What does your child learn when they are playing with cars? My little boy can spend countless hours (just kidding…minutes) zooming and racing his cars in our house and outside. Although this may look like just simple play there is a lot that your little one can learn from his or her cars, trucks, or tractors. In this post I will let you know how to embed and facilitate your toddler’s play so that they can get the most out of it. Learning through play is how children naturally learn. Playing with cars provides lots of opportunities to grow skills in all areas of development including: communication, social emotional, cognitive, motor, and adaptive.
There are a lot of words and sounds that are great to target during car play. If your child is not talking yet, focus on having them imitate your actions and sounds. This is important because it is much easier for a child to imitate actions and sounds so it is a natural first step! Take a book and angle it so it forms a ramp, and make your car drive up it saying “up, up, up!” Using words that are short and fun to say will make it more likely for your child to imitate them. Some examples of words to target include: beep, go, stop, crash, zoom. Using the same set of words during car play with allow your child the repetitive practice they need to make it a permanent word in their vocabulary.
Is your toddler using single words well but still difficult to understand?
This is a natural progression in language development and clarity can be brought out by doing this simple step: repeat what they say. If your child says any of the target words or any other words simply repeat what they say. By doing this they are hearing the correct way to say the word and will be able to clear up the speech sounds the more they hear them.
Have your child “trade” or “share” their car with you. Teaching them to do this while you are playing with them will help them to know what to do when they are around other kids. Model this skill for them as well by asking them if they would like a turn with your car and then handing it over.
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Another simple game to play is zooming the car between the two of you. Every time you get the car, label it by saying “my turn.” Before you zoom it back to them say, “your turn!” After you have modeled this a few times, see if they understand you by adding a little wait time. When you have the car wait just a few seconds to see if you little one says “my turn.” This may take a little practice-so be patient if they do not get it right away.
Have your child follow simple directions while playing with cars and this will help to sharpen their cognitive skills. See if they can give you the “red car” or “fire truck”. By having them do this simple task you will be able to see which names they know already and which ones you need to label more often in order for them to learn them.
To work on fine motor skills during car play point out the little details in the cars. Show them how to use their finger to point at the tires or windows. Flip the car over and show them how to spin the wheels with their fingers.
Learning to put toys away is a nice skill for your little one to have so practice it when your are done playing with the cars. Model for your toddler how to put their cars back in the box and see if they follow your lead. Explain to them that when you are all done with cars you have to clean them up before your next activity. Make a game out of it and ask your child if they can find the bus and put it in the box. A simple trick to avoid a tantrum is by asking them if they want to put away the fire truck or the train. By giving them a choice you provide a distraction so though don’t realize you are “telling” them to do something. They feel empowered because they get to make the choice so they are more likely to go along with it.