Cars and Dolls role in Play!

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Playing with cars is more than just the act of pretending to drive and sound effects. Cars can take on the role of multiple characters to inspire imaginary play. Cars can be used to experiment driving on different types of constructed roads, they can be measured against different length strings and they can be used to paint with.  The list really can go on and on, but the one thing to remember is how cars are not just toys to add sounds and drive. 

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When a child’s mind opens to imaginative stories cars become characters in those stories. They can play supporting roles or be the main cast.  For a child having that imaginary character around will help them be inspired to explore textures, measure, count, pattern, and paint.  

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Dolls are also a traditional aspect of childhood play, but these little wooden dolls have abilities that the bigger baby dolls aren’t quite as handy at.  And that is their small size allows them to travel to many different stories. They fit into baskets, buckets, bowls and are easier to incorporate wherever a child goes. We call these wooden dolls fairies and sometimes they are supporting characters in the stories the children create, but they have yet to be main characters.  Some children will automatically incorporate dolls as their playmates or main characters of their stories and will often include them in family role play.  However, there are also children who have other interests and dolls come in second. Children really do have diverse and similar interests, but often they do not follow stereotypes unless the adults around them are encouraging them to follow the stereotypes put out by multiple toy media companies and TV shows. Listen, observe and converse with children to know what toys/ tools they prefer instead of just assuming girls like dolls and boys like cars.  Often both girls and boys like both. And since both materials are used as characters in stories they are an important part of a child’s process of learning about the world they live in.

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Toys are tools to gain knowledge with, they are materials that are more inviting and successfully used when they have multiple purposes so the child can continue to learn and grow with every use.  Open-ended materials are wonderful for children to have and to use in ways they can understand.  Yet, open-ended materials are also wonderful ways to bridge the gap between understanding concepts and not understanding.  And open-ended materials provide just the right disequilibrium or challenge for every age!

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Let children enjoy learning! And the best way is through play!

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT



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