books, so it feels almost real. This is a solid choice for an affordable train set.
What Ages Are Train Sets Good For?
There are train sets out there that are good for all ages. Some of the ones that are appropriate for toddlers start around age 3, but you can find very simple ones for as young as 18 months. You will see that the ones we have chosen that start at around 3 years old are best for when your kids really start to take interest in trains. As they grow, you can expose them to more intricate sets to help grow their love for them even more. I believe that train sets are some of the best toys for developing creativity and motor skills. I even still love putting them together myself as an adult.
How Else Can I Expand on My Child’s Love of Trains?
There are plenty of ways that you can help expand your child’s love of trains. Below you will find some suggestions of other things you can do with them, and other things you can purchase to ramp up their playtime.
Dress Up as a Conductor
If you find that your child really enjoys guiding their trains along the track and pretending that they are the ones driving, this could be something fun to add to their playtime. You can find my favorite option for dress up here, and you will see it is also one of the best-sellers among other parents. Why not add another level to their imaginative play?
Stories About Trains
You can take it a step further and find some books you can read to your child. There are some great storybooks like this one here and books that provide some interesting facts about trains here. Who says the fun has to stop with toys?
Train Themed Bedroom
Sometimes, kids like to express their interests through bedroom décor. This could be the perfect time to get their space a makeover. There are options for wall art, like my favorite here. You could also get them a new set of sheets. hereis a set for a toddler bed, and here is a complete bedding set for a twin bed, if you have an older train lover.
There are so many possibilities when it comes to giving your child new ways to show their love for trains, and this is true for any interest they may have. If you show your excitement in something that they love, it will make them and you incredibly happy.
Verdict: Your Best Train Set
Here is the takeaway on the best train sets you can buy for your kids.
For the best choice overall, pick the Vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Train Station Playset. It is perfect for early learning and development and is also a great mid-range cost option.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Orbrium Toys Deluxe Wooden Train Set. This set has plenty of pieces and is easy to use. Plus, you can use parts from train sets that belong to other brands as well.
For the best premium, pick the Melissa & Doug Wooden Railway Set. It is made by one of the most trusted brands by parents and offers a lot of versatility.
If you want to spend under $20, pick the KidKraft Figure 8 Train Set. This one is simple and the most inexpensive train set on this list but is also made of good quality.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer Lion Chief Freight Set. This set is the most like a model train you might own as an adult, making it a great gateway into a hobby as your child grows.
For the best premium, pick the LEGO City Cargo Train Toy Set. It is the most expensive by far but still has the quality you expect by LEGO, along with a lot of parts for hours of entertainment.
If you want to spend under $65, pick the LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Toy Train Building Set. Another LEGO set, but much smaller and cheaper than the previous one. If you have a Harry Potter fan at home, then your little engineer would love this train set as a gift.
Trains are great toys for all ages. From toddlers to big kids and even adults, there is a set out there for all interests and skill levels. There many options and types, plus accessories and expansions so your child will always be entertained. Each of these picks promotes fun and creativity in its own way. You will find street signs, a cargo car, a coal car, sounds, remote control capabilities, and others. The benefits are great. If you have a son or daughter who is taking an interest in trains, then they would probably consider you the greatest parent in the world if you gave them one of their own.