A Thomas and Friends Birthday Party!

Your son is a few months away from turning five and you haven’t finalized plans for his first official “friend party.” What can you plan to insure that he and his friends never forget this birthday? Invite his favorite character, Thomas the Train!

If you are handy in the kitchen, you can impress everyone with a creative Thomas the Train cake. If baking’s not your strong suit, most large bakeries can make a cake for you. For the rest of the food, keep it simple. Kids are really only interested in the cake, aren’t they? And what about party favors? Instead of buying disposable party supplies, consider buying a brand new Thomas and Friends dinnerware set for each party guest. They can use them for food or just take them home to keep!

Keep things fun for everyone by keeping the kids busy and moving. Visit the Thomas and Friends website for a few great games and activities like a version of “Simon Says” featuring Sir Topham Hatt and, for older kids, a Thomas-themed game of Twenty Questions.

If you haven’t yet found the perfect gift, there are about a million Thomas toys to choose from. You might take this opportunity to add a few more train cars to his toy train set or go for something new with a Thomas and Friends Dieselworks Playset.

No matter what you plan for the party, your birthday boy and his guests are sure to have fun because one of their favorite characters will be there!

 

E-Books or Paper Books?

In an age when children have access to a multitude of exciting high-tech devices, it’s easy to believe that “old-school” games and toys are no longer desirable. After all, why bother a child with a bland picture book when he can use an interactive reading game on his mother’s smartphone? Well, a few recent studies have suggested that you should think twice before reaching for the e-reader. And this goes for kids’ books, too.

First of all, for those new to the concept, e-books are versions of traditionally-published books that are available in electronic form on reading devices like the iPad or Kindle, rather than on paper like traditional published versions. There are many reasons why e-books are in such high demand today: they are inexpensive (sometimes free); multiple books can be stored on one single hand-held device; e-readers have built-in highlighting and bookmarking features; e-books often contain enhanced features such as images, discussion questions, or related activities.  And, as far as most kids are concerned, anything new is automatically desirable.

So, why are the experts concerned? First of all, e-readers are designed for individual use; paper books are more easily shared. Because we know, from multitudes of studies, that a child’s foundation of language is often built upon hearing their parents read aloud, it’s important that a book can be shared between parent and child. Second, e-books tend to have more “bells and whistles”; most traditional books contain a simple, linear narrative. Although the added features of an e-book may make the story more fun for young eyes, a child’s retention and comprehension is higher with a simple storyline.

When your child’s eighth birthday rolls around and you’re stuck deciding between a Thomas & Friends e-book or a good old paper copy of Thomas favorites, consider the purpose of the book itself. E-books are great for the interactive exploration of your child’s favorite stories or characters. But, if you are looking for a way to increase your child’s literacy and comprehension skills, a traditional paper book is the way to go.

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.

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!

The LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer

Leapfrog Leappad Explorer
The LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer, also known as “The Tot Tablet,” is hard to compete with, especially because it has educational games, e-books, a video recorder and camera all built into it. It has won several awards, including the 2012 Preschool Toy of the Year. It was the number one requested gift on the list for young children this past Christmas. LeapFrog Enterprises continues to grow while other toy companies, such as Mattel and Hasbro, are experiencing declining sales.
This toy is very similar to the iPad. However, the LeapFrog tablet is specifically designed for 4-9 year olds–and therefore is much less dangerous to drop!   TheLeapFrog LeapPad Explorer comes with a few apps pre-installed. Others, like Thomas the Train apps, can be purchased separately. Although the LeapFrog apps may be more expensive to download than apps for the iPad, they are of high quality and educational, just like all of LeapFrog’s products.

The recent trends that we are seeing beg the question, are young children beginning to ditch their Barbies and Mr. Potato Heads for more technological toys? It would definitely appear that way.