If you’ve ever had a child in pediatric therapy sessions, you might note that many of the sessions are play sessions where children learn how to play with common toys in new ways. Why? We don’t usually associate “therapy” with the word “play”, but kids interpret the world in a different way: they’re motivated by play and imitation of adults, meaning that play will engage their senses more than any worksheet would, which is essential in mental development.
One of the most commonly used toys are cars not only because they’re easy to find, but because they perform many functions and develop skill areas that children often struggle with when they’re younger. Let’s talk about a few of those skill areas.
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Cognition is a fancy way of saying “understanding”. When kids play with cars, there are several ways in which they start to understand how the world works. For example, kids learn about cause and effect. If one drops their toy car down a ramp and it slides down, that’s an effect of putting it on the ramp in the first place.
In addition, kids might learn that an object can be made up of several different parts. So while a vehicle may be a “car”, that car can include wheels, windows, an engine, and more.
Fine motor skills consist of a lot of small actions we can do with our hands, but among them are some of the most important foundational hand movements that help us write, type, draw, and even swing a bat or a racket during our favorite sport.
Playing with toy cars helps develop dexterity and hand-eye coordination, and cars they can drive will help a child learn to use both hands at the same time (for steering, for example).
Kids who have less confidence with how to move their bodies so they don’t trip, fall, or otherwise hurt or embarrass themselves might find a solution in playing with a ride-in toy car. Climbing in and out of one, learning to shut the doors, buckle up, and enjoy the ride will all strengthen a child’s core and coordination.
Children who might struggle with learning words or speaking out loud can be coaxed into saying new words with the use of a car. Since cars are such a common vehicle in our world, learning the parts of a vehicle is something they can practice often and with confidence from when they learned with their toy. Wheels, seat belts, engines, windshields, window wipers - there is much vocabulary development to be had when just talking about a vehicle.
Overall, it’s difficult to go wrong when you buy toy cars - big or small, red or pink, they’re all useful in helping children develop a plethora of important life skills throughout their entire childhood. Plus, who doesn’t love pushing cars around, driving them with a remote, or watching a toddler learn how to use the gas pedal in their first Power Wheels?