Best Wooden Train Sets For Your Little Engineer

Best Wooden Train Sets For Toddlers
Best Wooden Train Sets For Toddlers

With thousands of toy trains to choose from, finding the perfect one for your toddler is no easy task — especially if you’re a first-time parent.

What’s the best train for my toddler?

Today, I’ll get you on track and up to speed!

If you’re looking for a wooden train set, then you’re in the right place!

To set you up for success, here’s a little overview of what kind of wooden trains we’ll be exploring today. All aboard!

Trains we recommend ✅

  • Wooden Parts. At Oddblocks, we focus on wooden toys. Over plastic alternatives, wooden trains are more natural, and that’s better for both your toddler and the environment.

  • Simple Design. In general, we like toys with simple shapes and colors. Even toy trains can be open-ended (like building blocks) to let your toddler’s imagination run wild.

  • Chunky Parts. For younger toddlers (aged 12 to 24 months), a train set needs to include large, chunky parts — sized for tiny hands, age-appropriate, and safe.

  • Easy For Beginners. Kids who love trains will want to lay elaborate tracks and combine cars. Today, we’ll make sure the toys we list are beginner-friendly — so a toddler who’s never played with a train before can have lots of fun.

Trains we avoid ❌

  • Too Much Plastic. Too many toddler train sets claim to be “wooden” only to include mostly plastic parts. Not every toy we list is 100% wood, but we try our best to choose train playsets with fewer plastic parts.

  • Battery-Powered. You won’t find electronic “blink-a-flash” lights and “toot-a-chug” train sounds here. We prefer to leave these to your toddler’s imagination.

  • Obnoxious Designs. The busier and more detailed the toy, the less your kid will exercise his or her imagination. No thank you!

  • Too Advanced. Lots of train sets claim to be “for toddlers” when they’re more suitable for kindergarten-aged kids. We’ll stay away from those.

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In a hurry?

Here are the top 3 wooden train sets for your toddler.

Melissa & Doug Wooden Train Sets

Melissa & Doug is one of the most popular brands when it comes to educational children’s toys and a leader in open-ended wooden train toys.

Wooden Stacking Train by Melissa & Doug

Best Open-Ended Train

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Recommended age: 2 years and up

This one’s got everything we love about wooden toys — the educational benefits of open-ended wooden building blocks in the form of a toddler-friendly train. Painted in beautiful primary colors — red, yellow, green, and blue — your little one will be able to push the train along and stack the blocks, too.

Jumbo Wooden Stacking Train by Melissa & Doug

Best Large Train

Shop on Amazon (White, Primary Colors)

Recommended age: 2 years and up

The same style as the first wooden stacking train from Melissa & Doug — this time in a larger package. When linked together this train set is 2-feet long, and that’s a big deal! It’s available in two color schemes: colorful or white with natural wood.

Take-Along Railroad by Melissa & Doug

Best Portable Train Set

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Recommended age: 3 years and up

For a long road trip, this is a basic wooden train set that folds up like a book. The train cars link together with magnetic connectors at the front and back, and the board has grooves in the surface to form the train track. Perfect for taking your train play on-the-go!

BRIO Wooden Train Sets

Officially known as BRIO Railway, it’s a toy company specializing in wooden trains. Buying BRIO as an early start, you’ll have access to a wide range of BRIO wooden train and track parts year-to-year as your child’s motor skills advance — and kiss those pesky train compatibility problems goodbye.

Magnetic Wooden Stacking Train by BRIO

Best Train For 12-Month-Olds

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Recommended age: 12 months and up

This toy is a perfect example of chunky pieces perfect for a younger toddler. Magnets are built right in into the wooden block pieces, so the train will stay sturdy as your child pushes it along. A perfect gift for your budding conductor even at just 12 months old!

“My First Railway” Wooden Toy Train Set by BRIO

Best Train Set For 18-Month-Olds

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Recommended age: 18 months and up

This toy’s claim to fame is that it’s one of the only train sets with tracks that’s suitable for younger toddlers — hence the name “My First Railway”. While most wooden railway sets are for older toddlers aged 3 years and up, this one opens up the world of track-laying (sometimes) even before your little one can walk.

Travel Circle Wooden Train Set by BRIO 

Best Beginner-Friendly Train Set

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Recommended age: 3 years and up

Nothing’s worse than buying a toy for your toddler only to learn it’s too advanced! Its simple-as-could-be circle shape will help your little one make the transition from “train-only toys” to “train toys with tracks”. Even better, the tracks are compatible with all BRIO’s wooden railway toys, so it’s a perfect basic starter set to begin your BRIO train collection.

Kind Wood Pecker Wooden Train Sets

Hands-down my all-time favorite for handmade all-natural eco-friendly wooden train toys. Down to the smallest detail, Kind Wood Pecker are masters of their craft. For true wooden toy purists and wood-grain fanatics, this brand is where it’s at.

Natural Wood Train by Kind Wood Pecker

Best Unpainted Train

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Recommended age: Safe for all ages, Best for preschool-aged children

For environmentally-conscious families, Kind Wood Pecker is love at first sight. It’s a solid wood train that leaves the beautiful natural wood grains to speak for themselves. Unpainted and finished with child-safe natural walnut oil — it’s an all-natural train toy that’ll last a lifetime. (Did I mention, you can get it personalized with your child’s name engraved, too!?)

Natural Wood Letter Train Set by Kind Wood Pecker

Best Unpainted Letter Train

Shop on Etsy

Recommended age: Safe for all ages, Best for preschool-aged children

What could make a more memorable gift than a wooden train personalized with your toddler’s name? Ideal for a baby shower or first-birthday — this personalized wooden name train has all the natural beauty of the first Kind Wood Pecker model we looked at, with large letter wagons spelling out your child’s name. Something to be cherished long after your little one outgrows playing with toys.

Janod Wooden Train Sets

A French brand — available in the U.S.A. — where contemporary design rules! More than other wooden train brands, Janod incorporates soft color pallettes, tastefully painted patterns, and stylish animal figures.

“Sophie La Girafe” Pull-Along Sorting & Stacking Wooden Train Toy by Janod

Most Fashionable Train

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Recommended age: 12 months and up

A fashionable wooden shape-sorter toy and train set built into one! Designed to help young toddlers learn shape recognition skills, your little one will take shapes off the train, put them back on, and “chug-a-chug” onto the next train station. A great educational wooden train with a cute-as-could-be giraffe mascot.

Pull-Along Train & Activity Stacker by Janod

Train With Cutest Animals

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Recommended age: 12 months and up

A French-designed train made with cherry wood, painted with soft color tones, and adorned with adorable animals to inspire your toddler’s imagination. Just like other wood stacking trains on the list, it’s a toy that will encourage motor skill development when your child stacks and sorts the open-ended geometric wooden block shapes.

Giant Wooden Multicolor Wooden Animal Train by Janod

Best Train For Learning Colors

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Recommended age: 12 months and up

Another fun-filled educational wooden push-along from Janod. The rabbit, chicken, and duck heads are attached to wood blocks with a small metal spring, so they’ll wobble along as the train gets moving. The blocks are color-coded to promote color recognition learning along the way.

Maple Landmark Wooden Train Sets

Maple Landmark is a family run business from Vermont, U.S.A. offering high-quality handmade classic wooden toys, with personalized “NameTrains” as their specialty.

“NameTrain” Personalized Wooden Letter Train by Maple Landmark

Best Colorful Letter Train

Shop on Etsy

Recommended age: 3 years and up (great nursery decor until then!)

Personalized with the letters of your toddler’s name, it’s a perfect pick for environmentally-conscious parents who love color! Available in primary colors, pastel colors, or unfinished wood — Maple Landmark’s signature NameTrain series will brighten up your day from engine to caboose!

Maple Landmark is available on both Etsy and Amazon. If you prefer Amazon, here are links directly to the listing to match the number of letters in your child’s name: 3 Letters, 4 Letters, 5 Letters, 6 Letters, 7 Letters, 8 Letters, 9 Letters, 10 Letters

Wooden Track Accessories for “NameTrain” by Maple Landmark

The Only Tracks For Maple Landmark Trains

Shop on Etsy (All Shapes) / Amazon (Circle, Oval, Figure-8)

Maple Landmark Wooden Train Tracks Circle Oval Figure Eight Shapes
Credit: Maple Landmark on Etsy (All Shapes), Amazon (Circle, Oval, Figure-8)

Recommended age: 3 years and up (great nursery decor until then!)

Most large and chunky wooden trains don’t come with a track at all. With Maple Landmark, however, you can get a train track to match your NameTrain exactly. They’re available simple shapes for beginners — like a circle, oval, or figure-8 — or you can buy track pieces individually to build out your set. (Be careful about compatibility here. These tracks are made specifically for Maple Landmark trains.)

A-to-Z Wooden Alphabet Wooden Train by Maple Landmark

Best Train For Learning Spelling

Shop on Etsy / Amazon

Maple Landmark A To Z Wooden Alphabet Letter Train
Credit: Maple Landmark on Etsy, Amazon

Recommended age: 3 years and up (great nursery decor until then!)

36 months is right about the time your toddler will start reading and writing. Parents are always looking for engaging activities to boost their kid’s learning. Look no further! For the train-loving toddler, this is the ultimate spelling activity. Equipped with the full alphabet, your toddler will organize letters to spell out words and enjoy hours of fun!

Hape Wooden Train Sets

Hape is a German brand known across the globe. For budget-friendly wooden toys made with sustainable materials, it’s a highly recommended brand.

Caterpillar Train Set by Hape

Simplest Train Set for Toddlers

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Recommended age: 3 years and up

Shaped like a caterpillar, this is train is as cute as could be. As far as wooden train tracks go — a straight shot is about as simple as it can get, so this is a great starter set to get your toddler acquainted with train-and-track sets. The track has ramps at each end for a smooth transition, and slight curves so the caterpillar train wriggles like a real caterpillar.

“Qubes” Wooden Magnetic Classic Train Set by Hape

Best Small Train For Learning Shapes & Colors 

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Recommended age: 3 years and up

At under 2 inches per train car, this is a small train with loud colors. Connected by magnets at the front and back, the set comes with an engine, a passenger car, a cargo car, and a liquid cargo car — so you get the full spectrum of what a train can transport in one tiny toy. Like a miniature version of large stacking trains, it offers an exciting array of bright colors and simple shapes.

Toddler Train Sets 101: Shopping Guide

Buying your toddler’s first-ever wooden train set is a daunting task, with all kinds questions swimming around the old noggin.

Which one is right for my toddler? What’s best for a 1-, 2-, or 3-years-old? Should I buy a train with or without tracks?

Here’s a quick-and-easy train set shopping guide to set you up for success.

For your first train, start simple

What’s the best wooden train set for 1- to 2-year-olds?

For toddlers aged 12 to 24 months old, my best advice for choosing an age-appropriate train set is the simpler the better. Remember, toddlers at this age are still developing their fine motor skills. That’s something an age-appropriate train set will help him or her improve!

Look for a train with big and chunky parts suitable for toddler-sized hands — not too many small or detailed parts that require a high level of dexterity, or could potentially become a safety hazard.

What about wooden tracks? Train sets without tracks are usually easier for younger toddlers to get the hang of. And anyway, if your 12 to 24 month old enjoys playing with trains, you’ll have an opportunity to get him or her a train set with tracks later.

If you’re only interested in train sets with the railway included, realize most railway sets come with a “recommended for 36 months and up” label right on the package. 18 months is the very earliest I’d recommend — and you’ll want to choose an ultra-simple track for starters.

Look for a simple track shape, like a circle, oval, or maybe a figure-8 — and make sure the rails lay flat. 12 to 24 months is too young to manage wooden train tracks with multiple levels, raised bridges, or complex twists and turns.

Next, level-up your train game

What’s the best wooden train set for 3-year-olds?

Got a little train fanatic on your hands? Great! Once your toddler’s gotten the hang of basic train toys (like the ones we’ve shown you today), you can look to more advanced train toys. Since you’ve got a better idea what kind he or she likes, you’ll be able to start building a collection of different trains and tracks — for a complete wooden railway system.

By the age of 36 months, your little one will be ready to take on track-laying (connecting railway pieces into different layouts) and car-linking (ordering car pieces from engine to caboose and everything in between).

Lots of brands sell expansion sets that include add-on wooden train track pieces, specialty track pieces, and themed train cars. You can also try out more advanced wooden train sets with multi-level railway structures and movable accessories — and let your little conductor explore the expansive world of wooden toy trains.

Now is when wooden train set compatibility comes into play.

Keep compatibility in mind

What is train set compatibility, and why is it such a big deal?

Not all train sets are compatible. As your kid’s train collection grows, you’re bound to run into some parts and pieces that are incompatible. When you try to fit different sets’ parts and pieces together — like connecting tracks from two different brands, or linking cars from two separate sets, or placing your new train car’s wheels onto an old track — and it just won’t fit!

Here are two few quick tips to avoid train set compatibility problems:

  • Stick with one brand. The most common reason for train set incompatibility is buying from different brands — whose parts don’t fit together. When you first start, it’s normal to try out different brands before you find one you like. Just be mindful that it’s better to find your favorite brand earlier rather than later. You’ll have much better luck fitting same brand’s train pieces together.

  • Buy newer toys. The other less-common cause of train set compatibility problems is when a brand changes its design. You wouldn’t expect Union Pacific to use the same equipment in the 1900s as in the 2000s — and the same goes for toy trains. Some of the train toys on Amazon, for example, can be as old as 3 to 5 years before the outdated listing gets taken down. So if you buy a BRIO train from 2016, you can’t be certain it’ll 100% match a BRIO train from 2021. By making a point to buy this year’s model, you’ll be less likely to run into compatibility issues down the road.

Over to you!

There you have it — a list of the best wooden train sets for toddlers. With such colorful trains and modern designs — it’s 2021, and we’re bringing a classic toy into a modern era.

I hope you’ve found a perfect wooden train toy for the budding engineer in your life — and enjoy hours of fun on all sorts of train adventures.

Let me know about your toddler’s favorite train in the comments below!

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