Brio Classic Figure 8 Set
(Brio $49.99) Gold Seal Award
A perfect beginner’s train set with 22-pieces including an engine and two cars with magnetic connections, three trees, a station house, 14 curved tracks, a bridge connector that is the central piece that forms the figure 8. You can add on to this basic set, but for the beginner, this is a great place to start! Marked 2+ and up. We think this is a better choice for true 3’s. If you are bringing this home for a two-year old take the wooden trees out of the mix. They are longer than a choke tube, so technically safe, but for kids who still mouth their toys, they are pretty narrow and sure to go in the mouth. Putting the tracks together is like a wonderful puzzle that calls for thinking, visual problem solving, and dexterity. You will need to help for starters, but don’t get too tied to the picture on the box. Encourage kids to build their own layouts. Mastering the tracks makes more sense for preschoolers who will use these trains with their building blocks and for dramatic play. We know they put these on tables in the stores for display and glue them down, but we suggest the play value in doing so is greatly diminished. Putting the tracks together in multiple ways is far more challenging and an open-ended invitation to learning. A table may be idea for leaving the trains out and off the floor, but forget about the glue. Adding on to the set is also more possible when the tracks are loose. 3 and up.