Matchbox, Hotwheels and other diecast cars have long been popular toys for children. They have remained on children’s wish lists because they meet a general interest for children. They also make great learning tools for developing prereading, early math and elementary science skills. Finding ways to engage these toys as learning toys is not challenging. It merely requires thinking about what learning is occurring while they are being used.
Sorting is a prereading and math skill. It is also an important skill for science. Categorizing and identifying patterns is an important early math, reading, and writing skill. If you have spent much time watching children play with cars, sorting is a natural part of play. Children naturally find means to sort cars. The key is to have them talk to you about their reasons without destroying the fun of the activity. One way is to pick up a car and ask if it belongs in a pile. Try to engage the child in helping you to determine which cars belong. Remember this is the child’s pattern, not yours so it is important that the child explain not the adult lead.
Over time, vocabulary can be introduced regarding sorting words. Children often absorb vocabulary when naturally introduced, and embedded in a fun activity. There is no need for drill and kill vocabulary activities but a natural introduction of words related to a fun play activity. A sure way to tell that you have crossed the line and are pushing too much teaching into the play is when the child starts pulling away from the play. That is a sign it is time to back off and try a different strategy.
When working with early addition counting and addition some children do better with physical objects and real life situations to work with than others. If you have dry worksheets that lack examples to work from, try taking out some favorite cars and counting them. Use cars to teach counting, basic addition, and subtraction. There is nothing that makes subtraction more real, than losing favorite cars. Help your child to make word problems using cars. There is a real benefit in using items children are familiar with in teaching math.
Build a Community
Children learn language, math, and science as they create road, buildings, and communities to drive their cars through the area. Homes can be made from small milk cartons, constructed from Lego blocks, or a variety of materials. One does not have to purchase a manufactured city to create the experience for a child. Reading signs, making up traffic rules, and learning to negotiate the obstacles increases fine motor skills and develops an interest in prereading skills. It can also help children develop early math and mapping skills.
Playing with Toy Car Experiments
Picture Credits niceness flickr.com