The Best Train Tables for Toddlers - And Why They Make a Great Present
Train Tables = Hours of Entertainment for Toddlers
I really can't say enough good things about train tables. My son is almost three and he has been in love with trains since he was around a year and a half. Every stage he goes through, he can do more with his train table, and discovers new ways to play with it, and - the most exciting part - plays for a longer and longer time independently!
I am big on not buying extra kid stuff that you don't need, but the train table has been by far our best purchase as far as entertainment value and how long he has already been using it and will continue to use it. We used to have his train tracks just on a coffee table and it really was annoying how they would keep slipping off the sides. The train table we have now (like all train tables) has a ledge/border that keeps the tracks from falling to the ground. This makes it way more fun and easier on you and your child. It also has its own bins right underneath it which is another great feature that a coffee table doesn't have. Finally, it has patterns so he can pretend that his trains are going by a lake or through a forest.
It's hard to say which train table is the best, because it really does depend on your individual needs and what your kid likes. My son is really into Thomas, but we don't have a Thomas train table because we were able to find a cheaper one on Craigslist that isn't Thomas. I am sort of a fan of ones without too many crazy designs, because you can put on so many different kinds of tracks and toys yourself to make your own design. That said, here are the features I was looking for when evaluating train tables, and I will rate each of the ones I review on these elements:
- Storage capacity. I am a huge fan of having drawer or bin space right in the table. If you have the space to have bins right next to the table, this may not be as big of a priority, but I really love having our six bins (three on each side) right under the table.
- Quality. I look at the sturdiness, durability, quality of the wood and materials. You don't want one that's wobbly or will simply fall apart. They should be built to last years, because what's the point of buying one that you would have to replace in a year. I am also hoping that my kid will still be playing with it when he's five or so, so it needs to be able to handle him leaning across the table, etc.
- Design. It depends where you're putting it how high quality you want the design to be. Some are really attractive and you could even use them for adult purposes if you wanted to (cover it up and make it a coffee table, for example). But if it's just going to be in a play room, maybe this doesn't matter so much.
- Price. Of course, price is huge. You don't want to completely break the bank. At the same time, I think this is one of the few kid toys/products you can justify spending a little bit more on. They last for years, and provide so many hours of entertainment. You can also feel good about them because your kid is up and moving around, and they really support imaginative play. Also, it's hard to factor price in too much because the ones I recommend, you can always try to find on Craigslist first before paying full price.
Metropolis Deluxe Wooden Train Table - Best Pick and Worth the Money
We were lucky enough to find a great train table on Craigslist, but if I had to do it again and buy something new, I would go for this one. It has everything you need, and looks really nice and quality. It's a little on the pricey side, but like I said, I think this is one toy that is worth spending money on because it will last for so long and provide your child/toddler with so many years of entertainment. It also comes with a 100 piece train set so that especially makes it worth the money.
- Storage - It has a large roll out trundle for storage. Seems very user friendly, even for toddlers, and you can always put smaller bins in the trundle to organize the various pieces (is it becoming clear that I am really obsessed with organizing the pieces of the train table?)
- Quality - Really high quality and great looking wood.
- Design - The dark wood is I think by far the most attractive of the train tables out there, and it would look very nice in any room.
- Price - It's a bit more expensive - currently around $175 on Amazon, but I think that's so worth it.
PlanToys Toy Play Table - Simple but Good
This table is overall the most basic, but it's a good one, and it's very adaptable.
On the qualities I was looking for:
- Storage - It has a drawer you can buy separately. I prefer having multiple smaller drawers or bins, but this could definitely work, and it's better than nothing.
- Quality - I have found their other toys (by PlanToys) to be extremely durable and high quality and I would expect nothing less from the table.
- Design - I think this is a pretty attractive table - nice hard wood, and you could easily use it for other purposes as your child's interests vary, or they age.
- Price - Definitely on the pricey side, especially having to buy the drawer separately. But could be well worth it, especially if you don't need to buy the drawer and just keep your own cheap plastic bins underneath.
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Activity Table - Low to the Ground and Not the Best Quality, but Good Price
This one is by far the least expensive I've seen that still has some storage and the basic features of a train table (the ledge around the outside). It's currently $95 on Amazon. The real drawbacks are that it's low to the ground, so toddlers will have to kneel to play at it. My son really loves standing and walking around his, so that would rule this one out for me, but I wanted to include it because of the price.
- Storage - One big drawer. Again, I think multiple drawers or bins are better, but a drawer is better than none.
- Quality - In the Amazon reviews, people mention that it's fairly low quality. I find this to be true of a number of Melissa & Doug products, though I think they are usually still a good buy for the very low price. For a train table, I'd rather get something a little higher quality that will last longer for sure.
- Design - It's fine but not beautiful wood - just painted white.
- Price - This is the biggest draw for this train table - by far the most affordable.
Why Train Tables Make a Great Present for Toddlers
I've already said why I love them, and those are really the reasons I think they make a great present. But I just wanted to say a little more because I know grandparents and other close friends or family members are often looking for something special for a first, second or third birthday, and I wanted to make a pitch for why the train table is really the best.
First of all, it will last for years and years, and keep the child entertained for hours. This is a huge gift to the parent and the child!
Second, they are really versatile and can be used for other purposes easily (art table, activity table, etc). This makes them a great gift as well.
Third, they lend themselves to both independent and interactive play. It can be a fun toy for a grandparent, aunt, uncle, special family friend or other special person can play with along with the child whenever they can come over.
Finally, it's fun to give a gift that you can add to over the years. Then you can buy smaller things to add on for other holidays, or just because (like a new train, a new cool track or bridge or turntable, etc).
I only reviewed the few train tables above because I wanted to pick a variety but not be overwhelming. I think any of the above would make a great present, and it really depends on what you're looking for and what you can afford. Happy train tabling!