Last Updated on November 9, 2021 by admin
The holy grail of toddler toys?
More than a few parents would say they’ve found it, and it’s a wooden train set on a table.
These train tables are loved for years, starting around age 2: That’s usually when tots start to get into imaginative play, can figure out how tracks fit together, and have fallen deeply in love with old-timey steam engine trains.
Some new 2-year-olds will still be more interested in throwing and crashing trains than running things in a dignified manner, and most wooden train sets are suggested for ages 3 and up due to small parts. But you could consider getting a train table now; they’re also good for dollhouses, toy cars, and other pretend play.
Train tables take up a lot of space. They’re heavy. And there are more versatile activity tables or even sensory tables, coffee tables that double as play tables, and train tables. Can’t a single table do it all — or at least most of it?
I actually dedicated an entire post to how to choose an activity table for 2-year-olds. You can head over there for more on what makes these tables different (and for a few suggestions on tables with interchangeable tops).
But, to summarize, train tables have a few key things that make them ideal for trains, including:
- an edge along the surface to contain tracks and parts (art and Lego tables typically don’t have an edge)
- a height ideal for standing toddlers (art tables and dining tables are typically designed for sitting down)
- a large surface area that can fit a big set of wooden tracks (Lego tables and most art tables tend to be smaller than tables dedicated to trains)
What to Look for in a Train Table
If you’re convinced that you’ll get a lot use out of a train table (we certainly did out of ours!) and that you have enough space to accommodate one (most train tables around 30 inches by 40 inches), it’s time to pick a model that works for you.
1. Quality. A train table will stay in your home for years. Your toddler will probably climb on it, and eventually, you’ll want to re-sell it or give it to a friend, so pick a sturdy one.
2. Size. — Consider where you you’ll put this table and measure the space available. Your tot will need full access to all sides for an optimal choo-choo experience.
3. Design. Whether you choose a table that looks more like a toy or a lovely piece of furniture will probably depend on whether it’s headed for the play room or the living room. Also, the painted landscape tops can be fun, but some feel that a blank top encourages more creativity.
4. Storage. Some tables come with built-in storage, others come with optional storage, and some don’t have any included — but there’s nothing stopping you from sliding a few of your own bins underneath.
5. Brand. Most wooden train sets are compatible with most wooden tables, but maybe you’d rather choose a train set first and pick a table to match. If so, head over to this post on the Best Wooden Train Play Sets to get started. Remember: many wooden train sets have small parts that you’ll have to put aside until your 2-year-old is less likely to see how they taste.
Where to Get a Train Table
If you’re handy with woodwork or know someone who is, a train table might not be terribly difficult to make. There are plenty of DIY train table options online, especially on Pinterest (I like this one).
But if you want to buy a table that’s just for trains, I’d suggest checking Craigslist first. There were a lot of train tables listed in my area, and many of them came with full train sets. (I got a now-discontinued Learning Curve Thomas table on Craigslist for $40 from a nice man who lived nearby.)
Train Table Suggestions
If I were buying new and had an unlimited budget, I’d probably get a fancy one that looks like a coffee table and buy the trains separately. But there are also plenty of great options below.
Most Versatile Train Table
Nilo has decades of history making kids’ play tables. Their tables are made of solid wood, which is pretty unique in a market dominated by particle board or “manufactured wood” (also known as MDF, or Medium-density fibreboard). However, its minimal design also makes it relatively light and easy to move around.
The edge on the table makes it ideal for containing trains, blocks, play doh, puzzles, and dollhouse parts. This one comes with a removeable Lego-compatible surface as well as an “easy-to-clean” double-sided melamine surface. It’s a little smaller than some of the train tables in this list
Sturdiest, Safest Train Table
If you want a sturdy, solid wood table that’s larger than the Nilo Table and a few inches shorter, this Brio table is a good choice.
The table has rounded edges to prevent injury, and the table is sturdy enough for toddlers to climb on. Of course, the solid design means it will be a little more difficult to move around (it weighs 33 lbs).
As I wrote in my post on the best wooden train sets for toddlers, Brio is a well-respected wooden train brand that has an entire line of toddler-safe trains.
Dimensions: 46 x 30 x 18 inches
Best Train Table with Train Set Included
Buying a table and train set together can be a great value, but the higher quality sets are usually sold separately.
All of their train sets are designed for ages 3 and up, probably due to small parts, and possibly due to heightened safety standards in the UK. But if you have an older 2-year-old or feel comfortable getting them a more complicated set, this might be a good choice for you.
Dimensions: 40.25 x 12.5 x 28.75 inches
Best Plastic Train Table
Plastic train tables tend to be lighter, smaller and less expensive than the wooden train tables.
The depth makes the train play a little more dynamic, and it comes with a cover that can convert it to a regular activity table ideal for art and other activities.
Dimensions: 44.875 inches x 23.875 inches
Most Exciting Train Table
I tend to gravitate toward more minimalistic, open-ended toys, but this one is difficult to pass up, despite all its bells and whistles.
The front of the table mimics an actual train that toddlers can sit and drive. Parents can also push the back end of the table in under the cab to minimize the table’s footprint when it’s not in use.
Dimensions: 48 x 24 x 23 inches
Remember, if you decide that a train table is too much, you can start with a Learning carpet.
You could also try a take-and-play train set, like this one from Melissa and Doug that folds out into a tabletop train table but also stores all the train pieces in an easy-to-store container.