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My son's love thomas so when I came across this phone on Amazon I purchased it for my my youngest son's first birthday as I knew he would enjoy it. The phone comes in an open box so you can play the demo before you purchase it and this means although it requires two AA batteries they are supplied. The problem is once you remove the toy from the box it has a small seal you need to pull out to make the phone go into full play mode and as soon as you do this the sounds of the characters drop to a whisper. Unless the room is quiet you really struggle to hear the phone at all and there is no way to increase the volume which is a shame.
The phone is a fair size for little one to hold in their hands, big enough for to hold their interest yet it is still light enough for them to carry easily. There are tracks running down the side of the phone which provide a good grip for little one while tying in with the Thomas theme perfectly. There is a large Thomas head at the top of the phone painted in his usual blue colour it attracts little one straight away and is instantly recognisable.
The phone has the numbers 0-9 all on separate buttons and with each number is a character from the TV show so little one can choose their favourite number or character to press. When little one presses each of these numbers they will hear a phrase from the corresponding character on the number they have chosen. The character will state the number that little one has pressed and then tell us a statement about what that engine will do today followed by their peep. Each time little one presses it the engine will tell them a different station they are going to and there are around three phases for each button so it does keep things interesting. The voices are all exactly the same as they are on the Tv show so again little one can recognise them.
Where the star and hash key would be is a picture of a turn table and tracks and when little one presses these they are greeted with the Thomas the tank engine theme tune. Then the phone says a random fact about the engine and where they are going today. Again as it replays through nine different characters it changes each time little one presses it and keeps it interesting for them.
All of the buttons are very easy to press so even a small child exploring this phone could easily hit the buttons and be rewarded with the sounds. There is an on off button at the back of the phone and this is also where you change the batteries. We have tried adding new ones just in case that was the problem with the sound but unfortunately it made no difference at all.
The phone itself is made from durable plastic and has been dropped many times by my children and there is no visible damage and the phone is still in full working order. The age recommendation is eighteen months old but to be honest my son received this for his first birthday and he really enjoyed it. There are no small parts and the buttons are very easy to press so I do not see why it could not be used from a younger age. My eldest three children all love playing with this toy and they are 5, 3 and 2 years old. My youngest son does use the phone a lot more than the others as it holds his attention better whereas my eldest daughter and son play for 5 minutes and then become bored of it.
My only other downside is that the pictures on the buttons of the characters could be a little clearer to show who is who. You can still see who is who thanks to small details but you do need to study the pictures carefully. Also the 0 button has a picture of the fat controller in the middle and the way it is shown it looks more like a frame than a 0 and I had to point out to my children that was also a number.
I would recommend this toy as it helps promote numbers to little ones by bringing in their favourite characters to help teach them to count. It is a shame that the volume dramatically drops but my son loves playing with this all the same and although he still try's to steal my phone it has provided a little distraction. It also helps with fine motor skills as little ones have to press the buttons and of course it is great role play fun and they like to pretend they are talking on the phone just like mummy or daddy.
We purchased this phone from Amazon for £10 which I think is a fair price for the quality of the item and the amount of play it has received. I have seen these available in Tesco and other toy stores so do shop around to find an offer.