How to Choose a Train Table or Activity Table for Your 2-Year-Old

Last Updated on November 2, 2021 by admin

Activity tables or play tables for toddlers are generally a great investment for a few reasons. These tables:

  • keep multi-piece toys off the floor (lowering your risk of stepping on them)
  • encourage kids to use their favorite toys more often by making them a little more convenient and accessible
  • offer convenient storage for the multi-piece toys that can prove the most tedious to clean back up

Now for the downsides: Activity tables can take up a lot of space. The sturdier models are pretty heavy, so it’s not exactly convenient to move them around. Finally some could argue that many kids would be perfectly happy to play on the floor instead of a table.

After all, the floor generally offers more room, and there are plenty of options to make floor play more interesting. Floor play mats like the one shown here might be a better fit for your home or your kid’s taste (or your budget) than an activity table.

That said, if you’re ready to invest in a play table for your kids, you should start with some product research so you can get the best table for your space and budget. Here’s how to choose an activity table for a 2-year-old.

The 4 Defining Features of Toddler Activity Tables

There are several features that set various models of toddler activity tables apart from one another.

Play Table Edge

Nilo tables are more expensive at around $200 but they have a reputation for quality.

Typically, tables made just for toy trains have a shallow edge around the top that keeps all the train parts contained. The edge can also come in handy for containing the pieces of puzzles and games.

Tables that were designed for art projects don’t have that edge, though, because it can cramp your style if you’re trying to write or draw.

Tables geared primarily toward Lego, Duplo, or other interlocking blocks also tend to lack this edge, although not all do. For example, the Nilo table shown here has a helpful but not obtrusive edge to contain train pieces and blocks.

Play Table Height

Most activity tables designed for toward younger children are sized for a toddler to stand at comfortably and an older toddler to kneel at or sit in front of comfortably. Art tables and block tables are typically sized to accommodate chairs underneath so kids can sit while they play.

Some tables, like this one, even have adjustable legs so that they can accommodate your kids as they get taller.

The Play Table Surface

This small plastic table is just $65 on Amazon and includes three options for play surfaces.

Some train tables come with decorative surfaces depicting roads, rivers, streams, etc.

Lego tables’ main defining feature, of course, is having the Lego surface covering its whole table top.

And of course, many tables keep it simple with a blank surface that’s ideal for art projects and can encourage kids to use their imagination with their other toys.

Many newer models of activity table have interchangeable table tops that can flip from a Lego board to a train landscape. However, typically, kids need a lot more room for their wooden train tracks than they need for interlocking blocks, which can make it difficult to find a table that fills both roles.

Finally, some tables even have a bin underneath the flat surface that could be used for sensory play in addition to storage.

Play Table Storage Options

This wooden table with built-in storage drawers and a reversible Lego surface costs about $110 on Amazon.

Some play tables come with built-in storage, others come with optional storage, and some don’t have any storage included.

A few, like the adjustable table shown above, have innovated a way to sweep all the toys toward the middle of the table directly into a storage pouch. Others have plastic bins that clip to the sides of the table, or drawers underneath (like the one shown here).

Tables that are more focused on art might have an easel paper roller, as well (although butcher rolls” of paper will likely be more interesting for a 2-year-old to pull on than to draw on, as I wrote in my post The Best Art Toys for 2-Year-Olds).

Keep in mind that regardless of whether a table has built-in storage options, there’s nothing stopping you from sliding a few of your own bins under the table on the floor. Related post: The Best Toy Storage Options for Families with Small Children

Qualities to Assess in a Train Table or Activity Table for Toddlers

When evaluating train tables for 2-year-olds (and older tots, too), here are your deciding factors:

Quality. A train table or play 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. Pick a sturdy one that’s well-reviewed.

Size. Make sure to measure the area where you intend to place the table to make sure it will fit. Ideally, your tot will have full access to all sides. Most train tables around the same size — at least 30 by 40 inches — but they do vary. 

Design/Aesthetics. Whether you choose a table that looks more like a toy or a lovely piece of furniture probably depends on your budget. (Hint: The prettier ones tend to cost more.) You might want to skip the primary colors if the table is destined for the living room instead of the play room.

Here’s just one example of a table that would be at home in a more formal area of your home.

Brand. Finally, if you’re trying to bundle a train table purchase with a train set, it might be better to start with train set research so you can find the best table-and-train-set combo for your family. Related post: The Best Wooden Train Sets for 2-Year-Olds

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. (I like this one.)

I’d also suggest checking for secondhand options before you buy new. Sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace often have train tables listed for sale, many with full train sets included. (I bought the train table shown in the featured image of this post secondhand for $40 from a nice man who lived nearby.)