Dinosaur Train is a show on PBS intended for preschoolers or children age three and up. The show uses a family of Pteranodons and their adoptive brother, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, to teach about dinosaurs and diversity.
The show is great for young children because it frequently utilizes songs to explain complex ideas. They also make sure to define any large words they might use, teaching children a diverse vocabulary. The show usually explores a different dinosaur in each segment, teaching children facts like when and where the dinosaur lived, what they ate, and other scientific information like classification terms. The show also makes sure to show different dinosaurs getting along, such as herbivores and carnivores, even showing the main characters speaking with dinosaurs or other creatures from this area that would traditionally eat them. Much of the information is concentrated on learning about differences in order to celebrate them. In between segments, a real paleontologist talks about the dinosaurs and their discovery, giving facts and showing fossils and skeletons.
The show is not without flaws, however. The family uses a dinosaur train to travel through the different time periods in the Mesozoic Era to visit different dinosaurs and creatures. Although this helps remind children frequently of complex vocabulary terms such as Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Mesozoic, it does add an additional unbelievable premise beyond talking dinosaurs to a mostly educational show. The long, multi-syllabic words frequently used may be difficult for preschoolers to grasp, although repetition and definitions do make it easier for them to remember.
Common Sense Media gives it four out of five stars, with reviewer Emily Ashby stating that, “kids are encouraged to think critically about the world around them, comparing dinosaurs’ traits to those of modern animals, for example, and learning to classify different species by size, appearance, and lifestyle habits.” As for its take on diversity, the review continues to say, “There are also plenty of positive messages about tolerance and respect for differences.”
Common Sense Media goes on to give it four out of five stars for educational value, five out of five for positive messages, four out of five for positive role models, and only one out of five stars for consumerism because the show directs children to pbskids.org at the end of every episode. Even the website, however, brings the user to a page full of educational games and clips from shows. There is no way to purchase anything on the site without first going to the parent site and then choosing to enter the Shop.
All in all, Dinosaur Train is a fun and educational way to teach kids about dinosaurs and complex scientific concepts while thrilling young children who love dinosaurs and adventures.