Train Set for 2.5 Year Old - Electric or Manual?

Updated on November 14, 2011
S.S. asks from Los Angeles, CA
14 answers

I want to get my son a train set for Christmas this year and am trying to choose between electric and manual. My husband thinks the electric will be more fun but I think the manual might spur more creativity on his part... which do you recommend? And do toddlers really like this toy for a long time or are trainsets something that gets old pretty fast? thanks!

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answers from New York on

My husband tried electric at that age but the kids really want to touch and push and pick up the trains. Drove hubby nuts. Get something he can play with not watch.

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answers from Cincinnati on

Manual...your 2.5 year old will want to touch the train/push the train etc and will not be a happy camper when you say, no, just look don't touch :-). Electric trains are fun to watch/more fun with an older child I think.

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answers from Chicago on

I would do a manual. Most of the electric ones I have seen are a pretty cheap quality, with plastic tracks that can break very easily, and are not very easy for a 2 yr old to assemble unassisted. They also tend to get derailed very often, meaning that you or your husband will be constantly helping him put it back on the tracks.


answers from Kansas City on

i agree with everyone electric one at this point would be more for your husband - your son would totally destroy it. my husband got one to put around the christmas tree when our son was this age and my son couldn't really enjoy it at all. it was totally for my husband. also, they have a lot of generic or store brand "thomas" type trains now that are more affordable - thomas is ridiculously overpriced.


answers from Houston on

We got a battery operated set, (is that considered manual?), they can still play with it without turning it on and make it manual. If it's anything like our Thomas train set, the batteries run out fast anyways.

As for longevity... my boys love it when we get it out, but we hardly ever do anymore. I think it will be more lasting it it's electric.



answers from Chicago on

We got the Geo Tracks plastic, kids, trainset several years ago. My kids are in grade school now and still LOVE taking it out every year for Christmas. The great part is it's not too expensive, you can add to the set and they have manual pieces AND some remote control engine cars. My kids constantly gravitate to the easy push handle remote controls and add cars onto them. The tracks are great!!! They have all different pieces for endless configurations. They also have trees, station pieces, etc. We use all of our Little People and farm animals to make a whole village. The remotes are easy enough for a toddler to push forward to "go" and pull back on to "stop" and even make "toot toot" train noises.

These things have lasted us over 5 years already and we've never had a piece break or not work the next year.

We didn't get a Thomas the Tank engine set as we didn't want the kids to grow out of that phase or think it was too babyish as they got older. When our nephews come over they love tearing the whole town apart and rebuilding it all.

And there's no metal, sharp corners, hard to connect tracks or choking hazards either.



answers from Detroit on

Get manual or GeoTrax. I shudder to think of the damage a toddler could wreak on a delicate electric set.

I should add that my close enough to five year old still loves to play with his wooden set. He enjoys his GeoTrax a lot but it's easier for him to build a track with the wooden set (if he can keep the toddler from wrecking it).



answers from Portland on

Go with a simple manual set. IKEA has an inexpensive one. If it turns out he's just not interested (like my son) then you didn't shell out beaucoup bucks.

And maybe your husband wants an electric train for Christmas? I nannied for a family with younger kids (4 years old plus) and their electric track was pretty abused by the kids!


answers from Santa Fe on

The electric ones snap apart and break easily and so a 2.5 year old would not be able to play with it himself without breaking it and getting frustrated. Our daughter is 2 and has loved her big brother's old wooden thomas train set since she was about 15 months old. She still loves it. We keep it in a box behind a livingroom chair and she gets it out herself every now and then and we set up the tracks. Every one of her little toddler friends love playing with it. Any toy with time gets old so it is good to put things up for a month and then get it out again later if they are bored with it. I think I remember her brother loved this train set up until the start of Kindergarten...he would make very elaborate tracks in his room with it. Sometime after Kindergarten he stopped playing with it much. PS - He is 7.5 now and is asking for an electric train set for xmas. Many of them say they are good for 8 and up bc they can break easily. They are "model" train sets more than toys is what I've read. We will see how it goes!



answers from Houston on

It got really old real fast with my grandson...he had the train table and all...I think he was 3 years old then. And for goodness sake...not an electric one!


answers from New York on

When my daughter turned 2 we got her a Thomas the Tank Engine wooden play table and set. She loved it for about 2 years. We had a lot of fun reconfiguring the wooden tracks; it was almost like putting together a puzzle in that we had to try to figure out which size and shape tracks would get from one place to the other with the right 'fit'. It's a very good exercise in creativity and problem-solving, and it was a lot of fun, too! BTW, you can get great used Thomas stuff on eBay; I sold our daughter's set for $800 when she lost all interest in it, and most of it was in mint condition.


answers from Los Angeles on

My little one will be 3 in April and I'm going with battery operated Thomas and Friends. If it were electric he'd only be able to play with them when I could give him my full attention, not alone. They can be pushed along on their own which I feel WILL spur more creativity on his part.

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answers from New York on

Manual is perfect at this age. We have a bunch of the Thomas wooden trains and tracks. My 5.5 year old son still uses them some and my almost 3 year old daughter loves them as well. I'd say we got about 3-4 years or more of interest so far for my older one (we started before he was 2). If you do Thomas look for sales (AC Moore has 30-50% off sales often) and less expensive tracks (Toys R Us, Ikea, etc.) Used is good too since they are very sturdy (we got a table at a yard sale and it is holding up well). If you really want some they do make a few Thomas brand trains that run on a battery. But in my experience my son wasn't ready to play nicely with the battery powered ones until about age 4.



answers from San Antonio on

We found my son the wooden Thomas set at a craft market last year and that was what he got for Christmas just before he turned two. He loved it and I love that he can put it together how ever he wants and play with it how ever he wants. He still plays with it all the time so I think it was the best choice. Electric trains are neat to look at but at this age they want to touch, take apart and expore things and I just didn't think the electric one would hold his interest as well as hold up to a 2 no almost 3 year old. There are several options for wooden trains out there, we just got lucky and found the Thomas one used but in like new condition for about 1/3 the cost of new.