Did you know that in addition to being lots of fun to ride, battery-powered vehicles foster the coordination and integration of sensorimotor skills, directionality and logical/spatial thinking? Because children learn by doing, driving the vehicles fosters an understanding of in and out, right and left, forward and reverse, fast and slow, stop and go. In addition, battery-powered vehicles have lots of fun child-friendly features to encourage and extend imaginative play. For example, your child may pretend to go to work, or to the store…and of course, will have to stop for something to eat and get some gas along the way! And just think of the positive effect accomplishing new skills provides for your child’s self-esteem!
Watch your child’s confidence grow! When you serve as a ’coach’ for your beginning driver, guiding your child with positive talk, you instill the motivation and encouragement to improve. With you there to help, your child will be willing to try harder. Be close-by for extra assurance or to assist momentarily. Then let your child do what’s needed to accomplish the goal and to experience the sense of excitement, independence and joy it brings.
For the new driver, you can expect some trial and error! The littlest ones will be busy exploring all of the play features, probably getting on and off or in and out of the vehicle over and over again. The slightly older child will most likely want to start driving right away. In either situation, you can help your child learn to drive the vehicle by showing how to start it and stop it. Practice “go” and “stop” with your child over very short distances, saying those words and indicating how far to move the vehicle. Pretty soon, your child will understand the basics of controlling the vehicle for going and stopping. When your child is ready, which may be sooner than you think, show your child how to turn and move the vehicle, starting with going around in circles. Have your child try driving in different directions, turning to the right, turning to the left, going forward, and if the vehicle has reverse, practice going in that direction, too.
Talk about safe driving and make sure your child is familiar with and follows the usage warnings listed in the instructions and on the vehicle. Set boundaries for safe driving so that your child understands what’s off limits. Of course, your child should only drive the vehicle while being supervised by an adult.
For some interesting fun, set up an obstacle course by providing objects for your child to drive around or through. Make or purchase traffic signs and place them around the “course” for your child to follow. Have road rallies in your back yard, putting clues at special locations. These are only a few ways you could add excitement to your child’s driving experience, while having some family fun at the same time.
Kathleen Alfano Ph.D., Former Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price®
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.