If you’ve been following the work of Other Goose for any number of minutes, you know we believe in prop-free, prep-free learning. In other words, you don’t need bins full of toys and stacks of curricula to teach a child well. But every now and then, we stumble upon a few tools that revolutionize independent learning and play in our own home. Today? We’re talking power toys!
So what’s a power toy anyway? A power toy generally involves movement and symbolizes power. It can be a variety of things – cars, trucks, airplanes, the list goes on – but simply put, a power toy is a toy that your child can be in charge of, or more powerful than, in a sense.
Power toys are incredibly important in early childhood development, allowing for true hands-on learning. Play expert and CEO of PlayScience Dr. J. Alison Bryant says, “You’re not just watching a show and learning about trajectory or buoyancy, but now you’re literally experiencing it.” Playing with power toys can help our kids develop massive fundamental skills – including important STEAM concepts. “It’s the tactile, visual, sensory learning of doing. And we know that, for STEM skills, the best way to learn is through doing.” Bryant writes.
Read on to find out 3 reasons why power toys are foundational in your child’s learning – and the all-time best power toy recommendations for kids ages 2-7!
From sunrise to sunset, our kids have surprisingly little power in their own day. They don’t often get to control when they go to bed, what they eat, where they sleep, or the day’s schedule. A power toy puts them – quite literally – in the driver’s seat as they can learn to practice making decisions on their own. A toddler would never operate a bulldozer in real life, but through play, he or she can tell a favorite construction vehicle where to go, how fast, what to knock down, and when to stop.
“It puts the child’s day-to-day in context when they go from sitting in a car to having the agency to play with one,” Dr. Bryant says. “My 2-year-old freaks out when he sees a school bus. He brings his toy school bus in the car and rolls it back and forth when the real school buses drive by. He’s seeing something in his real world what he can play with.”
DEVELOPING SELF CONTROL
Power toys have been proven to help develop self control. By driving a car super fast down the hallway and then stopping suddenly, our kids are learning that timing and self-regulation matters. By keeping a train on a track, our kids are learning how to follow directions and stay on course. “That’s how kids learn,” Dr. Bryant says. “Their minds work while they do things with their hands. It’s all integrated.”
Believe it or not, there’s a massive social-emotional benefit hidden in the toy truck your kid loves to roll around. Power toys often help with early separation anxiety, or helping a child to better adapt to the comings and goings of adults or friends around them. Because power toys are also things that come and go, the more practice our kids have with understanding that something that goes away isn’t gone forever – and that it often returns again later.
So, there’s a bit of science behind why your kids are so crazy about their Matchbox cars, or any other things that go. Fascinating, right? Rest easy knowing this: our kids are learning some incredibly valuable life lessons with every one of their vroom-vrooms.
THE 7 BEST POWER TOYS
Ready to hear some of our members’ highly recommended power toys for kids ages 2-7? We asked everyday experts (YOU!) to list the ones their own kids couldn’t get enough of. Here are the top picks we received over and over (and OVER!) again:Bumper Cars ($38)
“My 3yo twins LOVE to smash everything into everything. ;) I love these bumper cars because it’s the one thing they’re encouraged to bump, crash, and vroom as loud as they’d like. And the remote controls make them feel like so high-tech! A total hit in our house.” -SarahBeginner Train Set ($38)
“I’m so surprised, but this train set has totally stood the test of time! I’ve got 4 boys and they’ve all been drawn to this set like moths to a flame. It’s the one toy I’ve kept over the years – I don’t think they’d ever let me get rid of it if I tried!” -EmilyMini Monster Trucks ($9)
“These were stocking stuffers for my toddler a few years ago, and he still plays with them every day! I love that they’re chunky enough for tiny hands, and we keep a few in the car so he can “race” everyone else on the highway. Highly recommend!” -BreannaRecycling Truck ($27)
“My 5-year-old daughter is OBSESSED with the recycling/trash collection trucks in our neighborhood (she looks forward to Friday morning every single day!). She plays with this truck for hours on end, zooming through the house to pick up recycling and repurpose it in her “workshop”. It’s brought up so many good conversations about sustainability, too!” -LisaDump Truck Shape Sorter ($19)
“This gets so much play in our house. Our toddler daughter uses it as a shape sorter and her older brother scoops up the shapes and spills them for her! She laughs and laughs, and then they play the whole thing over again. We’re definitely going to hang onto this one for our grandkids someday!” -TaraFerry Boat with Cars ($24)
“I bought this as a bath toy but it’s been played with more times than I can count! Love that it encourages sensory play in sinks and outdoor water tables, and my son loves taking the cars on pretend road trips around the house.” -EmmaToy Car Set ($15)
“I looked everywhere for classic metal cars with doors that actually open! These fit the bill and have been in our home for years. The school bus is darling!” -LizAirplane Model ($28)
“My husband’s a pilot and gifted this model airplane for my son a few years ago. He still sleeps with it every night!” -Jacqueline
p.s. Check out our Letters Pack ($3) to try Driving Words with your child’s favorite classic Matchbox car! It’s the perfect way to practice letters and copywork in a fun, play-based way. Give your littles a driving lesson as they learn the twists and turns of each letter in the alphabet – big and small!