When I spotted this set in Sainsbury's I decided to purchase it for my youngest son we have a lot of Thomas products in our house as both my sons love Thomas the tank engine but I favour there wooden range I think there is just something special about a wooden toy in the sea of plastic we own in our household.
With this set you receive a wooden Thomas and 13 trailers which attach to Thomas. The Thomas engine himself is nice and chunky yet great for little hands it has movable wheels that spin very easily and as he is bigger than the learning curve wooden engines we buy he looked great. One of the things that attracted me to this set is that the trailers have the alphabet written on them so while my sons are playing with their favourite character I could bring some learning into play at the same time.
There are only 13 trailers but this is because on each side of the trailer is a letter so on one side the trailer has A whereas the next has N. This means that when they are connected in order one side runs from A to M and then if you move around to the other side of the train it shows the letters N to Z.
All the pieces are made from wood including Thomas and painted in lovely bright couloirs to attract little one and actually draw their attention to what is printed on the trailers. The trailers have coupling hooks both side so they can all be joined together and this is fairly easy to do for little one.
Well when we first took this out of the box my sons where excited to have a new toy of course so they began to set the trailers up in any order. I then sat down with them and tried to explain about the letters and we made a game out of matching the correct letter that ran in sequence. Of course as my son was only 18 months old this went over his head but with a little help from his big brother and sister we completed the train running from A-Z and the sense of achievement from my two eldest children was amazing.
That is when the disappointments began my eldest son notice the trailers wheels were made for show and rather than moving they were just round pieces of wood cut to look like wheels. This means they do not move in the slightest so when you pull the train along the trailers either fall over or just uncouple from each other.
As the couplings are so small and not very deep it means that even if you try to move the trailers a little bit by themselves they fall out of place and cause a chain reaction like dominos each one falling over or coming undone and all little ones hard work is undone which can be very frustrating when they have spent the time to put them in order.
We did use the trailers as a learning aid for my eldest son for some time. All the letters are written in lowercase and are bright in colour and painted very clearly and precisely which means they are great to learn the formation of letters. My son liked to line them all up on the table with his Thomas art set and write the letter from A-M over and over again and then he would line them up from N-Z and repeat. They are not great for using to make words as of course there is only one of each letter and only 13 letters each side but you can write simple words like cat so great for children just learning about letters. It was great to muddle all the letters up and watch my son re order them correctly and as once the first time is lined correctly the other side is also correct this helped give him a head start on the whole alphabet rather than small parts at a time.
Well both my children and I were very disappointed in this set in the box and with the description it seemed perfect a train that encourages children to recognise and order letters but once we began playing with it this became clear that actually the only piece that my sons actually played with was the Thomas engine itself. The trailers do have some uses but not for the reason we brought it for and it can be very frustrating for children who think they are going to have a full working train and accessories to go with it.
The set is very durable and made of high quality the pieces are all rounded and the wood looks fantastic in a sea of plastic toys. Thomas himself is great to play with painted well to look the exact copy of the character, the wheels move freely over carpet and wooden flooring and although he is too wide to roll along the wooden train sets we have my sons have taken him on many adventures around the house.
The set is recommended from three years plus although we did buy it for my son who was only 18 months old as there are no small pieces that could be put in his mouth and he would have been playing under adult supervision. He actually became bored with it fairly easily as the trailers would not roll after Thomas and he was disappointed mummy could not work her magic and make the toy work properly. My eldest son understood why the train would not move along so he was a little more understanding and he did make some use of the train after all so not all was lost but as it involves sequencing letters I can see why it is so high.
This was a really disappointing purchase for us I have only seen this set at Sainsbury's for around £19.99 although our set was reduced to £10 in their sale. I have looked around and it seems it is very hard to come across and other than the blue box website itself and in store at Sainsbury's I cannot find it maybe because of the problems with the set it was not very popular.
This is useless as a play set as children become frustrated with it very easily although the Thomas engine works fine the trailers are really just for show. We actually use this as a display piece now and have it sat up on the boy's shelves in their room as they were fed up of trying to use it as a toy. It does look lovely but for the price and the reason we brought it was for the boys to play with it is rather disappointing. I would suggest sticking to the learning curve wooden range although this set in theory seemed perfect bringing learning into play with letters it was a major disappointment.