Why vehicle play is so crucial for our kids: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Vehicle & Construction Play
Toy vehicles have been a staple part of the toy cupboard for years, from simple wooden toys to high-tech remote control cars. Children range from enamoured to obsessed with TV shows like Thomas The Tank Engine, Blaze And The Monster Machines and Bob The Builder and although the catchy songs and high pitched voices tend to catch their attention, something deeper is going on. And here’s why we should encourage it.
Benefits of vehicle play:
Children see vehicles often in their daily lives and tend to shout out what they see with such excitement, so they like to incorporate these in small world play. Pretend play allows children to put into effect their creativity and it helps them make sense of the world around them.
Preschoolers mostly like to copy their role models and we see this often in games such as Doctors & Nurses, Cops & Robbers, Mummys & Daddys. We see this further when they use the tools to copy these figures and ride-ons that look like real cars give them the chance to do this.
Toys that move are great for encouraging movement, as children wheel their toys around their place space. This is especially key for children who are on the way to crawling, as it will give them a fun reason to become more mobile, whilst becoming more confident in play. Movement helps develop their coordination, balance and gross motor skills.
Children who are strengthening their fine motor skills will also benefit from grasping the toys while wheeling them around. Once they move on to opening and closing doors, putting people in the vehicles, or moving bits of track around, children develop fine motor skills. Then, when they put it all together and start throwing their vehicles around the tracks and moving things through space, cognitive development happens. Children won’t be aware that this learning is happening but all these concepts will be taking root.
Ride-ons are good for children around 18 months and up, as these motivate leg movement, helping strengthen the muscles needed for walking.
Understanding the world
Children are always quick to point out the difference between a truck, tractor, lorry and van – much to my confusion J Children can become familiar with the different vehicles through play. Some toys also introduce children to roles in the community, like the a recycling truck, delivery van, police car. This builds on their knowledge of the world and their community. In fact, the connection between real life and play is why toy vehicles have stood the test of time. Because while parents often sit in the passenger seat before getting out to do their shopping, whilst their little ones insist on getting in the front seat, pretending to drive; children love to pretend to drive! Vehicle toys let them do that.
Social or Independent play
Toy vehicles can be played with independently, but children also love to add in some competition and race each other! This encourages children to share and negotiate (for example, deciding who gets the special red car), and explain their rules amongst them.
Boats at bath time
Children can often be reluctant to have a bath but using vehicles in the bath can help! Toy boats are great for turning the bath into a giant ocean and continuing play here.
Vehicle toys can be used for water play, which is a great sensory activity and it allows children to learn about the effects of water (e.g. learning that if they push a floating boat under the water, it will bob back up again).
Encouraging sounds in play
Early communication involves children making their own sound effects when playing. Toy vehicles can support this as children are likely to have seen them in action – so they know to make a ‘brum’ noise for a car or a ‘choo-choo’ noise for a train.
Construction toys let children build their own tracks for vehicles to run on. This helps develop logical thinking, by learning which pieces can fit together and how this will affect the vehicle’s route.
Children can also discover cause and effect, by finding out what happens if they push or drop vehicles down ramps and along tracks. Construction toys and vehicle toys allow true hands-on learning. You’re not just trying to explain certain theories to your child about trajectory or buoyancy, but now they’re literally experiencing it – the best way to learn is through doing!