A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Thomas & Friends: Talk to You uses voice recognition to engage kids in the story, occasionally asking them to respond to questions. One story is included with others available as in-app purchases. Before kids can play, parents have to give an email address to give permission for the app to record kids' responses. Recording only happens while kids have their finger on the orange record button, and all voice files are sent to parents to share or delete, though they might be shared with third-party providers who help improve the voice-recognition technology. The free story includes Thomas resisting bed time and keeping other trains awake, though he does face some sleepy consequences.
What's it about?
After parents give permission for THOMAS & FRIENDS TALK TO YOU to record voices, kids choose which story to listen to. All stories are visible, but only those unlocked by an in-app purchase can be played. Stories advance automatically with no captioning. An orange microphone pops up when Thomas asks kids a question, and kids press and hold the microphone while they talk. Thomas' response is seemingly related to their responses. For instance, Thomas asks the user to tell him a story to keep him awake; after the kid records something, he says, "I love it! And then what happened?" Other exchanges include Thomas asking about the kid's day and the narrator telling the kid to make a loud noise to wake up Thomas. At the time of review, six stories are available with two bonus activities. The first story, "Up All Night," teaches Thomas the importance of bedtimes.
Is it any good?
Kids will be excited to talk to Thomas and and get responses, despite the overall lack of features and actual impact their specific responses have. The character voices aren't a match with what kids may expect from the show -- only the narrator has the beloved British accent -- but kids will love the feeling that they're affecting the story directly. The voice recognition seems inconsistent: Pressing the button but not speaking at all sometimes gets the same response as talking gibberish or responding to an actual question, but there also are times when his response varies, based on what you say. For instance, there's no obvious way to pause the story, but kids can tell Thomas they'll be right back or they need to go to the bathroom, and he responds that he'll wait for them. An option for subtitles so kids could read along would be nice in terms of early readers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the themes of the stories (such as not wanting to go to bed), discussing with kids the answers they give. Let kids elaborate more if they want or ask them questions about the answers they give Thomas.
Let kids experiment with responses to Thomas' questions to see how they affect the story.
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
- Subjects: Language & Reading: speaking, storytelling
- Skills: Creativity: imagination
Tech Skills: using and applying technology
- Price: Free (with in-app purchases)
- Pricing structure: Free to try (One story is included. Additional stories are $.99 or all for $3.99.)
- Release date: July 30, 2015
- Category: Education
- Topics: Trains
- Size: 365.00 MB
- Publisher: ToyTalk
- Version: 1.0
- Minimum software requirements: iOS 7.0 or later
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.