Nick loves Thomas and Friends, as I’m sure most two year olds do. The small, rugged trains are painted in bright colors, have strong magnets, and a world of television, clothing, and Internet promotion to keep the kids coming back for more. Obviously a huge marketing success, Thomas can also be used to teach our children about many things.


One of the best things about the Thomas and Friends trains are the wide variety of colors that the engines and trucks are painted. No real life railroad would paint their locomotives red, blue, green, black, orange, purple, and brown, but it sure helps our kids learn about colors. As you play, ask your kids questions about colors like:

Nick, which engine is blue?

Nicholas, what color is Gordon?


I’m sure many corporate fleets could learn something about the simple method that Sir Topham-Hat uses to keep his group of engines organized. There is no way that the local company my neighbor works for is so big that his truck deserves to have UNIT # 465C painted on the side of it. The Sodor Train Company keeps things simple: Thomas is #1, Percy is #6, Gordon is #4. This is great for learning numbers and counting. As you play, ask your kids questions like:

Nicholas, which engine is #6?

Nick, do you see the number 2 on any of these engines?

As a child grows older, you could even use the trains to teach addition and subtraction. Imagine making a long train, counting all of the cars together, and then removing two cars from the end of the train.

How many cars are left?

Or, try addition:

If Percy is pulling two mail trucks, and picks up one milk truck, how many trucks is Percy pulling now?


 Alright, two is a little young to be thinking about my child becoming the next star student at MIT, but the fact is that the laws of physics control the way the world around us works. The sooner that our kids become familiar with these concepts, the sooner that they can move on to other things. Nick’s eyes light up when one train magically picks another up off the floor, or pushes another train down the track just by bringing them close to each other. Many people don’t know this, but the trains have opposite poles on each of their magnets. This means that the train cars and engines all have to be facing in the same direction in order for them to couple to each other. Place them in the wrong direction and the forces of magnetism actually repel the two cars. It’s amazing to watch my son place two cars together, realize one is backwards, and turn it around so that they both click together.


 Those little wooden train tracks have connectors that are not much larger than many puzzle pieces. It requires a fairly high degree of dexterity to assemble a track.


Think about the considerable imaginative play that is required to create a story in your child’s mind and act it out on a set of wooden rails. Also consider the significant understanding of the world that a 2 year old needs in order to lay 10 pieces of track into a complete circuit so that he or she can drive a train completely around it. It requires a clear vision of what the end product looks like, and an understanding of cause and effect to place one piece in one way and knowing that the next piece has to go a certain way or the track will never work out. The individual pieces of train tracks are really an open ended game for kids; kind of like Grand Theft Auto 4 but without the shoot-outs (and drugs and prostitutes).

The best part? I like Thomas too. The toys are fun and simple, and I love playing trains with my son. Keep an eye on this blog for some other train news as Nick’s birthday approaches.

Interested in picking up some Thomas and Friends toys? Check out for a complete selection.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs