Delighting in My Child’s Interests: Trucks!
My friend and I have something in common. Our sons (mine is a year old hers is 18 months) both love trucks! When we go to the library – what do they want? Books about trucks. When we’re on the street what do they notice? There goes a school bus! A concrete mixer! Wow that truck is fixing a stoplight! Every play date starts out with an excited “Cars? Trucks?” as they race into the playroom. Cars drive over the sofa, the barn gets repurposed as a garage and long lines of cars march over the piano. The cars even came out with us to play in the snow and the transportation themed maze puzzle makes long car rides seem shorter.
She and I have both had people ask us why we don’t encourage our sons to play with something else. One dad even joked, “Try taking all the trucks away one day and see what happens.”
Talk to any parent. Children can get really into a type of toy, a theme, an interest. For some it might be dinosaurs. For other it might be outer space. For my son, it’s trucks!
And while I certainly understand that kids need to explore lots of things, there’s a lot children can get out of exploring something they’re interested in.
Let’s use my son’s personal favorite as an example. Here are just a few of the things we do together. Although the central focus may be trucks, there’s lots of variety.
- Name different types of vehicles – “There’s a bulldozer!”” I see a backhoe!”
- Identify colors –“That one’s orange!”
- Count – “That construction site has 4 different trucks!”
- Read about vehicles - Right now his favorites are Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia, Smash Crash by Jon Scieszka and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle. When he was younger he liked Bright Baby Trucks and First 100 Trucks by Roger Priddy and various “touch and feel” books by DK Publishing
- Make vehicle noises! – “Vroom Vroom! Wooooeeeee! Brmm Brmm!” Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia has a lot of great vehicle noises to imitate and they help develop critical vowel sounds
- Bring the vehicles outside to explore and dig
- Collect items in the truck beds like pebbles and sticks to invite closer inspection
- Build bridges and ramps - Use blocks, cookie sheets and even hardcover books. You can model how the cars go over/under, down/up, see which one goes farthest or fastest. This practices science theories as well as language!
- Sink/Float - If you have a few cars that can go in the water table or bathtub you can compare and contrast them or add a boat to see what sinks and floats
- Classifying - Pointing out which is bigger and which is smaller, pointing out which is real and which is pretend.
- Sort the different kinds of vehicles - trucks, cars ,buses, etc.
- Explore different textures and materials as the wheels go over different surfaces
- Experience gravity as he crashes cars off tables
- Problem solve how to get vehicles out from under objects when they get stuck
- Run car wheels through paint and then on paper
- Offer new materials like play dough, or sand and use with small cars and trucks
- Use vehicles with blocks or other building toys
- Cooperate with friends as they share a few trucks when they play
I keep an inexpensive, plastic truck or a handful of toy cars in my purse to take with us when we visit museums, go the grocery store, or out to dinner. It keeps him engaged much longer and gives us a spark for conversation. My son’s obsession with all things that go has an interesting side benefit for me, as it has made me more aware of what is around us on the road.
My husband and I excitedly shout “Car Transporter!” when we are driving and I just paused to watch a concrete mixer go by. If we are this aware and engaged with him, we can encourage him to learn with something he loves.
Someday he’ll probably be on to a different interest, but for now I am going to delight in his interest and use it to show him new things that he can do and explore.