Out train collection is pretty good and most of it has been free or cost very little; a mix of wooden Brio found at nearly new sales or hand-me-downs, die-cast Thomas figures picked up from street stalls or charity shops (some even from 1981!) and new plastic style set found on the street with a battery powered Thomas and various other Thomas trains bought as gifts or bribes...mainly bribes.
In the lead up to the wedding we were both obviously pretty busy and perhaps couldn't give Theo as much attention as we usually do (planning a wedding with a two and a half year old is hard!) and when I needed to get on with something I couldn't really sit and build an elaborate brio track and play with him like I usually do. I felt guilty about it, and what do you do when you feel guilty, well of course you throw a toy at him in the hopes it keeps him occupied! We looked around and found a large range of boys toys available from Argos like this Thomas the Tank Engine train set (would obviously be a good toy for a girl too!)
We chose this set because it had a fun battery powered Thomas with different voices and phrases. Theo also loves Cranky and we don't own one yet so I thought he'd enjoy playing with him too. The train goes round the track and stops at the different points according to which button you press on the top. It's pretty simple and easy to use and Theo picked it up straight away. He enjoyed pushing Thomas around as well as watching his chuff around on his own. The track is pretty simple to put together, but I'm not sure Theo could do it himself in the right order, and obviously you can'y really make your own design like you can with wooden sets which he does like to do.
Theo does enjoy playing with the set, and he likes talking along with the voices, taking the cargo from the docks to the sheds etc. The only thing I would say about sets like this is that they obviously don't involve the same amount of imagination or input from the child when playing. When Theo plays with his other trains he likes to reenact stories, have conversations with the different trains and of course builds his own tracks. I find that with most modern toys really they come with all these different pre-loaded functions and activities which are good to some extent to encourage role playing or to direct play, but I don't think they should ever take away the most important aspect of playing which is engaging the child's imagination. Some times I think the best toys are ones that are inanimate until they are picked up and brought to life by a child. That being said I'm sure this track with be played with quite a bit, and makes a good addition to our pretty extensive collection!