Train sets (like building sets) are among some of the best toys for kids because they can engage children for hours by allowing them to combine both physical and imaginative play. With a train set, a child must manipulate the toy train while spinning a story to go with the motions. Plus, there’s the engineering challenge of building the track.
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The tricky thing for parents, though, is choosing from the many train sets on the market because once you start with a set you are likely to keep adding to it.
This round-up of plastic, remote control and wooden train sets can be toys for toddlers to tweens. (OK, tweens is pushing it, but my tweens still occasionally pull out the Thomas trains.)
Also see more Good Toys for Kids.
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In my book, Thomas the Tank Engine sets the standard in train sets. The wooden trains (Shop Amazon), in particular, are my favorite. What sets Thomas apart from all others is that the trains each have distinct (and sometimes annoying) personalities. This adds infinitely to the possible play scenarios. The are the equivalent to dollhouses, except with wheels.
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This figure-8 set wooden train track set (Shop Amazon) comes with a buffer stop. This little piece, of course, is not strictly necessary for train tracks that go in a loop, but it's always a favorite for the kid who like train wrecks. (And really what kids don't?) But also you get an engine with a coal car, track, and a bridge. Ages 2-7
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Thomas the Tank Engine, Melissa and Doug and Brio use the same basic track system, so there are also generic wooden train sets on the market that will fit with any of them. This can be a huge cost savings for parents, either as an alternate to a name-brand set or as supplemental pieces for them.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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Kids can pull out the rest of their Legos and build more than just just the tracks with these Lego train sets. Like Legos, the construction toys, Lego trains come in different sizes for different ages. The pictured Lego Duplo Legoville Train Set (Shop Amazon) is meant for ages 2-6, while Lego City electric trains (Shop Amazon) are for the for the big kids.
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While Lionel is known for its model railroad sets, which often are not appropriate for little hands, this remote control set from Lionel is meant to get kids started with the joy of trains. It has snap-together track and a simple remote control. Kids can take the train off the track and drive it around the house.
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This basic figure 8 set (Shop Amazon) is a great way to start your child’s train-set adventures. The 31-piece Imaginarium Figure 8 Train Set includes 14 pieces of track, 4 trains with strong magnetic couplings, 3 buildings, 2 trees and a bridge. This set is also compatible with Thomas and Friends and Brio wooden train sets.
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