Thomas: From Supporting Role to Star!

Thomas the Train may be a star in the hearts and minds of young people around the world, but Thomas has not always been in the spotlight. In fact, it took Thomas almost fifty years to reach star status!

In the minds of many parents today, Thomas began as a character in the 90’s television show Shining Time Station. In this live action show, we follow the lives of the people who work at and travel through a small train station somewhere along the fictional Indian Valley Railroad. In this station, children are regularly entertained by a small, magical man named Mr. Conductor. During every episode, Mr. Conductor tells them stories about a very special train—Thomas—and his friends on the Island of Sodor. Through these stories, Shining Time Station made Thomas a star. But, Thomas was created long before this memorable television show.

Those who know Thomas’s whole story know that he was a storybook character long before he appeared on television. He was one of many trains introduced to the world through the books in The Railway Series, a collection of stories written in the middle of the 20th Century by a father, for his son. After being told word-of-mouth from father to son, these stories were written down, illustrated, and first published in 1945. But, not only was Thomas not the star of these stories, but he didn’t even appear in the first book! It’s clear, though, that Thomas has proven himself as the stand-out character. He has gone from supporting role to star!

The Railway Series paved the way for the British television show Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, which spawned Shining Time Station. After that, Thomas took off as the star of spin-off Thomas & Friends  movies, books, and toys. He is now a star in his own right and is recognized by young children from coast to coast, perhaps even worldwide.

A Good Book Never Grows Old

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or family friend, you will always want to give the perfect gift. But it’s sometimes hard to justify purchasing a gift that a child may lose interest in as they grow or that will seem outdated in just a short time as newer, more exciting toys are sold. So, when making your gift-giving decisions, don’t forget the most timeless of all children’s gifts: a good book.


Looking back on your childhood, it might be obvious that books were some of the gifts you enjoyed the most. What makes books so important for children and why are they so often overlooked as gifts?

From very early in their lives, children are like repositories for information, taking in all they see and hear, processing it and storing it for later use. And, when encouraging a child’s learning process, the power of books cannot be underestimated. A child’s first exposure to a book is likely through hearing a parent read the story and seeing the pictures. Throughout the next few years of their development, the very same book they enjoyed hearing read as a toddler can help them in other phases of development. Re-reading the same book over the course of a few years can aid in character development, teach them to communicate through storytelling and then, eventually, help them learn to read as their familiarity with the pictures and storyline will help them understand the words they see.

A good book never grows old. We often overlook them as gifts because other toys seem more exciting for young eyes, but time has told us that a book has lasting value. So, when looking for the perfect gift, it’s nice sometimes to pick the underdog: a good book. But don’t stop there! Read it to them. Then, read it with them. And then sit back and enjoy it as you hear them read it back to you one day!

Gifts For A Little Ballerina

Around their third or fourth birthday, many little girls start to show an interest in being a ballerina. Maybe they see the live dance recital of an older friend or see dancers in a movie. Perhaps their favorite storybook or cartoon character is a ballerina. Regardless of how it happens, it won’t be too long before your little girl is twirling in tutus and asking to take ballet classes. So, when the time comes, and when a birthday or other gift-giving holiday is approaching, consider these gifts for your little ballerina:

Olivia Dream Theatre playset.

Ages 4+.

Find other Olivia toys here!



Angelina Ballerina Puzzle.

Ages 3+.

Find other Angelina Ballerina toys here!



Dora The Explorer Be a Ballerina! Book.

Ages 4+.

Find other Dora the Explorer toys here!



The Wiggles Dorothy the Ballerina shirt.

Sizes 2T-4T.

Find other The Wiggles toys here!



Sesame Street Zoe Ballerina Princess doll.

Ages 3+.

Find other Sesame Street toys here!



So, whether you’re celebrating your little girl’s third birthday, her first ballet recital, or just indulging her new passion for tutus, you have plenty of options for the perfect ballerina gift!



Barney Says, “Clean Up!”

It’s been twenty years since Barney, that ubiquitous purple dinosaur, appeared on television screens. And over the course of those twenty years, children of all ages have grown to love the silly dinosaur, his infectious giggle, and his catchy songs. There is no shortage of Barney and Friends merchandise for young fans, from books and DVDs, to plush Barney toys and games. But what is a parent to do when their little Barney fan won’t cooperate when it’s time to clean up all those great toys? Well, Barney himself has plenty to say about that!

“Clean up, clean up. Everybody, everywhere!
“Clean up, clean up. Everybody, do your share.”

Barney’s “Clean Up” song is one of the few Barney and Friends songs that most of us have heard, even those who have never seen the show. This song is so well-known, in fact, that it’s used in classrooms, churches, and homes around the country to help make cleaning up after play a little more fun for children. But the great thing about Barney’s “Clean Up” song is that it can be used anytime your kids need a little nudge of encouragement—after dinner, before bed, while preparing for visitors, etc. It’s not just for cleaning up after playtime!

Since you’re probably familiar with the song, it might be worth learning if you know a young child who dreads cleaning up their toys. (You can listen to it on the Barney music player here!) Consider it a little trick you keep up your sleeve for times when the kids are uncooperative or moving too slowly while they clean up. Singing the song together will help them move a little faster, make it a little more fun, and encourage everyone to do their share!



If the “Clean Up” song is not enough, or if your kids need a quick lesson in doing their share to help out, you might consider watching Barney’s “Clean Up, Clean Up!” DVD together.

For the Thomas Fan Who Has Everything

What do you buy for a little boy who is in love with Thomas and Friends but already seems to have every Thomas train toy he could ever need? Well, first of all, think beyond the toy train. Then, because Thomas and Friends appeals to a wide range of ages, think about age-appropriateness.

Some ideas:

1st Birthday- For Thomas’s youngest fans, consider buying them their own Thomas pajamas.

2nd Birthday- Since this is the year most children begin their potty training, consider buying a Thomas and Friends potty seat! I can guarantee it will make the process a little more enjoyable for any two-year-old.



3rd Birthday- For a three-year-old, learning how to follow rules and take turns is an important part of making and keeping friends! To acquire these skills while having fun, the Thomas and Friends Birthday Surprise Game might be a good place to start!


4th Birthday- What four-year-old doesn’t enjoy art projects? Buy this young Thomas fan a sticker or paint set!


5th Birthday and beyond- If there’s one thing a child can never have enough of, it’s good books! For birthday parties for school-aged children, you can never go wrong with a few Thomas and Friends books.



No matter what their age, your little Thomas and Friends fan is sure to have the perfect gift waiting for them on their big day!