Cars, Trains, Other Vehicles

For one-year-olds a simple sturdy vehicle is an interesting object. By about eighteen months it will be pushed, pulled or ‘ brmm- brmmnd’ round the floor. Since this is still an age at which toys are put in mouths wheels must be firmly fixed. Wooden pull-along trains which often double as a linking toy are usually well loved. The progression to scale models in the home is usually from large stylized models to small match-box size scale models because these are readily available and cheap to buy. These small models may well have too many breakable, easily-lost details so care is needed to select those which do not come complete with opening boots, plastic fawn luggage, tiny sharp steering-wheel components and ‘brilliant5 plastic circles for headlights. If a larger, stronger but still basically simple car can be provided this might be a better second stage. These can lead on to vehicles which ‘do’ something. Dumper trucks, crane lorries, tipper lorries and bulldozers are still great favourites. Friction-drive motors should be left until children are ready and able to chase after them. Battery-operated vehicles may be desired at about the age of four, especially if a friend or brother possesses one, but these add little to the imaginative nature of the play at any age.

One of the perennial problems in the nursery group and even in the reception class of the infant school is ‘keeping’ the collection of cars. Small boys bring their own and get them mixed up with one another’s and with those belonging to the group. One answer to this is to provide Tomte vinyl cars which, while useful for baby play, are also realistic and strong enough for group play. The small Tonka range would serve the same purpose as far as service vehicles are concerned although the small cars in this range are not realistic enough for this. They are much more expensive than the Tomte range and take up more space.

The same main points apply to trains and tracks. The gap between baby linking and pull-along trains and the clockwork or electric-powered trains so beloved of the eight- to ten-year-old can be bridged by the plastic rail and train set which has a turntable, trestles and bridge sections, level crossing, several point sections and engine sheds. This seems to afford the right amount of realism and scope for making the trains do something which allows the three- to six-year-old to play happily either alone at home or in the nursery group. The complications and intricacies in the play at six as opposed to that of the three-year-old come from the children themselves. Adults may prefer the more aesthetically pleasing wooden layouts but there is no doubt which the children prefer.