Although most two and a half year old boys would have discovered the delights of Thomas The Tank Engine long ago, Freddy has only really shown interest in the really useful engine in the last few weeks. That's not to say that he's ever sat through the television programme, because quite simply he hasn't. Instead Freddy showed his interest after I read him a book, sitting nicely looking at the pages rather than eating it as he normally does with books. As he was showing such an interest, we decided to buy him his very own Thomas toy, which actually wasn't as easy as it sounds. You see Freddy has a significant developmental delay, is on the autistic spectrum and is obsessed with peeling off stickers and eating them. While under other circumstances I would have probably been happy to buy him a toy considered suitable for children over the age of three, in Freddy's case it simply would not be a good idea down to a combination of small parts and Freddy's habit of putting any and everything in his mouth. Freddy's Daddy actually came across this Thomas and Friends Talking Thomas in Tesco for a smidgeon under £10 and seeing that it was suitable for children over the age of twelve months he added it to his basket (After checking for stickers).
Whilst in no way the largest of the Thomas themed toys available, the Talking Thomas is still a good size at approximately six inches in length and is a good representation of the really useful engine. Thomas' body is formed of shiny plastic, with the only decoration being number one printed on his side in the form of a transfer. Thomas' face is moulded on the front and features the friendly smiling face and somewhat googly eyes that are familiar to anyone who has either read a Thomas book or watched the programme. Those eyes also move from side to side as Thomas is pushed along on his four rubber coated wheels. These wheels run easily and being covered with rubber have good traction even on smooth surfaces such as tiled or laminated floors. Thomas also has a hook on his rear, that I assume is to allow him to pull other trains in the range. While this makes an excellent push along toy for the younger fan, there is rather more to Thomas, and this more could either be considered an advantage or disadvantage depending on your point of view.
You see Thomas is an electronic toy that features a number of sounds (but no lights), the electronic dubbins that make these sounds, adds quite considerably to the Thomas' weight meaning that it is a little painful if it happens to fall on your foot. A pair of AA batteries are required to power these electronics and these batteries are hidden behind a hatch that is securely closed with a small screw. The first set of batteries are supplied and these are still going strong a week later, but it's nice to know that the hatch can be opened with a standard screwdriver, rather than requiring one of those tiny things that always get lost at the back of the drawer. There is an on/off slider switch on Thomas' base and this is stiff enough to provide a small challenge to the younger child, but there is no volume control and the sounds are loud, very loud, loud enough to be heard through a closed door.
Thomas is advertised as having seven fun phrases and a special moving noise, as a parent I wouldn't particularly call the phrases fun and in fact I have a problem with at least one of the phrases. The special moving noise is set off whenever the wheels move and it's basically the "chug chug" sound of a steam train in motion. While the sound is fairly realistic, it is set off far too easily, not only sounding when Thomas is pushed along the floor, but also if anyone happens to knock him. The seven fun phrases are activated by a cleverly disguised button on Thomas' back and each of them starts with a rather annoying "choo, choo". If you've ever watched the programme, then you'll realise that the voice sounds exactly like the narrator on the original Thomas episodes and although there is nothing to state it on the packaging, I do believe that they have either used sound-bites from the programme.
The phrases themselves are mostly fine, with such thrilling snippets as "Number One Always Comes First" and "Blue Is The Only Colour For A Really Useful Engine", to the one that really annoys me, "Wake Up Lazybones, Why Don't You Work Hard Like Me?". I don't why that phrase annoys me so much, well I do really, it's partly because I think it's a downright rude thing for anyone to say and partly because one aspect of living with Freddy is that my sleep is severely compromised and I regularly only get three to four hours sleep at night. So I suppose that it touches a bit of a raw nerve really. Rather than these phrases being randomised, they are always played in the same order, which can be quite comforting if you have a child that needs to know what is coming next.
While Thomas is considered suitable for children over the age of twelve months, at two and a half Freddy is considerably older than this minimum age, but developmentally he is probably at the bottom end of the target group. Freddy absolutely loves Thomas and has done since the moment he set eyes on him. He finds Thomas the perfect size to hold and push along the floor, and adores the sounds that are easy for him to activate. While he doesn't play with Thomas constantly, it is a toy that he will return to regularly throughout the day, playing with it for five to ten minutes up to twenty times a day. While we allow Freddy to have Thomas switched on during the day, I do have to switch him off at bedtime as Freddy insists on taking him to bed with him and the sounds are so loud that they would keep the whole house awake. I can't say that Freddy is quite as keen on Thomas when the sounds are switched off, because that would be a lie as he does sulk a little when it is switched off. But he does still play with Thomas, pushing him around his room.
Thomas has so far proved to be very durable and able to withstand Freddy's rather unorthodox play. The transfer number one on each side of Thomas' fender has proved highly resistant to Freddy's attempts at peeling it off and Thomas has survived being thrown at walls, dropped over safety gates and used as skate with only minimal cosmetic damage. When looking at how durable a toy is, if it can survive an hour with Freddy then it can mostly likely survive anything, so I would say that Thomas is tough enough to cope with any "normal" toddler.
Making a recommendation as to whether you should buy Thomas for your toddler is putting me in something of a dilemma. On one hand the sounds are very loud and there is one particular phrase that gets on my goat, but on the other hand, it is very well made, able to withstand Freddy's play technique and Freddy genuinely loves him. I guess if your child is a younger (or developmentally delayed) fan of Thomas and enjoys pressing buttons to set off sounds and you are able to cope with the very high volume that can easily drown out the television, then in most probability they will adore this. So, alls things considered, I am going to give the Thomas And Friends Talking Thomas four stars out of five, with it losing a star due to the much higher than necessary volume and the single rather irritating (and rude) phrase.
Talking Thomas the Tank Engine.......
Jack has had more toys before Christmas than he will probably get for the actual day. This time however it wasn't me giving him a pre-Christmas present it was his nana.
Talking Thomas the Tank Engine is being sold in various shops such as Tesco and Woolworth's and is roughly around the £10 price range, though I should think it is considerably cheaper than this now in Woolworth's what with the closing down sale. This seems like a fair price to pay for a toy from the Thomas range but of course it was a gift to Jack so I am not out of pocket.
Basically the toy is a small Thomas the Tank Engine model measuring around 20cm in length and looks just like you would expect Thomas the Tank Engine to look like a blue train. His main colour is blue and he has a rather nice smiling grey face. On this toy there is a small blue button situated on the back of the train and when pressed it will activate Thomas' voice. There are a good few saying that will come out far more than similar toys like this. These sayings include rather funny ones like, "Wake up lazy bones, why don't you work hard like me" and "Blue is the only colour for a really useful engine". There are at least seven or eight different sayings and these are played randomly when the button is pressed.
The Thomas the Tank Engine toy also has moveable wheels with a nice grey rubber grip on. This enables the train to move smoothly and quickly along most surfaces. He glides efficiently across out laminated floors but not so well across the carpets. Another feature this toy has it that when the wheels are moved a train engine noise will be activated. This is a nice feature although can be slightly annoying as it is rather sensitive and goes off with the slightest of movements such as when I am tidying Jack's toys up in the evening trying to be quite with this toy it is extremely hard.
Jack has had this toy for a good couple of months now and although it is not one of his favourite he does get some good play out of it. Mostly he just pushes the button and listens to the proper Thomas the Tank Engine voice says the funny phrases. I think if he didn't have so many similar toys then this one would be played with a lot more. For the price of £10 I would say it is a good buy, it has plenty to keep a small child happily playing with for a good while and I think you could get your moneys worth.
Most Thomas the Tank Engine toys are rather expensive and I would of thought this one to be more than it was. If you can get it cheaper then I would say this is a brilliant present. The toy is a lot of fun and well deserving of a four star award and a RECOMMENDATION. The only minus mark is due to the fact that Jack had not really played with it as much as I would of thought but he does like it perhaps he is too spoilt for choice.
Anyway I hope this has been of some interest/help to you.
The Talking Thomas & Friends range has been created for the younger Thomas fans and is made from chunky bright plastic, specially designed for little hands to hold. There are now 13 characters in the range to collect. Each character has seven phrases unique to them. Move them along the floor to see their eyes move and hear their very own special noise.