Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends

Common Sense Media says

Thomas and his train friends huff and chuff around.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn positive social lessons about teamwork and cooperation; they'll also be exposed to vocabulary words like "reliable," "determined," and "useful."

Positive messages

Though Thomas and his friends sometimes feel "cross" with one another, they rely on one another for help and support.

Positive role models

The characters work well together and are good friends. On the (relative) downsite, there aren't many female characters.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable

There are lots of tie-in Thomas products available, but there's no brand placement within the show itself.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is generally a male-centric series, though a few females do make appearances. Otherwise, the dramatic action told through the voice of a single narrator will be compelling even for the youngest viewers, without overstimulating young children's sensitive field of perception.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

On the fictional island of Sodor, Thomas the Tank Engine and his other engine friends are kept busy porting loads of steel, food, and passenger cars to meet the demands of their human counterparts. Model engines with expressive faces are the media with which this tale is told, creating a fascinating fictional world that many young viewers will enjoy. By staying true to the single-voice narration, the storybook aspect of THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE & FRIENDS has been well maintained.

Is it any good?


The Thomas the Tank Engine stories were conceived by a young British boy early in the 20th century, who would listen to the trains as they chuffed through the countryside. The stories he told his son -- who has consequently passed them on to his own son -- have been documented in books and toy train models. Since the series was introduced to television viewers in the 1980s, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends has seen a healthy fan base sprout worldwide. Parents can be assured that this series has educational aspects as well as behavioral modeling. Some of the expressions on the train's faces can be a tiny bit creepy, but the intention behind the animation is good, as follows the tradition of a well-told story.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the role that Thomas and his friends play in the Sodor community. How do they help their community and each other?

  • Do you think the various train characters enjoy their jobs or not? Why aren't there more female trains?

TV details

Cast:Michael Angelis
Genre:Kids' Animation
Topics:Adventures, Book characters, Friendship, Trains
TV rating:TV-Y
Available on:DVD

This review of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 2 and 4 year old Written byreedsmom March 20, 2009

What's up with the RUDE Thomas Shows?

My son has been watching Thomas since he was 2, he has an obsession with Thomas the Tank toys, shows, movies, anything to do with it. At a certain point I had to take away all the video watching as it came to my attention that the engines are all very RUDE to each other most of the time. Occasionally there is a decent message, but the focus is mostly on the rude behavior and my son started imitating it!!!! Recently I brought the shows back out, this time trying to fast forward through the unacceptable episodes, but I had to cut it off when an episode from the Halloween DVD featuring the "trouble trucks" (my son's favorite!) the first word of the show is "Shut Up!" and the engine named Duck bashes into a bunch of trouble trucks! I was shocked and turned it off immediately! What a horrible thing for a children's show! They blame each other for things, I'm so disappointed. Why is there not more talk about this? What's more is that while he was playing with his trains yesterday he acted out the scene and I heard him say "shut up!". Now I have to explain to him that that is not a nice thing to say and he is confused as to why..."but Duck said that" he looks at my confused. Argh!@#!
Parent of a 2 year old Written byShawnaLanne January 24, 2009

Behavioral Modeling - Yeah it models all the bad things

I began watching this with my son just before he turned 2 and quickly turned it off. Yes, there is behavioral modeling, and trains who are acting 'badly' always get it in the end and learn a lesson, but along with the lesson they learn, I believe it's also teaches bad behavior with examples of jealousy and envy and plain old mean spiritidness. I know this has a big following, and it is age appropriate, but I don't want my son modeling his behavior on these trains.
Teen, 15 years old Written byiamveryelectric July 29, 2011

From a veteran Thomas the Tank Engine Watcher to watchers of nowaday's stuff

I have been watching Thomas The Tank Engine since I was 6 months old, and I think this is the best stuff you could show your kids. But I also want to point out that the older episodes (Season 2 in particular) is a lot rougher and gruffer than today's lightweight stuff. The phrase "Shut Up" is used 3 times in season 2, but what you parents need to realize (I'm talking to you too reedsmom) is that thomas was NOT originally designed for television in the children-protective United States of America! It was originally written by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry in Britain for books. He was a die-hard railfan and really wanted to reflect people's behavior (the good things and the bad, like friendship, honesty, and on the bad side, arrogance, arguing, and fighting) on railway locomotives. His stories were adapted into TV episodes until about season 6. I personally find the pre-season 6 episodes to be much more enjoyable, because they were actually FUN to watch. They were providing good role models. In Old Iron, James was acting arrogant about Edward's slow speed, but when he uncontrollably runs away, Edward comes to his rescue, regardless of what James said. And I also liked that I could watch a show that wasn't SHOVING the moral RIGHT down my throat. There are morals BUT their not forcing it down your throat. ALSO the older episodes didn't constantly have new characters introduced JUST so the creators could make a quick buck. So If you are okay with letting your child get away from all the abc's and 123's and watching a show that does provide some good morals and role models and is entertaining, I'd highly recommend the earlier seasons. (The episodes with "shut up" in them are: Edward's Exploit, Breakvan, and Diesel's Devious Deed) but for the parents out there who are particulate about what their children can and can't see, and only want their kids watching shows that deliberately cram morals down their throat without the engines arguing or fighting, I would recommend today's episodes (S8-15).
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?


What are the different ways that you access Common Sense Media ratings and information? (Check all that apply)

Essential Apps Guide