Why Do Children Play?
Play is an integral part of childhood for humans and many other mammal species, and although superficially it may appear to be a light-hearted, fun activity, it is through play that children learn and develop. It also seems that the desire to play is innate, as most children will always find a way to play, regardless of whether they are offered toys or not. However, the quality of their play – in terms of reaching academic milestones etc. - can be greatly enhanced by equipping children with good quality toys. Toys are the tools we offer to our children for entertainment, but also to help them learn and engage in creative and constructive play.
There are numerous types of different toys all designed to support the different phases of the child’s development. Sensory toys, for example, are developed to engage the primary senses - touch, sight, and hearing - whereas imaginative play toys are designed to stimulate the imagination and promote creative play. Toy vehicles and construction toys support various types of learning and developmental milestones.
Toy cars, trains, fire engines, police vans, taxis, buses, diggers, and other toys of a similar nature all make popular choices for millions of children across the world. In fact, objects with wheels that have any sort of practical purpose, have proven to be successful play items throughout history and there is good reason for this. It appears that replicas of items from the surrounding environment, make popular play toys. It is clear that the design of many toys was heavily influenced by the environment. Take the wooden toy train as an example, this first started appearing around the time of the birth of the railway industry, during the industrial revolution, toy replicas quickly became popular play items. The same is true of the invention of the car and models of toy cars, object which have long been of fascination by both children and adults alike.
Play with toy vehicles can benefit children in a number of different ways; first and foremost, they offer entertainment and provide hours of fun.
Imaginative or creative play gives children the freedom to create a fictious world which is not constrained by reality – during creative play anything is possible and of course it is the toys which provide the props in this fantastical world. Playing with vehicles offers open-ended play, allowing children to exert some form of control on the objects around them and express their own will within an appropriate, controlled, and safe environment.
A Supported Understanding of The World
During everyday life children are exposed to a wide range of different vehicles, this is true of both urban and rural areas – making play with toy vehicles a particularly interesting theme to incorporate into play, as it helps them to make sense of their surroundings and become more familiar with different roles and functions within the local community. For example, cars are used for travel, fire engines, police cars and ambulances have sirens and blue lights because they are part of the emergency services – something which plays a key role in the community.
Playing with vehicles affords a wonderful opportunity for interactive play and the development of social skills such as communication and turn taking. This allows children to build confidence and establish relationships with other children and siblings, as well as enhancing language skills and building vocabulary.
It appears that playing with toy vehicles can help promote a range of fundamental cognitive development skills – children are inadvertently making calculations and discovering elements of basic physics, the heavier vehicle travels down the ramp at a greater speed, how much weight can be loaded onto a truck or train carriage before it collapses or won’t function, and so forth.
Both fine and gross motor skills are exercised as children learn to move their play vehicles around, during this type of play they are not only able to physically exert themselves by pushing something around but to also steer and guide the vehicle successfully in the right direction – helping them to understand cause and effect, how hard they push something or how much pressure they apply can change the outcome, or if a wheel falls or is pulled off, the vehicle cannot be used in the same way. This type of play helps to improve balance and coordination by the physical actions involved such as reaching, bending, and pushing. Fine motor skills are enhanced through dexterity and the practice of hand to eye coordination.
This type of play also supports STEM learning – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. STEM learning focuses on translating real world applications into a way which is accessible for children; toy vehicles help to teach children about distance, spatial awareness, velocity, weight, and gravity.
Although vehicles have traditionally been marketed at boys, much like the traditional marketing of dolls houses towards girls – this notion is now generally deemed as outdated and both girls and boys can enjoy the numerous benefits of playing with toy vehicles.
Popular Wooden Toy Vehicles
The Montecarlo Sports Collection
This set of 6 wooden sports cars was specifically designed to stimulate imaginative play whilst refining coordination and helping to support colour recognition. The cars are crafted from ethically produced and sustainable rubberwood and decorated with non-toxic paints. They are also compatible with the wooden train tracks and cones.
The Twilight Train
This train features a classic locomotive and a 4-cart train with attachable magnetic carriages, made from sustainable rubber wood and hand painted with non-toxic paints. The train is designed to encourage creative and open-ended play, both individually or interactively, whilst supporting motor skills and STEM learning.
Le Grand Garage
Recommended by The Good Toy Guide Experts in 2016, this award winning 3 storey wooden toy garage comes with a working lift and 2 spiral ramps, as well as a car, helicopter, and a petrol pump. The numbered design assists counting practice, dexterity, coordination and other skills are also supported via play with this ethically produced toy garage.
This set of 5 construction vehicles comes with functioning parts, a lifting crane, scoop, roller, digger, tip-up truck and 2 traffic cones. Each vehicle has functional parts which include an extendable crane, and an articulated digger arm. The set offers an excellent base for encouraging creative play, as well as social and language development, interactive play and turn taking whilst building motor and cognitive skills.
Le Toy Van
Our London based, family run organisation specialises in creating imaginative, high quality wooden toys which not only provide hours of entertainment for babies, toddlers, and young children, but also help to support learning. Ethically made from sustainable, repurposed rubberwood, our hand finished, and award-winning toys are designed to withstand long term use and can be enjoyed by generations to come – a true investment in play. For more information on our products, get in touch today.