Thomas & Friends Minis

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Thomas & Friends Minis App Poster Image
Fun AR builder for train fanatics; good fun for others.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about basic planning as they experiment with different types of tracks going in different directions. They'll problem-solve and plan ahead to make a cohesive track and collect golden gears. Puzzle templates give kids ideas of what they can do, and blank canvases allow for creative expression and experimentation.

Ease of Play

A tutorial guides kids through all the options and a narrator provides hints throughout.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

A small icon advertises other apps from the same developer; a parent gate protects purchase. The free version includes many opportunities to make in-app purchases to unlock additional content.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Thomas & Friends Minis lets kids build their own fantastical train track sets. Kids choose between pre-designed tracks to complete like a puzzle or build on a blank slate for free play. There are specialized tracks, landscapes, trains, and decorative options to use. The more kids play, the more options open up for them. Recent devices running on an updated iOS support an augmented reality (AR) option that lets kids feel like they're really in on the action, but sensitive kids could feel a bit of motion sickness. Kids can take pictures of their tracks and save them to your device's camera roll if you give it permission. The free download includes a limited but decent amount of content. And there's lots of additional content available through in-app purchases ranging from $1.99 to $19.99, depending on what you want to buy. Turn the music and/or sound effects off in the settings menu, and choose a language for narration. Read the developer's easy-to-read privacy policy for details on how your information is collected and shared.

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What's it about?

Build custom train sets with beloved train characters in THOMAS & FRIENDS MINIS. After a short tutorial that thoroughly demonstrates all the building options, kids are free to explore. They can build using pre-designed sets like a puzzle to complete or use their imaginations on a blank canvas. Customize the set with special tracks, decorations, and trains; collect golden gears to unlock more options. Kids can watch traveling trains with a bird's-eye view or from the train's perspective. Supported devices also offer an augmented reality option where kids can see their creations come to life.

Is it any good?

Kids get easily immersed in train sets galore with this fun platform for building from a template or from scratch. Add the Thomas & Friends element, and some kids will likely find Thomas & Friends Minis irresistible. There are plenty of fun embellishments like twisty tracks, bridges, and lots of landscape decorations. It's nice to have the option to build using a puzzle-like template or by unleashing your creative side to build on a blank canvas. The graphics are great, even if the ride from the train's point of view may be a bit too realistic for some (beware of the possibility of slight feelings of motion sickness). There are choices for building, but the options are not particularly complex, and the space for building is rather small. However, given the age group that's interested in Thomas & Friends, the level of complexity is just about right. And the good news is that there's a decent amount of content that comes with the free download, so kids can certainly entertain themselves for a while with what's available. The bad news, however -- for your wallet -- is that all the pay content is right there, enticing kids to ask for more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories involving characters and sets from Thomas & Friends Minis. Ask your kids about what they're building, where the trains are going, and what's going on in the buildings by the side of the tracks. Encourage them to use their imagination and tell lots of stories.

  • Build train sets offscreen. A good old-fashioned set of wooden train tracks should keep any train-loving kid occupied for a while. Experiment on- and offscreen with different tracks and directions, and with ways to close a track path or keep it open.

  • Talk to your kids about branding. Is this app more or less appealing because it uses Thomas & Friends characters? Why? What do they think about being able to use some content for free and having to pay for the rest? Is that a good way to set up an app?

App details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love building and trains

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