A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although kids younger than 4 can probably use this site with some simple pointing and clicking, we don't recommend having kids online who are that young. The site lightly advertises merchandise, events, and DVD/TV shows. Most instructions are in writing, and not all games and activities are intuitive. The younger set may have some trouble finding exactly what they want to do and figuring out how to do it if they can't read. Fans will be drawn to this site's games, bright colors, and stars, but parents should get the next mode of entertainment lined up, as the site won't keep kids busy for too long.
What's it about?
WWW.THOMASANDFRIENDS.COM is brought to us by HIT Entertainment (think Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder and Barney). On this site, fans can play games, participate in activities, and read all kinds of information about Thomas and his friends. There are educational games as well as arcade-like choices; kids can put together train car puzzles or participate in a train race. They can also color online or print out coloring pages and mini-posters to do their creative work offline. In the History section in About Thomas & Friends, kids learn how the series was created by a dad telling stories about steam engines to his sick son. Those stories were eventually put into writing with pictures and recurring characters such as Edward, Gordon, and Thomas. The Engine Depot is a cool library feature where kids can click on each character to see pictures and learn facts about them.
Is it any good?
The different-leveled games and activities are well-suited for young fans (some reading is required), but they're simple and will most likely grow old after a few rounds. The video clips on the site are such poor quality that they're barely viewable. For the true fan who wants to learn about the history of Thomas and his pals, however, www.thomasandfriends.com is a real treat.
As for ads, access to HIT's main store is provided by an animated ad at the top of every page as well as a button on the main page of the site. Kids can also click to get tickets to Day Out with Thomas (a real train ride extravaganza throughout the U.S. and Canada) and Thomas & Friends Live! On Stage (you guessed it…a touring theatrical performance). Other than that, references to products are kept at a minimum.