Parents who are looking for long-lasting, durable railroad sets for their young train lovers may want to look into wooden toy trains and table sets. These sturdy toys will stand up to a lot of wear and tear; as toys go, they're a great investment.
While a train table is not required for most train tracks, it makes it easier to place the tracks and provides a dedicated space for playing with trains.
Thomas & Friends
Learning Curve's Thomas & Friends Wooden Grow-with-Me Play Table will thrill young Thomas the Tank Engine fans with its pictures of popular trains from the Island of Sodor. The table has two sides. One side features its own grooved track that most standard wooden trains will fit on. However the smaller, Take-Along Thomas Trains do not fit on the track. The other side features images from the Island of Sodor for children to build on with their own train sets.
Step2's Deluxe Canyon Road Train and Track Table is ideal for parents who do not want to spend time setting up a train track, just to have a child tear it down. Along with a built-in track, the table comes with a lid that also doubles as a tabletop when the track is not in use. Most standard wooden and plastic toy trains, including Thomas & Friends trains, are compatible with the grooved track.
Kidkraft is known for producing high-quality train tables. All of KidKraft's tables are compatible with most train tracks and train sets. Some of the tables available from KidKraft include:
- The 2-in-1 Activity Table with LEGO compatible board features storage under the double-sided play board and also comes with a train set and 200 LEGO-type blocks.
- The Boys Metropolis Train Table Set features a rolling trundle for storage. It also comes with a 100-piece train set that includes a tunnel, a two-tier bridge and an airport.
- The Honey Train Table is a basic table with rounded edges to make it safer for young children. A special lip helps keep pieces on the table and off the floor.
- The Wooden Waterfall Mountain Train Table and Set features a play board with a fun country scene for children to build a track around. It also comes with three plastic bins for storing the 120-piece track and train set.
Melissa and Doug's Multi-Activity Table is not designed to be used solely with trains, but its double-sided board makes a perfect surface for setting up a train track. It also features a jumbo drawer for storing trains and tracks.
Tracks and Trains
Most starter train track sets will entertain your child for a little while, but eventually he will want to begin building bigger, more elaborate tracks. When choosing a train track to start your child with, look for a brand that offers multiple expansion packs and is compatible with other brands.
Thomas & Friends
The Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Starter Sets come with enough pieces to make a small circular or oval track and a couple of trains. From there you have the option of purchasing multiple expansion packs and accessories to add to your child's track. While the tracks in the Thomas & Friends sets are high quality, they also often come with a high price tag. Thankfully, most other companies that make wooden train tracks design them to be compatible with Thomas & Friends tracks, so you can expand your collection with less expensive options. If you prefer to stick with the Thomas & Friends brand to expand your track, the following expansion packs may work well:
- Bulk Wood Track Pack includes a variety of different pick-n-choose pieces
- Figure 8 Set Expansion Pack comes with curved pieces to help make a figure-eight and other unique track designs.
Another popular train show, Chuggington, is the inspiration for a set of tracks and trains. The tracks have been designed to connect with most other popular train track sets, but the trains that are included with tracks are bigger than most wooden trains and may not work with features from other tracks. For young children, the Chuggington Wood Beginners Set comes with 13 pieces to create an oval track, two trains and two road signs. Other accessories and track sets are also available.
Melissa and Doug
Melissa and Doug is known for creating high-quality, wooden kids toys and its train tracks are no exception. Its simple sets, such as the Farm Animal Train Set, feature eight pieces to make a circular track, a train engine and two connecting cars. Larger sets from Melissa & Doug, such as the Deluxe Wooden Railway Set, are still fairly simplistic and also tend to be some of the higher-priced track sets.
Imaginarium offers larger sets of train tracks and accessories for the same prices as some of the more popular brands. The tracks are compatible with Thomas & Friends, Brio and other standard wooden train tracks. A few of Imaginarium's track sets include:
- Mountain Pass Railroad, with over 100 pieces, including a mountain with tunnel, multiple bridges, trains, signs, trees and other pieces of scenery.
- Deluxe Track Pack, featuring multiple sizes and styles of pieces to add to any track set, including a bridge and pieces to connect multiple rails.
- Straight Track Assortment, which includes 16 straight track pieces of varying sizes.
IKEA's train tracks are simplistic, inexpensive and compatible with Thomas & Friends, Imaginarium and other standard train tracks. Whether you are just starting out with trains or want to expand your track, you may want to try the LILLABO series of tracks and vehicles.
Buying Wooden Toy Trains and Table Sets
Wooden trains don't come cheap. They're pretty pricey when you compare them to plastic trains and tracks. Once you buy a wooden set, however, you can expect it to last for years and years making it well worth the money in the long run. Average prices for the wooden tables alone usually begin around $100 and go up from there. Prices of trains and tracks vary. You may need to shop a little at a time because building an entire train village could easily run into the hundreds of dollars
When deciding what type of table to buy, keep these considerations in mind:
- Are you buying only one brand?: Not all wooden trains and table sets are compatible. Maybe you want to stick to one particular type of train; if that's the case, you may have to only buy trains, tracks and a table from one brand. If you want to mix and match a little, make sure you buy pieces from brands that work together.
- Do you want to create your own table?: You can find wooden train tables already complete. They may have tracks attached in a prearranged pattern that could be unmovable. If you want to inject some of your creativity, look for tables that allow you to build tunnels, bridges and rearrange pieces the way you want.
- Changing the table surface: Find out whether the table you're looking at has a play board attached or if you can change out the surface area if desired. Some play boards are two-sided, allowing you to turn them over and enjoy another view whenever you want.
Play for All Ages
It's always great for parents when they find toys that appeal to a wide age range. Wooden toy trains and table sets are perfect as preschool-age toys and elementary school-age toys. Although many parents will give these toys to boys, girls can also enjoy the fun of playing with trains. Once you have a good assortment of trains and accessories, there's plenty of variety and toys for everyone. Wooden trains never go out of style and can easily be saved and handed down to future siblings and generations.