3 ways to Expand Play with Cars

The past couple of weeks I have been in South Korea training a fantastic group of pediatric Speech and Language Therapists. One of the therapists I was working with mentioned that a client of hers loves to play with cars. Surprise, surprise!  She wants to respect his interest in cars and help him to develop his language using his love of cars as a vehicle (ha!) for targeting language. However there was one issue… She was getting tired of driving cars around the room, giving them gas, and crashing them. I can relate, as I’m sure many of you can. There are only so many times you can drive a car up and down a ramp and crash them together before you’re totally bored. Are you nodding in agreement? Keeping play fresh and interesting is important for keeping the adults awake, fostering enjoyment and for supporting child development. So what do we do?

Here are some ideas on how you can expand your ‘car play’ to help you truly enjoy the activity (something that children can pick up on) and allow you to support your child’s development. As the adult, we often need to suggest and show the child how to incorporate new ideas into the play to ‘jump start’ play expansion. After we suggest an idea by modeling it ourselves it is important to wait and see how the child responds and where he/she takes the idea. The goal isn’t to have the child follow our lead. Instead, we want to ignite new thinking and  creativity in their play!

  • Use masking tape or this cool road tape to build roads around the room. This can be a great activity for developing fine motor skills as you peel and stick the tape.  Language developmentcan be addressed as you model prepositions while building your roads by placing the tape underand over furniture, up the wall, on the couch, beside the dog, etc. If your child has developed some language already you can target social emotional development and problem solving as you work together to plan a route.
  • Add shaving cream or water to your car play, creating a car wash. This can be a really fun sensory experience too! You can target vocabulary development using action words such as wash, scrub, spray, dry, etc. You can also talk about specific parts of the car as you’re washing them (e.g. wheels, door, window, front window, back window, trunk) and about the feeling of the water or shaving cream (e.g. cold, warm, soft, squishy).
  • Stack blocks or boxes and have the cars race toward the tower to knock it over – like car bowling. You could also try to drive the cars through two towers without making the towers fall down. Use blocks that range in size and work as a team to problem solve and determine which blocks should go on the bottom to support the tower, and which blocks can go on top. Language development can also be addressed by using a variety of words as you build the tower. You can model prepositions (e.g. stack “on top”) or adjectives (e.g. blue block, big block, square block, rectangle block).  You can also model verbs such as (drive, race, fall down, crash, smash) as you play your version of car bowling. You could even add a character to the top of your block tower and the cars could try to save the character stranded at the top of the tower by knocking the tower down. The possibilities are endless!

We’ve been talking about play with cars today, but these ideas could be used to play with trains and other vehicles too. We’d love to hear some of the ways you expand play with vehicles to keep it exciting and educational.

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