Wooden trains are classic toys that have been loved been enjoyed by children for generations. They are not only fun and engaging, but they can also be educational, helping children learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Toddlers, in particular, love them, they’re tactile while their bright colours and, depending on the train, sounds speak their imagination.
But there are numerous wooden trains and sets available and it can be confusing to decide which is best for your young boy or girl. Here’s a few things I suggest based on my own insights from buying train sets for my children and those of my niches, nephews, and friends to help you find the right set for your son or daughter.
Get wood trains that are age-appropriate
The first thing to consider is your toddler’s age. Wooden train sets come in a variety of sizes and complexity, so it is important to choose one that is appropriate for your child’s age and development level.
For younger toddlers, look for a simple set with a few cars and tracks.
Below two and three years old, their dexterity is often still developing, so look for train sets that are easy for their little fingers to manage and are fun and engaging. The same goes for the track. Look for sets with basic track arrangements that are easy to put together; avoid those with junctions with simple end-to-end loops and ovals. The Bigjigs basic first train set (buy it here) or Brio World Starter Set (buy now) is the perfect choice for this, with a simple design that a young boys or girls should be able to manage while still having all the fun and educational value.
As your child gets older, you can gradually introduce more complex sets with more features.
Play to their interests
Another factor to consider is your child’s other interests and find sets that incorporate these or get addons to match. Combining interests adds to their enjoyment.
If your son or daughter is into dinosaurs, the BigJigs T-Rex (available here) will be a delight. The big yellow eye on the locomotive is a lovely touch too!
For cars, a car set such as the Bigjigs car collection and goes well with the Brio car transporter. What my younger family members love about the animal sets is that not only can they stand around next to the railway track, watching the trains go by, but the sets also incorporate wagons to carry them so they can be placed on the trains and pulled around the tracks.
- Buy the wooden Dinosaur set
- Buy the Bigjigs car collection
- Buy the Brio car transporter
- Buy the Safari animal set
- Buy the Horse and Cow set
Start with toddler-sized budgets
Wooden train sets can range in price from a few pounds to hundreds of pounds. Set yourself a budget and stick to it. My article on where to start with wooden train sets lists sets into price brackets to help.
If your children are like mine and fickle creatures, prone to changing their minds frequently, I’d recommend starting with a budget set such as the oval set above or a figure of eight set (buy it here). Then, if they take a liking to it, expand it with additional track pieces and trains.
Features – lights, sounds, action
Alternatively, some toddlers prefer trains with lights, bells and whistles. Most trains in wooden sets are child-powered, being pushed along the tracks. However, there are also motorized wooden train sets that move under their own steam (pardon the pun) and can also incorporate sounds and lights.
The best of these is the BRIO World Mighty Gold Action Locomotive which drives forward and in reverse with accompanying light and sound effects and has a stunning luxurious gold finish – it’s got a real sheen to it – that will be a surefire winner for youngsters wanting something more advanced or interesting than just push along locos. An auto-off feature also saves constantly having to change the batteries and works with all main wooden train set packs.
Buy the feature-packed World Mighty Gold Action Locomotive from Amazon here.
Conclusion: The right train for your child
Choosing the best wooden train set for your toddler can be daunting and confusing with so many choices but it doesn’t have to be. By considering your child’s age, interests, budget, and features, you can narrow down the choices and find the perfect set that will spark their imagination and creativity.
What are some of the features you looked for in a wooden train set for your toddler? Help inspire other parents of train-obsessed toddlers with a comment below on which wooden train you chose.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.