Very few toys are as mesmerizing as a train set. Whether it is the little engine racing around the track or assembling miniature buildings, a train set for kids is a great way to expand your little one's appreciation for a different type of toy. Depending on age and interest, you'll find train sets appropriate for every child. The KidKraft Ride Around Train Set and Table stimulates youngster's creativity with an abundance of age-appropriate components for both toddlers and young children.
What to know before you buy a train set for kids
Train sets for kids offer various features that you'll want to consider before you begin shopping for the perfect choo-choo.
Model train versus toy train
You'll find two types of train sets: model and toy. Model sets act as miniature replicas of real-life trains and focus on accuracy and built-to-scale details. Toy trains are usually comprised of cheaper materials intended for play. Although these sets are more durable, they are not as realistic as model trains but still retain some real-life resemblance.
Battery-powered engines versus electric
Battery-operated train engines have a small compartment where you can load the batteries. To turn it on and off, you flip the switch located below the engine. Electric engines run on a harmless electrical current in the track that only activates when the metal of the engine's wheels makes contact with the rails. You can start these engines via a switch on the transformer box or with a remote control.
Many train sets used to be made of metal to replicate a real train's look accurately. And although you can still find metal train sets, plastic has become more commonplace. It is a preferred material as it is cheaper to manufacture and makes the toy and model trains lighter.
Train set for kids features
Train sets for kids include far more than just the engine. A variety of train car types can be hooked up to the main engine. Train sets generally come with at least two types of cars and the availability to purchase and expand the train's trail of cars. Some train cars include a boxcar with a side opening, a gondola with open-top storage and a coal car.
Tracks are generally plastic but on occasion can be wood as well. However, the rails can be one of four materials: brass, steel, zinc-coated steel or nickel silver. Each track is connected using a T-slot formation and when pieces are connected, the track aligns perfectly for a smooth-running train.
There are a few different types of tracks to consider. A straight track is just as it sounds, a track that forms a straight line. A curved track is a piece that bends to form a curve, giving you the option to direct the train's path. Switches and crossings help create intersections with roads and serve as a change in travel direction.
Train set for kids cost
You'll find some great choices for kids around the $75 price point. These train sets can include character sets and trains that emit smoke. You'll discover detail-oriented train sets from respected brands at around $100 or more.
Train set for kids FAQ
Can train sets be mixed and matched?
A. Yes, but only if they are from the same company. Manufacturers generally don't allow you to mix and match between brands.
What other components can be added to a kids’ train set?
A. If your child has a model train set (versus a toy set), you can add elements like scenery, lights, buildings and figures.
Which train set for kids should I get?
Best of the best train set for kids
KidKraft Ride Around Train Set and Table: available at Amazon
Our take: This fun train set has many components to stimulate a toddler's or young child's creativity.
What we like: Your little one will have hours of imaginative fun thanks to the adorable small-town theme. The numerous boldly colored characters and accessories make possibilities for play endless. It has a sturdy table and two convenient storage bins.
What we dislike: The wood veneer is prone to peeling.
Best bang for your buck train set for kids
Thomas & Friends Talking Thomas and Percy Train Set: available at Amazon
Our take: This affordable train set has an exciting theme and colorful components that will keep kids interested for hours.
What we like: The "Thomas and Friends" theme with Thomas and Percy engines is ideal for pre-school-aged kids. The engines talk when they pass and are motorized. It is compatible with other Thomas train sets.
What we dislike: Track pieces disconnect easily during play.
Honorable mention train set for kids
Lionel Polar Express Battery-Powered Train: available at Amazon
Our take: If you have an aspiring engineer in your family, this train set has lots to offer. It is an ideal pick for older children, preteens and the young at heart.
What we like: The iconic Polar Express is represented in the design, making it ideal for setting up beneath the Christmas tree. The motorized train produces realistic train sounds, and the track can be assembled in various configurations.
What we dislike: Some consumers have reported the parts as flimsy.
Melissa & Doug Wooden Railway Set: available at Amazon
Our take: This train set from Melissa and Doug offers many imaginative and creative play possibilities.
What we like: Crafted from durable wood, this well-stocked train set has various components and includes freight and cargo train cars. The track can be assembled in four configurations and works with other wooden track systems. Best for toddlers and kids up to age 6.
What we dislike: The train tends to derail and pieces do not always stay together.
Lego City Passenger Train Building Set: available at Amazon
Our take: This train set is sure to appeal to any youngster who loves trains, Legos or a combination of both.
What we like: This train set by Lego features a contemporary passenger train and has a motorized operation with a Bluetooth remote. It features 677 pieces and includes a generous track with four miniature figures. This set is ideal for ages 6-12.
What we dislike: It is a pricey set compared to other models.
Rachel Pintarelli is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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