Thomas and Friends has been a hit television show with young toddler and preschool aged kids for decades, prompting children to develop large collections of train toys and games. In addition these days, technology toys and iPad toys and games are popular toys amongst children. Discovery Bay Games has released a new Thomas and Friends game, specifically for the iPad, called Steam Team Station. By downloading the free apps then placing the iPad in the Steam Team Station, kids are encouraged to play games with their favorite Thomas characters that involve "I Spy" activities, and memory to find cards throughout the living room as they engage in physical play to run, bounce, skip and walk.
Thomas the Train Steam Team Station for iPad
6 different double-sided plastic game cards
2 free apps: Steam Engine Relay, Sodor Spot-It
Additional app, Seek and Find Adventure, can be purchased for $1.99
How to Play
The Steam Team Station is a plastic train station that the iPad is inserted into. There are 2 iPad apps that are downloaded for free that are for use with the Steam Team Station set, an additional app is available for purchase at $1.99. Included in the Steam Team Station are 6 additional durable plastic, double sided cards that store in a compartment on the back side of the train station when not in use. On the cards, one side shows a picture of an individual train including Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Emily, Edward, or James for use in the Steam Engine Relay and Seek and Find Adventure apps. The other side of the card include various pictures for use in the Sodor Spot-It game.
In the Steam Engine Relay game the cards are placed engine side up 10 steps away from the Steam Team Station within the play space or living room. The app will encourage children to search for a specific train and bring it back to insert it into the station.
In Sodor Spot-It, all of the cards are placed in front of Steam Team Station, item side up. The app encourages kids to search for various pictures, then insert that card into Steam Team Station. Initially the direction is provided verbally. If the child answers incorrectly, it will then show the picture of the item to search for.
In Seek and Find Adventure, the app that can be purchased, the cards are placed around the living space again. However, kids are asked to complete various physical actions to find them such as skip, bounce, walk backwards, walk slowly, crawl, etc. After answering correctly, a short video clip is played on the app involving the train the child was asked to find.
There are 2 additional activities included in the app that are called Watch and Whistle, and Whistle Practice, where you don't need to have Steam Team Station to play. Watch and Whistle has the various engines blow their whistles. The child needs to remember the pattern and then touch each engine in order it was played. Whistle Practice is really simple and if kids touch each engine the whistle blows.
First I would suggest downloading the free Steam Team app, which was easy to find in the app store. Then within minutes of opening the packaging, the Steam Team Station was slid open, and the iPad inserted. You will have to remove the iPad from any protective cases and coverings to insert it into Steam Team Station, leaving it vulnerable when playing with kids. I would continue to supervise younger children playing these games, until you have a sense of their care for the device, given that 2 of the 3 apps encourage kids to run, crawl, and bounce to return the engine cards.
Once the app is activated, the menu is easy to navigate between the 3 choices of games. The directions of the game are easy to follow and included prior to the start of each game. My son, who just turned 3, was able to follow along easily with my encouragement. Our only issue is that we aren't avid watchers of Thomas and Friends. Though he knows who Thomas is, in the Steam Engine Relay game when verbally asked to find a specific engine, it was a lot of trial and error for him until he learned who the specific trains were, or was able to see the picture after making an incorrect choice. Thomas the Train enthusiasts, no doubt, won't have that learning curve.
With the Sodor Spot-It app, my son was able to find most of the items suggested verbally. If he couldn't then the picture would flash up on the screen after an incorrect choice, which he was then able to successfully match. Some of the items asked for have unique names, again that Thomas & Friends watchers will probably know from the show, but were a little awkward for those of us who were unfamiliar.
With the purchased app, which I bought myself, the app encourages kids to retrieve a train card by completing various physical actions. The actions vary in skill depending on whether easy or hard was selected in the settings. My only 1 suggestion is that it only verbally encourages kids to complete the action first, while the word is flashed on the screen. In my professional experience, kids aren't always able to respond on a verbal request alone, nor can this age group read the words flashed on the screen. So, without a demonstration of the action, many children may not know what skipping or tip-toe walking means. So I would definitely help your children in the beginning, providing visual demonstrations of the action until they are familiar with the specific request.
One thing I've recently learned when testing apps is to always check the settings within various apps. In this particular app, you can switch from individual to multi-player modes, as well as switch from easy to more difficult game play. Without looking in this section of that app, some people may not realize the full capabilities of their purchase, especially if the activities are initially to easy for their child's current skill level.