play with cars & trucks

Transportation Activities #2: Toy Cars Help Categorizing Skills

Did you know cars and trucks can help kids develop categorizing skills? This is an important brain strategy for coping with lots of information.

helping kids learn to play with cars and trucks

Have you ever felt brain overload, especially at the end of the day or when trying to learn something new? Just think of all that’s new for a child to learn. No wonder kids get cranky. To deal with vast amounts of information the brain sorts it and categorizes it. Categorizing shrinks information into more brain-friendly chunks.

Making groups is one of the early strategies kids develop. We’ve seen kids sort their toys into things they think go together, or families. You can also facilitate it by asking questions or making comments. For instance, when your child is playing with cars and trucks you may notice, “I see 2 cars that are red. Are there any other red cars? All these cars are kind of the same because they are red.” Your child may help you find other red vehicles or make a group of another color.

categorizing skills with cars and trucks

Some groups or categories may seem mixed up to us, but kids have their own ideas. A bunch of cars may be mixed up with trains because they are all the bumpy ones. It’s not always obvious but kids are usually happy to explain. When they are making groups, we can ask if another toy belongs to that family. As kids play, we can occasionally interact and extend their play.

The following quote is from the website Autism Journeys that when teaching kids to categorize, “you are not just teaching a single skill but a system for learning, problem solving and organizing.  You are also teaching the foundation for processing, remembering and integrating new information.”

Cars and trucks and other transportation toys are more than toys. They are vehicles for helping kids play and learn categorizing skills.

Helping Kids Learn to Play Series: #6 Cars, Trucks, and Trains

How Kids Can Play with Cars and Trucks and Toys That Go

Supporting children’s play with cars and trucks and toys with wheels is highly beneficial. With the easy accessibility of digital devices, traditional toys like cars, trucks, trains, and other vehicles may not be as common. As a result, children do not learn as much from other kids about how to play with these toys. As parents and caregivers, we need to support and extend their play with toys for early fun and learning.

helping kids learn to play with cars and trucksBefore they can crawl or walk, both boys and girls, enjoy making cars and trucks zoom around. Once kids can move, they like to chase after toys with wheels. Older toddlers play with cars and trucks in even more ways, often making roads and tracks.

One way to extend play is by showing kids how to make ramps. This can be done easily with blocks and pieces of cardboard. If the strip is long enough, it can be supported on the seat of a chair. Ask your child a few questions such as: Do all the cars go as far? Which one goes the fastest? This adds a dimension of comparing and finding out, two important thinking skills. Be prepared, from a small space, ramps and roads and tracks can grow to need a whole room.

helping kids learn to play with cars and trucksNot all cars and trucks will be the same size or design. Does your child have a favorite one? Talking about the differences will encourage using language and provide some new vocabulary. Count the cars and trucks; check out their colors. Sometimes, kids will make their own groups, like all the sports cars, or all the ones with numbers. This encourages noticing details to sort and categorize. The toys can make a pattern too, such as car-truck, car-truck, and so on.

helping kids learn to play with cars and trucksKids can also use cars, trucks, and trains in pretend play. This kind of play is tremendously important for brain development. Some children may engage in imaginative play on their own, but others can be encouraged with a few suggestions and by getting down on the floor and playing with them. Maybe, take the cars on an adventure up a high sofa mountain. Some trucks can go get a load of blocks. The toys with wheels may need to line up for gas at the coffee table gas station.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>You and/or your child can use different voices for the cars and trucks as they interact. During pretend play, children solve problems, organize, plan, create rules, and more. As they play, they negotiate with others. Both when playing by themselves and with others, they imagine situations and events. Good thing these toys are pretty sturdy, because play can be quite intense! The cars and trucks in the video below go for some exciting rides.

It might seem like cars and trucks on the floor can’t compete with cars and trucks on a screen, but they offer so much more flexible and varied play. Not only are bodies active, but so are brains. Some children may need to see and hear how they can play with these toys. Have you shared some ways with your child? Does your child play with cars and trucks and toys with wheels?

Kindergarten Readiness: Play & Learn with Things That Go

What goes as much as trucks, cars, and trains? Kids! They are always on the go. As kids play with toys that go they are also developing brain connections and kindergarten readiness skills.

When younger children play with cars, trains and trucks they are exploring cause and effect. Cars and trucks move when pushed; they stay still when not being pushed. Kids discover that they can control, more or less, the direction that toys move. Their play develops hand-eye coordination and small muscle control, as well. There’s lots of new words and ideas such as up, down, around, over, under, beside, behind, fast, slow,and other vocabulary.

Later, children add an imaginative dimension to their play. The cars and trucks are going somewhere; the train needs to get loaded and and starts and stops at the station. In pretend play, children practice being in control of a situation, making decisions, and problem-solving. When children play with others, they practice social skills like sharing and negotiating.

Not only boys, girls enjoy playing with cars, trucks, and trains too–although boys seem to have better sound effects. Cars, trucks, and trains are fun to count. What colors are they? Wheels are circle shapes. There’s lots of readiness for kindergarten learning. What else do you notice children learning as they play with things that go?