Nine Benefits of Playing with Cars and Trains
If there’s one thing about being a parent, it’s that it conjures up nostalgia and memories of your own childhood. And when you think back, you realise how important play was. Whether you were putting a dolls house together, playing tag outside with friends, or finding different uses of toy cars - play is central to growing up.
But play isn’t just about having fun, it’s also an important tool helping children to grow, develop, and learn about the world around them. Today, we use play to make mealtimes fun, to teach children valuable life lessons, and to develop certain skills, such as gross motor skills
In this feature, we’re going to look at why children love to play, but more specifically - the benefits of playing with trains and cars.
“Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.” – Abraham Maslow
Why do children like to play?
But first – why is play important? Play is an essential part of being a child. It offers entertainment, stimulation and fun. It also helps children grow and develop, use their creativity and develop their physical, cognitive and emotional skills.
Sir Ken Robinson, a ‘Creativity Expert’ explains that “The simple act of free, self-initiated play helps unlock a child’s innate creativity, imagination, interests and talents.”
You might also wonder why do babies play with toy cars and trains so much? You might have noticed that some toys never go out of fashion – like trains, cars and dolls. These ‘classic toys’ tap into children’s imaginations and are relatable since they are mini replicas of items they encounter every day. So, if your 2 year old only wants to play with cars, you know why!
Now for the interesting bit…
Nine benefits of playing with toy cars for toddlers.
1. Improves physical skills
During observation on child playing with cars, you can see the many different movements they make whilst playing. For instance, racing a toy car around a track, or pushing a car up a ramp. In the process, these movements are helping to hone their physical skills.
2. Develops fine motor skills
Which brings us to fine motor skills – the dexterity of movement in hands and wrists. When children play with toy cars and trains, they improve their hand movement and skills. This also helps them with a number of life skills, from writing with a pen, to holding cutlery and painting with brushes.
3. Can help with hand-eye coordination
From picking up toy cars, to whooshing your favourite Thomas the Tank Engine around a track – these actions all help children hone their hand-eye coordination. This is at the core of many life skills – beneficial in playing sport, academic activities and of course reaction times.
4. Helps with feeding
As we know, fine motor skills are essential for children’s personal development. Specifically, helping them to grip pens, tools, food and cutlery. Playing with toy vehicles and trains can help a child master the ‘pincer grip’- which is the ability to hold something between their first finger and thumb. Children tend to master this around 9 to 10 months old, and it’s an important early milestone, especially in their progression for self-feeding.
5. An encouraging tool
Speaking of food, elements of play can be used to make mealtimes fun. This can be beneficial especially around the age of 18 months to four years old, when fussy eating behaviour is common in children. Making mealtimes fun, be it through playing with toy cars, or playing games together, is one of the best ways to bring children to the table and keep them there.
In fact, the National Autistic Society even recommends using a special interest to encourage children at mealtimes and “eating from a Thomas the Tank Engine plate” alongside other strategies.
Munchy Play kids’ plates feature a built-in track, which fit Hot Wheels™ cars and all Thomas & Friends ™ Trackmaster engines, inviting kids to the table and helping to keep them there.
6. Inspires imaginative play
One of the main benefits of playing with cars and trains, is that it allows children to develop different scenarios and situations, which expands their creative imaginations. Automobiles are especially versatile – you can race and crash them, do stunts with them and even take them on a mealtime journey. This can help children broaden their skills and interests too.
7. Helps language development
Child psychologist and Professor Jeffrey Goldstein from the University of Utrecht has studied the relationship between children and play. In an article in the Daily Telegraph, he emphasises the importance of play, saying: “There is no other activity that develops their language, spatial awareness, social and communication skills and physical abilities in such a prolonged way.” So if you're looking for ways to improve child's speech development, this might be something to consider.
During play, children practice language skills and can build upon their vocabulary. The added benefit of interacting with others, helps to improve sounds and speech.
One of the great benefits of playing with toy cars for toddlers, is that it can help with language. Researchers conducted an experiment with toddlers splitting them into groups. One group was given toy building blocks and cars to one group, including guidance for parents on how to encourage play. The second group weren’t given any blocks or guides. After six months, researchers returned to the toddlers to test their language. The results showed that those given cars and blocks had much better language skills, which the scientists put down to greater interaction with parents – which in turn helps speech.
8. Supports STEM learning
STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is ever-important in this digitally-driven world. Interestingly, one of the benefits of playing with cars and trains, is that it can teach children albout physics and science, even in its most basic form. For instance, understanding cause and effect, speed and pressure – these are all valuable skills.
9. Understanding strength
One of the many uses of toy car is to roll it around and see how fast and slow it can go. This in turn, can help children learn about their own strength, and how much pressure to apply.
The different types of play
Finally, if you’re interested in the different types of play that children partake in, here’s a quick overview:
- Onlook play
Common in younger children, some kids learn by copying or observing others. This goes hand in hand with onlook play, where children stand back to observe what’s going on around them.
- Parallel Play
You might have heard of this one from your nursery keyworker. Parallel play is where children play side by side with each other. Sometimes together, but often on their own. This is especially common in younger children around 2 or 3 year’s old, it’s viewed as an important step to the later stages of play.
- Cooperative Play
This is particularly common in pre-schoolers whose social skills are more developed, It involves children coming together to play with each other. It might be a game of chase, playing with a Hot Wheels garage, or learning to build a puzzle together. Either way, it helps set the stage for future play.
- Imaginative Play
Thanks to our changeable weather, Brits have a lot of experience in this, thanks to endless days spent indoors! Creative play can include all forms of bringing imaginations to life, from drawing to painting, as well as playing with water, or learning to knit. The foundations of this type of play help children to express their feelings through a different outlet, and to communicate and share their personality.
- Dramatic play
Sometimes known as pretend play, it can involve dressing up, role play and storytelling. It helps inspire imaginations and bring some emotion to play, including relationship building and the all-important art of negotiation.
How to help your child creatively play
Play may come naturally to children, but as parents we’re always keen to find new ways to explore this. Try these five tips: