What child of the 80s and 90s didn’t grow up playing with Matchbox or Hot Wheels racing sets? Today’s parents remember them fondly and want to pass down this time-honored tradition to their own children. Here are some of our favorite options for modern takes on this childhood classic especially for toddlers.
Best Toddler Racing Tracks for All Ages
(Best for multiple children — $$$)
Why it’s great: Your toddler will love this 3 foot tall racetrack! Kids as young as 18 months love the exciting sound effects and interactive phrases. It is also really easy to assemble. This playset is ideal for more than one child to play with as they learn to be patient and take turns (The Take Turns Launcher releases just one car at a time). Cars take a different path each race, leading to a variety of fun surprises as they exit the slides. Another bonus is that you can purchase and use additional cars, any Little People Wheelies cars will work, and even Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars will most likely work.
Keep in mind: Batteries are not included, so you’ll have to purchase some separately for the sound effects.
Good for: Parents of twins or multiple children close in age, as well as families who enjoy hosting many playdates.
(Most expandable — $$)
Why it’s great: This one is large all on its own, but it is also compatible with other VTech race tracks to make it even bigger or longer. It features two different starting ramps that both can vear into different paths, giving your child endless amounts of fun and excitement. It has steep slides, loops, and twists and turns. There are 8 locations that trigger sounds from the cars, as well as buttons that your child can press to play music and phrases. It comes with one car that will teach your toddler the letter R and the name of the vehicle. You can purchase other VTech cars for different sound options, but Hot Wheels and other brand cars will work too.
Keep in mind: Other brand cars will work for this track, but you won’t get the benefit of the interactive sound triggers.
Good for: Parents that want a large set that’s interactive and expandable.
(Best for racing — $$)
Why it’s great: This one has two car launchers that can both go at the same time, so your child can have their cars race either on their own or with a sibling or friend. It has loops, twists and turns, a trap door, and even a jump track! Plus, there’s a crash zone for toddlers who want to see what happens when cars collide. This track has lights and sounds for a more interactive experience. It comes with two cars with little drivers sitting in them, so your toddler will be ready to race as soon as you put it together.
Keep in mind: Other car brands don’t work as well on this track, but there are a ton of choices of Fisher Price Little People wheelies that you can purchase quite inexpensively.
Good for: Toddlers who like a little more action packed car racing.
(Best ride on track — $$$)
Why it’s great: This track is fun to build and each part is brightly colored. Unlike most car tracks where your child is guiding toy cars through it, this is full sized and let’s your toddler ride the car down the track. They’ll be practicing their motor skills as well as learning to balance. It’s easy to put together and take apart for storage. You can use this track indoors or outdoors and it’s easy to wipe clean. You’ll also get non-slip steps, so your child will be able to climb up and onto the car without too much assistance. The car itself has handles, footrests, and a high back to keep your child safe and secure while riding. On top of that, your child will love rolling balls on the track or practicing their balance walking up and down the track.
Keep in mind: If you’re keeping this outside, it does hold water at the dip, so you’ll need to dry it off or keep it covered when it rains or if it’s near sprinklers. Indoors, you obviously won’t have this problem.
Good for: Toddlers who love cars and more physical play.
(Most interactive — $$)
Why it’s great: This elaborate playset features hours of interactive fun via music, sound effects, lights and buttons. Ideal for toddlers as young as 18 months, one or more children can play with the Smart Wheels garage at a time. Your tot will enjoy playing with this toy for hours on end and additional sets and cars can be purchased to expand the play experience. In fact, even the Go! Go! Smart Animals playsets are compatible with this garage, which make fun animal noises as they glide over the tracks. Other toy cars like Matchbox and Hot Wheels can be used as well.
Keep in mind: The sound effects can be pretty noisy, but there’s an off switch on the bottom of the cars.
Good for: Parents wishing to engage their younger toddlers with an interactive and expandable first racing track set.
(Best budget option — $)
Why it’s great: This wooden racing set is made with high-quality wood and non-toxic paints. It is the perfect compact size and design for open toy storage such as in a Montessori-style playroom. This small size also makes it perfect for tabletop play or for younger toddlers who still primarily play sitting down. No assembly is needed and no batteries are required. The 4 brightly colored cars encourage sharing and cooperative play. The playset is very durable and good quality construction. The wheels are tightly secured with an axle, so there’s no danger of your child pulling them off.
Keep in mind: The cars are two sided and made to flip from one ramp to the other, so other brands like Hot Wheels will not work on this track.
Good for: Families who take a minimalist or Montessori approach to their children’s toys and enjoy eco-friendly play options.
(Most unique / best theme — $$)
Why it’s great: Featuring the same type of flexible, bendable track as the Magic Tracks, this dinosaur-themed racing playset offers a unique twist! This set also comes with several accessories, including several dinosaur figures, 2 slopes, 3 obstacles and a turntable. A bridge and tunnel can even be created with the slopes. Your child will love the wide variety of creative options that can be assembled with this fun track and it is a great value. In fact, this dinosaur racing set can work as an expansion for the Magic Tracks, giving you endless options. Your toddler will enjoy building their own dinosaur world!
Keep in mind: The cars are battery operated, but batteries are not included, so you’ll need to purchase those separately if you want them to race on their own.
Good for: Dinosaur lovers and creative toddlers.
(Best race track alternative — $)
Why it’s great: Instead of having to deal with multiple pieces of track and putting it all together, this is a rug that has a race track design. With one piece, your child will be able to drive their cars all around the city for hours of fun. The rug is brightly colored and has vivid images of different stores and buildings that your toddler can visit. The roads are perfectly sized to fit Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars. The back of the rug is non-slip, so it will stay in place on both carpet and hardwood or tile floors. It rolls up easily for storage or makes a great decoration as just a regular rug in the nursery or playroom.
Keep in mind: This doesn’t come with any cars, so you’ll have to purchase those separately. Our kids love these Hot Wheels cars.
Good for: Parents that have toddlers who love cars, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of putting together a race track.
(Most educational — $$$)
Why it’s great: This compact table top racing set features 8 exciting challenges for kids to discover and solve as they learn through play. The complexity of the course makes this racetrack ideal for older toddlers ages 3+ and helps develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. No batteries are required to use this playset and the initial assembly is simple. Although plastic, the manufacturer boasts of the non-toxic and high-quality materials used. Your toddler can play with this racing game for hours and not get bored.
Keep in mind: The cars may be too small for younger toddlers, so it’s better for children ages 3 and up.
Good for: Parents looking for a challenging racetrack game for older toddlers that encourages problem solving.
10. Revved raceway
(Best value — $)
Why it’s great: This set is loads of fun at a really great price. There are two launching stations, a spinner that your child can control, and tons of sound effects. There’s even a little service station with an elevator that vaults the car back into the race. This track is compatible with other VTech tracks and can be expanded into whatever size you want. It plays songs, sounds, and phrases and has 3 different trigger points around the track.
Keep in mind: This set only comes with one car, so you’ll have to purchase more if you’d like to have them race.
Good for: Parents looking for a fun, interactive race track at an affordable price.
(Most durable — $$)
Why it’s great: The Top Bright Car Ramp is a favorite for many families looking to take a minimalist approach to toys. This simplified ramp racetrack also features a gas station and parking garage for additional interactive play. Its basic design makes it ideal for younger toddlers to master, although the vehicles are on the smaller side. It is made of BPA-free plastic, sturdy wood and non-toxic paint, so it is completely safe for your toddler. These quality materials should last your family for many years to come. Best of all, the dual racing element of this track encourages cooperation and communication as children learn to take turns or play together.
Keep in mind: The cars are on the smaller side, so it’s more suitable for toddlers ages 2 and up.
Good for: Families seeking a sturdy and fun race car toy that will last for many years.
FAQ’s about Toddler Racing Tracks
1. What are some key features to consider when buying a racing track?
Some features to consider are ease of assembly, ease of use, vehicle compatibility and number of interactive elements. Many parents also look at the quality of the materials used which has an impact on the overall longevity and durability of the product as well as the safety. Small pieces that can break off, toxic plastics or toxic paints could all render a toy unsafe.
2. What is the earliest age my child can play with a racetrack?
Most manufacturers recommend 18 months as the youngest suggested age, but it depends on the development of your child and the features of the racetrack – namely the size of the cars. Younger children who are still putting everything in their mouths should not be allowed to play with racetracks that come with tiny cars. However, most of the racetracks made specifically for toddlers come with much larger vehicles and can be safely played with at any age.
3. Are racing track toys good for siblings to share?
Racing track toys are a great option for children of all ages to play with together. Toddlers as young as 18 months can easily grasp the concept of rolling a car along the tracks or watching a car fall down various ramps, and older children enjoy racing their younger siblings or rebuilding racetracks into new configurations. Learning to enjoy a racing track toy together encourages the concepts of positive cooperation, communication and sharing.
4. How long will my toddler’s racing track toy last?
With the right quality of purchase, your toddler’s first racing track toy should last them many years to come. Plastic and wooden sets alike can be sturdy, durable options to endure much abuse and many hours of play over the years. These toys should be able to be shared and enjoyed by many children and by any siblings who come along later. Who knows – your toddler may even end up passing down their first racecar toy to their own children someday!
As a veritable rite of passage, your toddler’s first racing track is sure to create many happy memories and hours of fun family playtime. With so many options to choose from, the perfect racing track for your family is just a click away.
And as your child grows, this toy is one that can easily grow with them. Whichever playset you choose, you can look forward to years of fun with your first toddler racing track purchase!