AT THREE, my twins have somewhat outgrown certain types of toys, like large toy cars similar to this Mini Sporty wooden vehicle by Thai toy manufacturer Wonderworld. Or so I thought ….
I was going to try the toy car out with a friend’s one-year-old child, but I was surprised at how excited my son was when he first caught sight of the car. He insisted on taking it out of the packaging and playing with it immediately. It then dawned on me that while children do outgrow certain toys; they never quite outgrow pretend play. Living in an age where we expect toys and things to entertain us, we often forget that it is really what you do with a toy that makes it fun for kids and not what the toy can do for them.
The official product description says the Mini Sporty is “a fun-looking sports car that encourages a child’s imagination to take them to places they want to go. It encourages your little ones to be aware of and explore the world around them.” I could not agree more on the part about a child’s imagination. I liked this toy a lot mainly for this reason. Pretend play has taken a bit of a beating today. We now have too many toys and gadgets that unfortunately take the imagination out of child’s play.
If you grew up in the last two generations, you would remember fun times playing masak-masak in the garden just using leaves, twigs and simple containers; playing “teacher” with just a simple blackboard, chalk and chairs; or doing a “talentime” show with pretend microphones made out of big sticks or spoons. You could also transport yourself to many make-believe worlds by reading books, where the locations in your mind are infinitely more magical than any scene from some interactive app.
Organic toys without batteries like this toy car were abundant in “the olden days”, as Peppa Pig would say. They inspired open-ended play. As one natural toy manufacturer puts it, “ Children’s thoughts are not jumping from one toy to the next as often occurs with modern toys that ‘think’ for the child. Natural toys also allow for easier transition into ‘downtime’. It is difficult for a child to switch gears from a very active toy to resting, whereas simple toys allow for a natural progression to rejuvenating activities such as reading books, daydreaming or napping.” With a toy where you just press a button to make lights blink and sounds appear, a child merely learns simple cause and effect. We pass up a wonderful opportunity to encourage more creative play.
Based on my personal observation, many children these days tend to adopt a more passive role at play. They wait to be told what to do or to even participate in an activity. A principal of a popular playschool I met recently agrees that kids today are definitely less spontaneous in their reactions and responses to things. We need to bring back more natural toys and promote pretend play in a big way to reclaim childhood for our kids.
Within that context, here are some suggestions on what you and your child can do with a wonderful little wooden toy car like the Mini Sporty by Wonderland:
- For very young children, you can move the car up and down on the floor to encourage eye tracking. See here on the importance of eye tracking exercises for kids.
- Use it to sing songs in an interactive way. For example, you can sing The Wheels on the Bus and replace the word “bus” with “car” while your little one pushes the car along the floor. There are many other car-related interactive song videos you can look up on YouTube.
- Use the car as a tool to teach concepts like prepositions and opposites. For example, the car is under the table / driving through the tunnel / driving very slowly / going very fast, etc.
- You can create some simple wooden road and ramps for your child to use when playing with this car by using this guide, or buying some inexpensive road tape like this from online suppliers such as Senang Toddler v2 to lay out around your playroom at home.
- Use the car as a prop in a larger setting with toy dolls and buildings by creating scenarios relating to “what do you see on the drive to school / to another city for the holidays, etc?”
What I liked
I liked the Mini Sporty wooden vehicle by Wonderworld for these reasons:
- It is made from rubber wood, safe non-toxic water-based paints as well as biodegradable fabrics.
- It does not have any sharp edges that can potentially hurt your little one.
- Also, due to its wooden nature, it is a classic toy that can last a long time and be handed down to other siblings or children. This feature and the fact that it does not require any batteries to operate also make it a more environmentally-friendly choice.
- As mentioned, with pretend play, the possibilities are endless for a toy like the Mini Sporty. All you need to do is get good sturdy and safe toys, preferably made out of natural materials. Give them some ideas then just sit back and watch as your little one’s imagination get a real workout.
- The atmosphere in a room with natural organic toys is also different when compared to a room full of battery-operated plastic toys. It is quieter and more inviting. Children tend to also be calmer in that environment as they are not over-stimulated.
- It fits nicely into the hand of a small child, so they can hold it to make it move around the floor easily, or even carry it around with them when they walk.
- The toy is recommended for children 18 months and older, but as it is made from safe materials, I think it would also make a great gift for a child aged 12 months.
- It can be played as a standalone toy or with a larger group of wooden vehicles, road and construction-related toys from Wonderworld’s range – see video here. It can even be matched with other similar vehicle-related toys.
What wasn’t so great
In the beginning, you do have to get quite involved and give your complete attention during playtime with classic toys like this, especially if your children are aged three and below. They will still need encouragement, support and imaginative ideas from you on what they can do with such toys. It would have been good if the manufacturer had provided such ideas through booklets or videos. However, over time as your kids get the hang of creating scenarios and situations relating to daily life using such toys, less involvement will be required. If you invest time during the initial exposure period, you will find your child really honing their imagination and creative thinking. That is the beauty and benefit of classic toys versus modern toys that do all the thinking for the child.
Pros: Environmentally-friendly; good for pretend play; can be handed down; no sharp edges; can be combined and played with other toys.
Cons: Initially will need parents’ time and effort to help the child come up with ideas for play.