A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this app.
Kids can learn social and moral lessons from the stories. Though it's not really educational in nature, some stories include some preschool academics, such as shapes and science concepts. The words are not shown on the screen, so kids aren't reading along, but they're still improving their prereading skills by listening to the structure of the story and improving vocabulary. Parents can listen to the stories with kids and add discussion to enhance learning. Thomas & Friends Talk to You is big on engagement while nodding to simple social skills and early literacy.
Ease of Play
Tutorial shows kids how to press and speak to answer the questions. Story advances automatically.
Products & Purchases
One story is included in free version. Others require an in-app purchase. Thomas & Friends is pretty heavily cross-marketed with toys and products.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.