Has travel helped to develop your child’s love of all things transportation? I know it has with my kids. When we aren’t on the road or in the air, it’s fun to have a few travel-themed toys home with us to keep the spirit of travel alive. My 3 year old son is obsessed with trains and airplanes right now. And my 7 year old daughter isn’t far behind him – she’s still trying to snag his train set to build elaborate creations too.
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There are thousands and thousands of train, car, and plane toys out there, many of which are pretty standard. If you are like me, you probably already have a lot of these in your house. I’ve been on the lookout all year long for a few transportation-related toys that are truly innovative and unique, including several ones I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen before. So, without further ado, get to your holiday shopping with the best of the best plane, train, and automobile toys for kids this holiday season.
The Best Toy Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Transportation Toys for Kids
There are few car-loving kids who could resist the chance to turn an empty wall in their bedroom into a giant motor speedway. Paper Trax lets kids do just that (with the help of some non-damaging 3M Command tape – included). The idea of Paper Trax is incredibly simple. They are foldable cardboard tracks that mount to any vertical surface like a wall in your house. Paper Trax are the perfect fix for matchbox cars and can be configured into millions of different patterns to create jumps, criss-crosses and more. There’s even a new corner track so your child’s designs can span multiple walls. They also are compact enough to take with you on your family’s travels.
2. Dream Up Toys Wooden Railway Connector
Got Legos? Got a wooden train set? Then this little innovative toy is a no-brainer buy. It is a shaped piece of plastic railway track that fits perfectly with major wooden railway sets (Thomas, Melissa & Doug). But it also works as a platform on the sides for Duplos, Legos, and Mega Blocks. It’s an amazingly creative tool to allow your child to integrate these two building toys into larger and more elaborate creations. My family bought two earlier this fall and have literally gotten hundreds of hours of play out of these toys from both kids.
3. Thomas Minis
($14.99 for a 9 pack, other accessories and sets available)
We own a lot of Thomas and Friends wooden railway trains but the challenge is that they are just. so. expensive. Enter Thomas Minis – an incredibly economical alternative that allows you to buy quite a few of the characters for your kids at a much, much lower price. The trains come in a number of special editions, like the DC Super Friends which are a mashup of Thomas characters with DC superheroes.
Thomas Minis are a bit harder to find than other Thomas toy varieties – your best bet is at Walmart or Costco, although Amazon does stock a few sets as well. Definitely get a set that includes the collectors play wheel or buy it separately as an add on – it’s great for storage and also has a grooved track platform on which to play with the trains.
What I love about the minis for my 3 year old son is how they help with fine motor skills. He loves tiny toys at this stage of his development, so these toys are a great find. I’ve even heard that Santa might be bringing him the Thomas Minis Motorized Raceway ($24.88) this year for more fun.
4. Daron Airline Play Sets
($12-17 for basic airline sets, $35 for the larger sets)
Have a little aviation geek in the making? You may have spotted these die cast branded model airplane sets in airport stores on occasion. Southwest sent my kids one of these a few months ago as a surprise gift, and it was definitely a hit. The price is right and no matter what airline you fly and are loyal to, you can almost always find a set with that airline’s branding, including: Delta, Southwest, American, United, Spirit, Frontier, Alaska, Hawaiian, Allegiant, JetBlue, and even a few foreign carriers like Air Canada and Qantas. Single planes are also available from even more airlines.
5. Red Dog Airport Set
Ready to take the model airplane to the next level with older kids? For the ultimate splurge for the older aviation geek in your family, this airport play set takes the cake. It’s super-high quality and made in the United States, with a real air traffic control tower, runways, and airport with gates. It folds down compactly for easy storage too. Plus, you can play along to in-flight audio recorded by real flight attendants, pilots, and air traffic controllers on reddogair.com.
6. Green Toys
For the transportation-loving baby or toddler in your family, Green Toys are always a smart choice. These toys are virtually indestructible and also eco-friendly. I love the variety of travel themed choices, from sea planes and helicopters to a cute little red and blue train for toddlers not yet ready for a train with small parts. Red and blue race cars are also available.
7. Lego Duplo Airport Set
This Duplo set is perfect for preschoolers who love air travel and building. In addition to a plane, it has a luggage check-in desk, fuel truck, suitcases, and several other accessories as well as three people. It’s a fairly comprehensive set for under $20.
8. NC Brand Remote Controlled Helicopter
For kid not yet ready to be trusted with an expensive model or even a drone, this indoor remote controlled helicopter is the perfect inexpensive starter toy.
Disclosure: The founder of PaperTrax (who is a friend of a friend) gifted me a set of PaperTrax for my kids ages ago – with no expectation of any review or blog mention. All opinions are my own.