Thomas & Friends: Engine Activities

App review by
Dana Anderson, Common Sense Media
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Puzzles, games will delight lovable trains' biggest fans.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Although Thomas & Friends: Engine Activities was created with educational intent, we don't recommend it for learning. Given that the app is geared toward younger kids, we expect more voice instruction and verbal cues, which are only available on some activities. In addition, some instructions are written, which makes some of the activities less accessible to young kids. This is a just-for-fun app for Thomas fans.

Ease of Play

Puzzles, coloring activities, and match games are divided so kids clearly see which category they're choosing from, although given the younger age group that this app is geared toward one might expect more voice instruction or verbal cues, which are only available on some of the activities. Some instructions are written, so kids of pre-reading age either have to know the game (which is likely since puzzles and matching are common), have someone read it to them, or figure out some parts of the app by trial and error, but none too difficult to catch onto quickly. Many kids will be familiar with the coloring choices (choosing from three different brush sizes and colors from a palette) that are standard on many apps. Kids can save the coloring pages to the device's photo library. Puzzle pieces won't go into incorrect spots. Most games have an "easy" or "hard" level.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

The Thomas & Friends brand is definitely promoted heavily here, and there are links to the Thomas & Friends official website, the HIT Entertainment (producers of Thomas & Friends) site, and the app developer's website, as well as prompts to follow and share information on this app via Facebook and Twitter on the instructions page. Two boxcar choices of games are included with the app, while three more that appear on the same main screen are accessible only by in-app purchase ($1.99 each). There's also a "Gift this App" tab on the main screen that opens an option to purchase more apps from this developer as well as Thomas & Friends DVDs.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Thomas & Friends Engine Activities provides kids some simple puzzles, matching games, and coloring sheets all celebrating the lovable trains. Kids can watch animated stories when they complete puzzles, and they can collect their favorite trains on the app (in-app purchases required).  Puzzles, coloring activities, and matching games are divided by category and by character so kids clearly see which category they're choosing from. Given the younger age group that Thomas tends to attract, one might expect more voice instruction or verbal cues, but they're not available for all of the activities. Some instructions are only written, so kids of pre-reading age either have to know the game (which is likely since puzzles and matching are common), have someone read it to them, or figure out some parts of the app by trial and error, but none too difficult to catch onto quickly.

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What's it about?

Kids tap to choose from activities organized by icon (Paint, Puzzle, or Matching) or by two character-based play packs (Thomas and Cranky) displayed in the form of train cars. Parents can each activity to Easy or Hard. Some games have verbal prompts, while others only include written directions. For most games, kids will be familiar with the basic concepts. Kids collect Thomas character cards as they play the activities and store them on a \"My Card Collection\" page.

Is it any good?

There's nothing outstandingly innovative or deeply educational about the stuff kids can do on this app. As long as you're not expecting that and if your kid is a THOMAS & FRIENDS fan, this app will be sure to entertain. Especially fun are the sweet, short animated stories that pop up as rewards when kids finish a game and the verbal clues each character gives to players in the matching game. Thomas & Friends fans who want more than just a few different trains' activity packs (Creaky and Thomas are included) will need to unlock more, which must be purchased via in-app purchases (at the time of this review, the available in-app purchase packs were $.99 each).

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