Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why I Hate Thomas the Tank Engine

I've shared in a few previous blog posts about my disdain for a certain little blue tank engine. But, I've never shared exactly why I dislike him so much. So, indulge me for a moment while I dive into the incredible annoyingness that is Thomas the Tank Engine.

First off, he and his buddies are freaky. In fact, it took Choi Boy a while to actually warm up to Thomas and his friends and he called them scary for a long time (while I not-so-silently-cheered and happily directed him towards other toys and characters). The exaggerated facial expressions scared CB and I was happy to keep him away from them. However, once CB became super interested in the trains, the exaggerated faces became hilarious to him and I'm sad to say that he often imitates them. Especially the angry faces. Grrr. Literally. (On the other hand, check out this fascinating study about children with autism and their connection with Thomas and Friends' exaggerated expressions!)

Secondly, Thomas and his friends are often whiny and pouty and boastful and mean to each other. They make fun of each other; play tricks on one another; and everything is always a competition between the trains. And they're always getting into trouble with Sir Topham Hatt! Their behavior is just not what I want my 3 year-old to watch and absorb.

Finally, he's eeeeeeverywhere. I'm not kidding. EVERYWHERE. When we were in Korea in 2010 he was everywhere there, too! You're probably wondering why on earth I would expose my child to Thomas when I dislike him so much. The thing is, I don't. Not really. But, if we walk into the book store or library, the Thomas books are prominently displayed. And when we go to friends' houses, and all the kids want to watch Thomas, I'm not going to be *that* mom and not let my child watch. And, of course, when Choi Boy doting aunts, uncles, grandparents, great uncles and great aunts find out he likes Thomas, Thomas he gets. What's worse is that, as Mrs. Yo-Yo once said, Thomas is the gateway train and only sets some major train-lovin' in motion. Sigh.

Since that darn tank engine is everywhere, we do try to limit his exposure to him when we can, esepecially when it comes to watching the Thomas and Friends show. At home, I don't let CB watch Thomas. We don't get the channels that show it on our TV, so the only way CB can watch is online or on DVD. We once borrowed a couple Thomas DVDs from the library and quickly decided we would not be borrowing anymore. I do let CB borrow one Thomas book from the library on each visit, because as silly as it sounds, I do want to respect his literary choices.

We've really cut back on CB's screen time, but when he does watch something on the tube (maybe a total of 1-2 hours on the weekends only), here are the shows that are momma approved for Choi Boy (and while I still have almost full control of what he does and doesn't watch, we'll be sticking to this list!):

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: People, I love this show. LOVE it. (Confession: sometimes I watch it on my own. On purpose.) It is so developmentally appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers and the songs are so catchy and fun. I love the connection to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (an old favorite of mine) and the lessons are simple, yet powerful. Plus, the characters are so darn cute!

Curious George: Yes, it's true, George is a mischievious little monkey. But he's never malicious, and I always play up the fact that George is a monkey and not a child which can be used to explain some of his crazy antics. I also love that there is a Math or Science lesson embedded within each 12 minute episode.

Super Why: I feel that some shows that try to integrate letter learning and early reading skills can often feel forced, but I don't feel that with Super Why. Also, the methods the characters use to boost phonological awareness are actually pretty sound.

Chuggington: Chuggington has become our great train compromise. While there is a little more silliness and poking fun in this show versus the ones listed above, it is still presented in an age-appropriate way with much more easy-to-read redemption in those situations. Plus, this show has many more positive female characters, which is something that is seriously lacking in the Thomas stories. I really love the fact that the fastest chugger is a girl!

While I can't keep Choi Boy totally and completely away from Thomas the Tank Engine, I am not ashamed to admit that I will excitedly tout the awesomeness of of the characters on my "approved" list in order to downplay Thomas...I'm so bad. ;)

Tell me I can't be the only one...what children's characters do you hate? Which do you love?


  1. Are you aware you can buy the Chuggington's train sets and trains? The track system, I believe, is interchangeable with the Thomas system.

    I'm very particular about children and the "tube", so much so in fact that my daughter has yet to see it! I figure at two years old, there's no need. The television is never on when she is up. It's rarely on, period. In this day and age, I figure she is going to be stuck with a life time of screens and technology. She doesn't need it just yet.

    Characters she enjoys through books at the moment are some of the Beatrix Potter characters as well as characters from Winnie the Pooh. She actually has a duplo set with Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore. She LOVES it and knows who everyone is. I think the Winnie the Pooh characters are rather fun too!

    1. Yup, we have Chuggington trains, too! It's just that Thomas trains are eeeeverywhere, so he's gotten several as gifts bought at places like Marshall's and TJ Maxx. Sigh...;)

      I love Winnie the Pooh, too! We started reading the stories this year and we're having a lot of fun with them!

  2. I detest Caillou. He whines and complains. His parents are wimpy and they give in to him way too much, hence, more whining! It seemed to be a show MeeSong was drawn to right away, but we noticed after a few months she would repeat the whiny things Caillou would say so we cut her off. Now she prefers Peppa Pig...I love listening to the characters talk with the accent even though I'm not a fan of how they're illustrated. They have these strange side ways Picasso style faces that are really odd...but cute storylines! Oh and I can never get enough of Berenstein Bears...I will watch that one by myself actually.

  3. Haha, I dislike Thomas, too. But I really hate Caillou, and I despise Dora with the fire of a thousand suns...Caillou is terrible, because he constantly gets rewarded for whining, and tantrums, it kills me. And Dora is educational, but her expressions weird me out, and there is so much yelling in that show...everyone yells at each other, and my kids are loud enough! We watch wonderpets, some go,diego, go! and there are a few movies we will watch. We really don't do much tv eithe, and right now, our youngest doesn't watch any...

  4. Also not a fan of the Thomas shows and books. The themes are not really toddler appropriate, in one story, trains get held hostage and the steamworks is taken over by force by the diesels. The Steamies vs Diesels stuff seems kinda racist too. Love Chuggington though, it's all about being your best, quite sweet. Sadly my oldest is train-crazy so we own Thomas trains, I wanted the Chuggington trains but they were all 3 and up while the Thomas trains were 2 and up and he knew them from friends and loved to play with them (he wasn't watching the show though as he'd cry whenever they fought so I stopped allowing it). I looked at buying Chuggington trains now that my son's older but they don't fit under the bridges we have as they're bigger, despite fitting on the same tracks, ack! Oh well, Thomas is fairly harmless if we skip the books and movies...

  5. I also don't like Thomas - I find they are such bullies. We are fans of Curious George too! But who I don't like... I can't stand Bobby from Bobbies World - drives me crazy. That and The Cat in the Hat Knows Alot About That. I must admit - I didn't mind Caillou - I think because the storyline was simple, the colors were bright although he was a tad whiny.

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  7. I find the study on Thomas and those Aspergers interesting. My cousin-in-law is an individual with Aspergers and a huge fan of Thomas, even at the age of 21. In fact, he wrote (and published) his own train book loosely based off of Thomas (Charley McChooChoo). It all makes so much more sense now.


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