“ Brand: Thomas and Friends „
When my sister bought Hollie a tiny wooden train track she also purchased a few small Thomas and Friends trains to go with it; after spotting a good deal in our local toy shop Hollie ended up with more than we expected, including this pack of two Sodor Chicken Cars which are not only fabulous to look at but also make 'clucking-squawking' sounds when activated. Each carriage is just over two inches long and has the usual magnet at each end so they can be attached to each other, other carriages and the Thomas and Friends engines. While these are fabulously made wooden carriages, there's visibly more plastic used in their creation than any of Hollie's other Thomas trains from the same range - this is out of necessity as to activate the sounds you need to slide sections of the chicken carriage across, something that simply wouldn't be possible if it were constructed of pure wood. The plastic is very bright and cheerful, extremely high quality and in my opinion the wooden toy definitely does not suffer in either appearance or usability from the addition of plastic - in fact usability increases as the plastic portions move so smoothly and easily. The fact that the chassis of both cars is the usual wooden variety makes the toys far more durable than if they were made of 100% plastic, although if it weren't for the names being printed on the underside of the chassis I don't think it would be instantly recognisable as a Thomas addition. Both Hollie and her two year old brother were able to activate the sounds on the chicken car from pretty much the first use, admittedly David was younger than the recommended minimum age when Hollie first received it and he couldn't get his fat little baby fingers to slide the door across far enough but over not very much time at all he sussed it out and now it's kinda become his train rather than Hollies! He laughs uproariously when the clucking chickens start and is visibly disappointed when they stop their noise! The carriage which holds the trays of eggs is my favourite as the top comes off and so it can be used as flatbed carriage or loaded with eggs. I've noticed this opens up Hollie's role-play games as she'll push the unloaded carriage through Sodor and has all sorts of imaginative reasons as to why Thomas or Rosie (her other engine) needs to collect these eggs. She tends to play with both of the chicken carriages together but I can tell the egg one is get favourite too as it gets all the plum roles in her games! The carriages are made to be as perfect as everything else from the Thomas and Friends range. The wheels are securely attached and loose enough that they can be given a small shove and roll unhindered across the floor, of course this often means they'll roll under the furniture but this can't be helped and they're easily found due to them being predominantly white rather than a darker colour. The magnets are strong enough to allow you to carefully lift one carriage and the other to dangle - it's not particularly impressive and I only mention it really to give you an idea of the strength, Hollie gets annoyed when the removable egg layer falls off if (without thinking) she lifts that car but this can't be helped and should be quite obvious to a bright little girl such as herself! The magnets also react negatively to prevent you from attaching a carriage back to front - it was great when we discovered this as Hollie was only just turned four and didn't know much about magnets, but she soon learnt by playing with the Thomas trains in general and we had a fun couple of afternoons repeating the process of 'right/wrong' way round. David, at a much younger age, is already showing signs of being interested in the magnets and impresses me every time I see him immediately realise that he needs to turn one of the carriages around for the magnets to attract. David is also a perfect example of how these two carriages have helped him to perfect his hand to eye coordination. Although the recommended minimum age is two years he's been playing (in a fashion) with them since he was around sixteen months old and quickly learned about putting the magnets together with some precision, also the action of fitting the wheels correctly onto Hollie's wooden track to enable him to push them along has taught him a little about cause and effect - which sounds bizarre at his young age but it's true, the physical nature of the carriages really bringing learning to life for him which can only be a good thing. These carriages have certainly stood the test of time for us and are showing absolutely no signs of being almost three years old despite very regular play. There's a small tooth mark in the plastic roof of the chicken car from the day when David decided he was going to use it as a teether in secret, although to be honest the force with which he chomped down when he was in pain with his teeth has left me surprised that these tiny little carriages (and accompanying engines) weren't left completely pockmarked! The twin set of Chicken and Egg Cars currently costs £14.99 on Amazon, which is excellent value considering how many hours of play they've provided my two youngest children with. They make a great gift as the carriages arrive nicely packaged, before buying however I'd recommend you check that the recipient has at least one engine to use alongside them (a track isn't strictly necessary) - and if not, buy them an engine too!