We don't know how Aaron got into Thomas. It took us quite by surprise and it WASN'T anything to do with him watching him on TV/DVD - that came later... Actually I think it started with his Thomas jacket that I got him back in 2011!
When he was young, we visited friends who had a cheap (under £10) wooden train set, and they said their son had played with it for years, so within days I got Aaron one, and it was the beginning of a fascination with trains and tracks that has been consistent ever since. When he is pushing a train around a track he gets very meditative. Do you know how very beautiful it is, seeing a vibrant happy child get meditative and still. It's enabled me to get things done, whilst he is in a calm peaceful trance. I sneak peeks at him and marvel at his concentration. It's not true that 2 year olds can't concentrate. They REALLY can when they are absorbed in a task or a much loved activity!
As Aaron's developed and grown, so too has his train collection, and wow, the latest is the best yet, but at his age, requires a lot of parental supervision.
Let me count actually... hhhhhmmmm... Aaron has 6 tracks in total. I would say he sometimes has them all out at the same time, but that hasn't happened since we acquired the latest one, thanks be to God. The latest one fills the floor space in the sitting room.
This is it, it's Thomas and The Breakdown Train and is currently £37 off in Argos. Do note, it is a "web exclusive". The day I went to Argos to buy it, I did not realise this, but they were kind enough to process the online order on their tills right there and then, and I got free delivery a couple of days later to my home. LUCKILY thanks to the discount, I was able to get something else as well, which means Aaron and I did have something to take home straight away while we waited the couple of days for the track to be delivered. It was delivered well before Christmas but I wanted us to play with it for a while before reviewing it (that's my excuse and I am sticking to it)!
The other thing we got that day? Well it was a "Thomas Me Reader" and wow it's fab. We were hungry after the shopping, so we went to McDonalds and Aaron could not wait to get it out... Look:
It's a "toy" that is INCREDIBLY good value for money. At £19.99 I would pay that just for the books themselves - you get EIGHT hard-back, beautiful Thomas books, and it comes with an electronic reader that Aaron simply loves using. SO impressed was I with this, that on Christmas Eve I went to Argos to get another one, for my (dearly departed) Father-in-Law's best friend's Grandson. Nothing better than gifting a toy that you KNOW works and you KNOW will be much played with/loved! To use it you simply press the button for the corresponding book, and then press a symbol each and everytime you turn a page, for the "reader" to read that page to you. It keeps Aaron busy for ages each time he plays with it. I was really impressed with Argos actually, as that day (when we got the second one, not the first) it wasn't in stock in the Argos we went to, and I put down the items I had collected in the queue and said "if you don't have that I am not buying anything" and she said "you can collect it in a nearby store" and even gave me a receipt so that it would be reserved for me. If you remember the weather on Christmas Eve and the fact that we bus it everywhere (I don't drive) you will know how thankful I was to travel to another branch KNOWING it was reserved for my collection.
Back to the Thomas and The Breakdown Train track,
I think it will require another post to be honest, as there is so much to say... The day I set it up, I felt daunted, as it is our first grown up Hornby, electrical track. Slotting the metal pieces of the track together is a real art form, but I soon got the knack of it. You have to do it so that the are totally seamless and smooth to the touch when connected. After all you are in fact creating a circuit, which gives the trains placed on it a current.
See it's a thing of beauty:
That silver line on the wheels chugs round and round and round. Beautiful to watch as it zips and whizzes round the track, effortlessly once positioned correctly.
Things we loved about it:
- The remote control means that Thomas can go fast or slow or anything in between.
- He can even go forwards and backwards.
- There is a lever (I think it's called "points") so that he can go into the sidings.
- He has proper metal things on his wheels that go round and round (unlike all the childlike Thomas trains we've had up to now), and it now makes sense of that action adults make with their arms when they're going chooo chooo (LOL)!
- There's 4 parts to it, which you can't at all tell from Argos's website! You get a Thomas AND a trailer AND a crane and a pick up truck thing that he rests on. Here's the thing though, we keep our curtains open all through Christmas, so the only light in the sitting room is from the window lights. This wasn't enough for me to see what I was doing, and it is an art form to connect all of these carriages together - it is very rewarding and fun once done though, and even more so if you put the 3 bits in the sidings and get Thomas to drive to collect them, as shown in THIS YOU TUBE VIDEO (which is not mine by the way):
Things not so great about it
- The carriages are very delicate, so the hook on the crane has already snapped off. This is more to do with Aaron's age (3.5 years) than the toy itself. I did see it happen so have kept it in a safe place waiting to get the superglue out.
- Resetting the electrics each time something happened got a little trying.
- The website photo is only of the box and should show you the track and parts you get.
- The track mat you get with it is paper and I expected it to be fabric. Because Aaron walked across it a couple of times and dropped things on it a couple of times, it does already have a few tears. On a positive note, it does mean that the track and trains work perfectly on our carpet; you don't require a wooden floor/tiles.
- With the last point in mind, I would love a LARGE (it would have to be very large) table, so that we could get a really good look at the trains as they go round. Placing Thomas on correctly, (so he picks up the electrical charge/current and moves) is easy, but not so with the other "carriages" as they have many wheels and in dim lighting it was hard for me to align these all to the track. If the track was at eye level (on a table) this would be much easier. But then the chap on the You Tube video makes it look dead easy so maybe for some it is.
- I think you can already tell from everything I have said that this track takes up a lot of space. Argos' website states: "Space required 1.57m x 1.14m".
- The box says age 3+, but Argos says on their site: "For ages 7 years and over". Having played with it for over a week, I definitely think Aaron is too young for it, but equally, I think he would fully be responsible for it way before the age of 7, but perhaps no younger than say 5! Good on Argos though for knowing it needed a higher age than stated on Hornby's box!
If you are a parent or relative of a slightly older Thomas fan, and all of the Thomas toys seem too childlike, then THIS TRACK would make the perfect gift, or if you have a husband/partner who is as much of a train enthusiast as your little one, then it is IDEAL FOR 3 YEAR OLDS with full on ADULT SUPERVISION!
For any Thomas fans, you need to get to Argos. Their selection of affordable Thomas & The Tank Engine items is vast, and includes so much more than just the trains and tracks themselves. I wish I had discovered this fact during the last 3 years, or at least 2! There are sections for bedding, clothing, outdoor, DVDs & books, and even a section for gifts for under £20. It's a whole "Thomas and Friends Argos Shop" - awesome actually! Actually I just looked on there again, and they even have a ride on train (for babies older than 12 months) - that would SO have had Aaron's name on if he was younger! It's currently reduced. I've always wanted my second baby (when I hopefully have one) to be a girl - I hope she likes Thomas ;-)
Bye for now, Liska xx
Disclosure: this post was In Association With Argos, but all words and all opinions are my own.