There’s nothing more interesting than cars and tracks. Toy parking garage are a chance for your child to live out his or her dreams of running cars and being a mechanic.
Play garages come in all shapes and sizes. It’s important to give kids toys that encourage active imaginations and possibly some STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills. Many of them are durable toys that will become heirlooms later.
How Do You Find the Best Toy Garage?
Toddlers benefit from toy car garages by learning early math skill such as counting parking spaces, and hand-eye coordination lining up cars along the track so they ride down smoothly. Older children can assemble their own sets and work on even more significant areas of hand-eye coordination with smaller cars and tracks.
Middle school kids can use sets like Lego not only to build their own garages but customize features and design new structures, which encourages critical thinking skills and engineering thinking.
We’ve put together a list of our favorite parking garage toys plus a few suggestions for how to choose the best one. Let’s take a look.
The Best Toy Garages Available Today
|Melissa & Doug||3+ years||Wood||7.2 x 12 x 7.8"|
|VTech||12+ months||Plastic||26.2 x 29.6 x 17.8"|
|Fisher-Price||12+ months||Plastic||15.9 x 16.1 x 9.4"|
|Hot Wheels||4+ years||Plastic||15 x 3 x 12"|
|Matchbox||3+ years||Plastic||18 x 4.2 x 12"|
|Melissa & Doug||3+ years||Wood||17.2 x 15.7 x 15.2"|
|KidKraft||3+ years||MDF, Plastic||27.2 x 15.8 x 24.8"|
|Plan Toys||3+ years||Wood||20 x 13 x 14"|
|Hot Wheels||5+ years||Plastic||30 x 5.8 x 24"|
|LEGO||6+ years||Plastic||22.9 x 14.9 x 4.1"|
It’s a parking garage on the front and a drive-thru car wash on the back! Melissa and Doug’s wooden, two-level service station is a fun multi-purpose toy that comes with two wooden cars. Cars run through the carwash on a sliding strip and then drive around to the second level parking deck. They get to the top with the moving elevator.
Wooden toys are great for tactile sensation and imagination. They tend to be more open-ended than toys that feature sounds and lights. This particular toy offers your child the chance to make their own sound effects and to imagine conversations between drivers in the cars without distracting.
It’s also got a small footprint if you’re short on space. That might be an issue if you have more than one child because it would be hard for more than one kid to play with this toy at a time, but saving space makes up for that hiccup.
Overall, it’s a beautifully made toy that kids might treasure for a long while after they outgrow it. There are even numbered parking spaces to teach early math skills and encourage counting. Each piece encourages your child to tell stories about this tiny world of cars.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from classic wooden toys is the VTech Go! Go! Deluxe garage. It uses technology to offer real-time feedback from your child’s manipulation of all the pieces. Well-placed technology can encourage your child to think outside the box and to learn essential skills without realizing he or she is learning.
Kids can build their own three-level interactive parking garage with VTech’s innovative toy system. All kinds of interactive features encourage language skills, critical thinking, and develop focus. It uses something called “smart points,” places where there is an interactive element such as sound or lights each time a piece comes in contact with the smart point.
There are nine smart point locations for the tow truck. When children drive the tow truck over those points, they can hear nine distinctive phrases, music, or sound effects encouraging them to play. Pieces of the track are interchangeable to maintain interest.
The tow truck also has lights and sounds by pressing the button on the windshield. Children can also manipulate other pieces of the track such as raising and lowering the elevator. It’s compatible with different VTech sets.
Technology and sounds are excellent ways for children to develop early tech skills and engineering thinking. Rearranging the track allows children to decide how they want their interactive environment to look and then execute those plans themselves. It’s a useful method for teaching critical thinking (though you might have to help secure the pieces together. Bonus! Family time!)
Fisher-Price’s toddler appropriate car ramp provides three levels of interesting play. Cars can ride up the elevator with real bell sounds and then race to the bottom of the ramp. The automatic stop sign lowers as the elevator raises.
There’s a small parking deck on the back, and the front is the ramp and elevator. It comes with a car and two figures. Both the vehicles and the figures are large enough for small fingers to grip and manipulate, plus the extra deep track keeps cars in as they ride down.
It can be frustrating for small fingers to lose grip on small items, so this toy is great for practicing fine motor skills and for limiting frustration as they play with each element. Some tracks don’t hold cars in place very well unless you’re well-practiced in placement. Fisher-Price addresses this issue for smaller children and gives them a good entry-level toy.
It’s sturdy plastic, but some of the pieces don’t fit together precisely flush. It can be difficult to manipulate the elevator at times, too. It’s a good starter toy for younger children without all the distractions of sounds and lights, however.
It’s best for very young children because kids outgrow the babyish design pretty quickly. If your child is just coming into toddlerhood, it’s a good starter toy for some of the more elaborate track sets he or she will have later.
This workshop features multiple levels of play with a wraparound track and three levels of city locations including a penthouse and a movie theater. Cars can ride from top to bottom and then ride the elevator back to the beginning.
It’s easy to assemble and doesn’t require any batteries. It’s an excellent simple track that’s expandable or fits into your child’s existing sets. Unlike wooden toys, this set is lightweight and won’t cause injury if your child decides to carry it around or (hopefully not) throw it.
However, children this age do tend to push boundaries, so if your child takes risks with toys, this one might be a safer option than bulky wooden alternatives. On the other hand, it might not last as long as a quality wooden set. We would consider the personality of your child and the long-term goals for this particular toy.
It’s small enough to fit into a corner, but if you don’t have any other Hot Wheels equipment, it might get boring as a stand-alone toy. It’s better if you plan to purchase additional Hot Wheels sets in the future so that the track is always expanding.
Matchbox’s four-level garage toy is good for elementary school kids who want their very own starter garage set. There’s a spiral ramp that runs around each of the floors. There’s a gas pump and a real working elevator.
It comes with a tow truck in the set, but the set is compatible with all Matchbox cars sets. It doesn’t require batteries, and there are no distracting sounds or lights. Some of the colors may vary from set to set, but they are an eye-catching primary base most children will really like.
On the top, you can change the track to head straight down the ramp or make a pit stop at the car wash. The next floor has a filling station with pumps that fit into the car, encouraging hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. There are even tiny surveillance cameras to keep all the Matchbox cars safe from evil-doers.
It also further enhances fine motor skills because the track and the cars are smaller. It takes some practice to place the vehicles correctly on the track so that they don’t fly off. If your child has already had some training with more basic sets, this Matchbox track is a good way to level up those fine motor and critical thinking skills.
Melissa and Doug makes some great wooden playsets that are safe for children to play with. This wooden parking garage is a cute system that might become a family heirloom later. It features four floors of play features with a ramp that connects all four.
It’s a six piece set that includes two cars, a gas pump, and a car wash. There’s also an attendant included, plus a parking booth. The set is safe and uses nontoxic paints. Kids can play for extended periods. The colors are eye-catching and feature realistic scenes.
It’s a large play space, but it has a small footprint for easier storage. It won’t take up the entire room, but there’s plenty to do so kids won’t get bored. It’s a good toy for kids who don’t have a full playroom, or who have a bedroom on the smaller side.
Wooden toys are great for tactile sensation and provide a comforting weight. Children can find new possibilities each time they play. Sometimes, simple toys without a lot of bells and whistles are the most critical pieces of a child’s cognitive development because they are forced to create scenarios all on their own.
One downside is that assembly for this toy is on the tougher side. The wooden pieces aren’t as flexible as plastic, so you have to get the fit just right, or they won’t adhere.
Kidkraft’s three-floor parking garage features a ramp that runs from top to bottom. The set comes with six cars and trucks, plus four people. It also has a helipad plus a fun helicopter. It’s good for elementary age and older children because of some of the smaller pieces.
The entires set is painted with fun background images of a garage. There’s plenty of parking, a working car wash with moving scrubbers, and even a shop downstairs. There’s even a ticket booth and a gas station.
It requires some assembly, but the pieces fit together well. The ramps take some finagling to get together, and for some boisterous kids might prove too flimsy to withstand rough play. Keep this in mind if you have much older children or if your child is hard on his or her toys.
It doesn’t take up too much space, but the height might be an issue if you’re storing this set in a closet or cabinet when not in use. It’s brightly colored and might not fit into the decor of your living room if you decide to leave it out, but it certainly matches a little boy’s bedroom.
Plan Toys’ wooden parking garage is an heirloom style toy that uses only sustainable, ethically resourced materials in each toy’s construction. It has three levels of parking space and a ramp that connects them together. It also has a helipad on top of the tower.
It comes with a figure and a car, plus a gas station and a car wash. The car wash has spinning parts that mimic the real thing. The wood provides a valuable tactile sensation and a pleasing weight. Older kids might appreciate the ability to play with different types of cars on the wide rail-less track.
It’s a neutral color scheme for the most part with charming red accents. It fits in well with decor if you must keep it in a family space such as the living room. It has a small footprint and isn’t very tall, so you won’t have trouble putting it in a cabinet or closet for storage.
The elevator tower moves smoothly and goes up to the very top floor. There are plenty of parking spaces, and the figure fits into the attendant booth. The car is a simple wooden car with wheels, but many different types of cars can fit onto the track.
It requires assembly and should take about 30 minutes to put together. Some of the pieces aren’t attached permanently, such as the car wash spinners and the door for the elevator. If your child is younger, you may have to take these pieces off, or they’ll be a choking hazard.
Overall, it’s a good, open-ended toy that encourages creative play and helps kids understand different types of transportation and occupations.
This set is Hot Wheels biggest garage yet. It includes space to park 36 hot wheels cars, offering storage and fun. It attaches to other Hot Wheel’s track sets to expand any of the sets your child already has but has enough fun things to be a stand-alone toy.
It comes with five cars and a helicopter so he or she can get started right away. Five actions zones feature real working action or sounds. There’s a chomping shark on one side that will capture any cars that come into its path. It also has a helipad that stores a helicopter waiting for the bell and lights from the fire station to deploy.
There’s a gas station and a tune-up station, plus an underground component for cars visiting either place. The spiral ramps access each level. There’s even a crane that can attach to the helicopter to lift cars out of trouble.
It has just enough working parts and sounds to be interesting, but not so much that it’s annoying for mom and dad. The best part of this set is the storage, however. Toys that offer built-in storage help keep everything organized.
10. LEGO City Garage
LEGO’s garage not only gives kids a chance to explore the world of transportation and cars, but they have an opportunity to build it from the ground up. This garage has a working elevator to take cars up to each floor. On the first floor, there’s a car wash with working turnstiles. There’s also a gas station for cars to fill up. On the other side is the barrier to enter the garage.
The second floor has a tune-up station and the security booth with a camera. The figures can fit inside. There’s even a computer and a cup for the inside. The top features other security cameras and platforms to overlook what’s happening.
It comes with three figures, security guard, and mechanic. The mechanic’s station has a broom and extra tires for realism. It comes with Lego’s brick separator for easy assembly and disassembly.
This set is best for older elementary and middle school age kids because of the depth of assembly. You could build it for them, but you’d be robbing them of the experience (plus small pieces are a choking hazard for small children.)
How to choose the perfect childrens toy garage
Keeping cars on a track can be a frustrating experience for young players if the tracks aren’t wide enough and the cars are too small to grip. If your child is a toddler, choose simple toys with bright color schemes. Cars should be big enough to grip, and the track should be wide enough to keep the vehicles in line with little frustration.
If your child is older, he or she can handle some smaller cars such as Hot Wheels or Matchbox. Tracks that are narrower offer them a chance to practice keeping vehicles within the lines, honing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Even older kids benefit from sets like Legos where they can build their own playscapes by following the directions or creating their own.
Plastic is a durable material that isn’t too heavy and often comes with the chance to have lights or realistic sounds. It’s a colorful material, and there are more choices available. You can get bigger sets without massive increases in weight, and the pieces are easier to assemble.
Wood, on the other hand, is durable and you can find sets made from sustainable, ethically sourced materials. It offers a pleasing tactile sensation for kids, but it can be a lot heavier than plastic and more difficult to assemble. The good news is that wooden toys often become heirlooms.
Some sets are compatible with other sets from the same company. If you can find a garage that fits into what your child already has that helps keep interest up. Kids can also adjust the sets around to suit their imaginations.
Some sets are also compatible with other cars and figures. Kids can use their own types of vehicles and don’t need as much to come in the garage set.
If you choose a set that isn’t compatible with other toys that your child has, you might want to get a set that includes figures and cars so your child can play right out of the box.
The bottom line
There are many different kinds of garage sets made from lots of different materials. It’s important to consider the types of toys your child already has so that you can choose a garage that’s best.
Open-ended toys and toys that offer the chance to imagine things from a different perspective are essential for your child’s development. They offer imaginative play and make some pretty awesome toys to find under the tree or next to the birthday cake.
What kind of garage is your child excited about? Let us know in the comments below.