Wooden train sets are classic toys that last and are loved for years.
Most have a suggested age of 3 and up, either because of choking hazards, or because they’re considered too tricky for a 2-year-old to navigate alone.
2-year-olds also really like to throw, dump and destroy just for kicks — not a great fit for expensive wooden toys.
However, from all the reviews I’ve heard from friends and read online, wooden train sets and tables are a big hit with 2-year-olds.
They can even ultimately reach all-time-favorite toy status over the years.
Because of that, I couldn’t resist adding train sets as a suggestion for this age.
How to Choose a Train Set
Here are the major factors that go into choo-choosing a train set. (Sorry.)
Buy a bundle or buy individually – Some people want a train table that comes with an entire set of tracks, trains and accessories. Others ease into it with a starter set that has a few engines and a simple circle track. You can even go smaller and just buy a few individual engines, which can get pricey at up to $15 each. The all-in-one deals seem simpler and are usually more affordable overall, but if you’re looking for an heirloom quality set, you might opt to build a collection over time. If you definitely want to buy a train table, check out my full train table post.
Faces or no faces – Some kids love the characters of Thomas or Chuggington. Other kids (or their parents) prefer the look of a non-anthropomorphized train, or don’t want to commit their toddler to a certain TV character. I’ve seen it argued that the faces encourage more imaginative play and storylines, but my own 2-year-old had no problem creating personalities for any vehicle, face or not. It comes down to personal preference and budget. (The branded characters typically cost more).
Expansiveness – If you think you’ll be in the train phase for the long haul and want to build a big collection within the same brand, some companies definitely have more options. That said, most of the wooden train tracks out there are compatible with one another, and plenty of other companies provide universal tracks and connectors if you end up with multiple types. Problems with incompatibility are mostly caused by trains being too large for tunnels or not taking curves or hills as well as the same-brand trains.
Small Parts – Sure, all of these sets have small-ish parts. But only some of them have parts so narrow that they could potentially be choked on by a toddler. Click here to read more about choking hazard warnings. Even if your own kid is old enough, you might have to deal with little siblings or buddies’ little siblings later at some point.
The Best Train Sets for 2-Year-Olds
Below are the best brands of train sets appropriate for kids as early as age 2.
Many companies offer starter sets geared toward younger toddlers, and I tried to stick to those in the list below.
2-year-olds certainly won’t be constructing a masterful track landscapes of loops, bridges and intersections without their parents’ help.
However, once your tot gets to be 3 or so, the simple loops and figure 8s won’t hold their attention for long. If they’re almost 3 now or you think your 2-year-old can handle something more complicated, there are lots of other options available for each brand listed.
I’m a member of Amazon.com’s affiliate program, I may get a small commission if you buy something as a result of seeing it here.
Brio has been in the toy business since 1884. Their classic wooden trains are of the highest quality. They pride themselves as being one of the most expansive sets available, with dozens of themed options (newer sets include a sawmill, a circus train, a horse farm and a fire station) that are all compatible. Brio states clearly on their web site that all of their wooden railway sets are “sibling safe” and free of choking hazards.
Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway (Fisher Price)
These train sets are based on the decades-running show Thomas and Friends, which remains insanely popular with toddlers. The Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway set is high quality and well-reviewed, and is priced accordingly.
Thomas and Friends wooden Railway Starter Set, $30
Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway Starter Set
This set sticks to the basics, with a simple loop track and the most popular engines: Thomas and Percy. Also includes a caboose for Thomas and Percy to pull around.
Thomas the Train Wooden Railway Figure 8 Set with Coal Hopper, $30
Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway Starter Set
This set includes a figure 8 of track with a bridge, a Thomas engine and a coal car, and removeable "coal" cargo that drops from the hopper.
James Engine from Thomas Wooden Railway, $14
Thomas Wooden Railway Trains
Because these character-based trains are on the pricey end, one or two engines can make a great gift on their own. For a few dollars more, you can buy a battery powered engine like this one.
Melissa and Doug
This American company started out specializing in wooden puzzles, and now makes a wide range of toys (mostly wooden), including a wooden railroad set. The expansion options are much more limited than Brio or Thomas & Friends, but it’s a nice, affordable set.
Maple Landmark Name Trains
Maple Landmark makes its popular NameTrain locally in Vermont. You can customize your order, and the price is based on how many letters you need. The train is completely made of wood grown in the U.S.
Maple Landmark NameTrain, $30 for 5 letters
Maple Landmark NameTrain
These trains are especially popular for younger kids who are learning to recognize letters.
KidKraft specializes in more affordable wooden toys and furniture for kids. They offer lots of train table and train set combos that get good Amazon reviews. These sets are less durable than some of the top tier brands, but are more affordable — especially if you want a table included.
Kidkraft Figure 8 Set, $18
Kidkraft Figure 8 Set
Here's a beginner's set from KidKraft that includes a figure 8 of track that includes a bridge, and accessories that include a firehouse and fire truck, a bulldozer, and a gas station. Also includes a train with an engine, a coal car and a caboose.
Kidkraft Aero City Train Set and Table, $134
Kidkraft Full Train Table
Shown here is the city table, which features a city-style commuter train, a hospital with helipad and skyscraper. KidKraft has several other themes for its tables. Other table options are listed in the full train table post.
Chuggington Wooden Railway (Tomy)
Chuggington is a BBC produced children’s show about trains that airs on Disney Jr. here in the U.S. Their trains are more modern and colorful than the engines featured on Thomas & Friends. The show itself is also flashier and faster-paced.
Plastic Train Sets for 2-Year-Olds
Yes, this is a post about wooden train sets. However, if you just want a simple train set toy and don’t whether it’s wooden, you might consider some plastic sets. They’re generally less expensive and have more bells and whistles.
The Thomas & Friends brand has a line called Trackmaster, built for motorized trains. (Wooden Railway also has motorized trains, but works just as well with push trains.)
Tomy also makes a plastic railway line for motorized trains called “Chuggingon StackTrack.” The one listed here was well-reviewed.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Lego brand Duplo also makes a train set that includes tracks, some motorized and some push trains. I listed them in my separate post on toys for 2-year-olds who love trains.
Other Train Sets
There are lots of other train set brands that are well-reviewed online, but I initially hesitated to list them because they had choking hazard warnings. However, as I wrote about in this post, I found out that an absence of a warning doesn’t guarantee the toy’s safety. Generally, the more affordable tracks seem more likely to come apart under stress and create small parts that can be dangerous.
As always, you buy at your own risk. Remove any small parts and be aware that some choking hazards are created when a toy is broken.
- Bigjigs – Extensive collection of wooden trains and many train table combos, seem to be very popular.
- Orbrium – Lots of great reviews on Amazon.
- Constructive Playthings
- Ikea (Lillabo)
- PlanToys – Focuses on EcoFriendly rubberwood. Nice standalone tables
- Circo – This line is carried at Target
- B. (Battat) – This brand specializes in educational toys for toddlers
- Imaginarium – Affordable line carried at Toys R Us and elsewhere, lots of train table combos
Good luck building your little one’s train collection.