By Hannah Halsall
If you have a toddler then you will likely be familiar with the latest in Cbeebies (Bing, Hey Duggee, Andy's various adventures and the many faces of Justin Fletcher to name a few) or Milkshake's offerings (Ben and Holly, Noddy, Paw Patrol and of course Peppa Pig) or maybe you're more Disney (mickey mouse clubhouse). If your toddler is anything like mine then their favourite programme is literally life.
For my toddler, the obsession is Thomas and Friends.
It started small. He started loving the wooden train set at Christmas 2017 when he was 21 months. He loved putting the trains down the track.
Then it became that he carried his wooden Thomas train everywhere.
He learned the names of his favourite trains (which massively reassured me as I was worried that his speech was delayed).
Then we got one of the Thomas films. It became an obsession. I have never watched a film so many times in one day... Or possibly ever.
And so we fell down the black hole that is Thomas and Friends. There are 23 series of the show plus films and don't even get me started on the YouTube parodies and channels.
We have embraced this as a family and its become such a part of our lives that me and my husband frequently have conversations about Thomas without the kids there. And these conversations are often very serious rather than being ironic. I mean my husband and I have discussed setting up our own YouTube channel.
We own more track than you would believe and own a fair amount of engines. When we booked our holiday to Butlins last year we decided to go to Thomasland at the same time because it was closer than going from home. Around 80% of our conversations feature trains or Sodor or The Fat Controller (yes he's still called that, don't believe the rumours) . And one of my work colleagues has made us 2 cds of Thomas songs to listen to in the car.
Thomas has taught my son his colours including the more tricky colours like silver, it has taught him about other countries, it has taught him to start recognising numbers. And of course it has taught him a lot about trains - steam engines, diesels, streamlining, tenders, tank engines, diesel railcars, the Rocket (one of the first ever trains in real life) and the Flying Scotsman. His grandpa would have been so proud as he was a proper railway buff.
We use Thomas to explain big concepts too. Being scared, happy, sad, friendship, competition and teamwork are all covered. We have reinforced these ideas with other play but we've found that it is a really effective way to explain these concepts in a way he can understand.
It has led to so much imaginative play, developed fine motor skills and lateral thinking with track layout, putting the track together and then creating our own stories.
Now all we need is to explain that sharing with his brother is a very Thomas thing to do 😂🙈