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My oldest son (almost 3) is one of those transportation kids, who loves anything to do with a vehicle (car/train/airplane). When he's inside, he does basically nothing but play with one of those three things. (He's also an outdoors kid, so this is only half to two thirds of the day usually, but still.)

While this makes shopping for him easier, we're concerned he's not experiencing a diverse enough range of things to learn effectively. He does read with us a lot, and if we specifically ask him if he'd like to do another activity (put together puzzles, color, playdough, etc.) he often will agree to participate, we can't necessarily always participate ourselves.

When he was in daycare, they seemed to handle this largely by defining the activity he may participate in; ie, "it is dress up time now", "coloring time", etc.; at any one time only one or two activities were presented as available. This certainly got him to participate in a diverse set of activities, and he seemed to enjoy them; but it seems rather draconian to us to schedule things that aggressively at home (and he's currently at home all the time now).

We're proponents of the 'you should have fun as a kid' theory of parenting; at least until he's older we don't plan to push him hard academically, and so forcing him to not do what he'd like to do is somewhat abhorrent to us - but it also seems to be the only real option for encouraging him to do things to develop his mind in different ways.

Is there a significant benefit to ensuring he participates in a wide range of activities at this age, or are we overthinking this, and should just let him play with his cars/trains and occasionally do other things with us, but allow him to spend most of his time doing what he wants?

Also, if we're going to largely let him play as he wants but occasionally push other things when we're going to play with him, is there a particular set of things we should "supplement" with - playing with vehicles is heavy on the hand-eye coordination, both fine and gross motor control to some extent (the way he plays, anyway), and creativity/story telling; he also likes to organize vehicles and sometimes even count his vehicles.

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It's just a phase. At one point when I was a small child I forced (or rather heavily encouraged - I was about 6 and couldn't force anything) my mother to park the car on the way home from school alongside some diggers that were building a new subdivision because I wanted to watch the diggers. There's nothing wrong with a child having specific interests. Make sure they're still exposed to new potential interests. As you say the end, there's plenty of variety in what a child can do with toy cars. He's 3, remember. If he were 13 and spent almost all him time playing with toy cars... –  Miles Rout Jun 3 at 12:29
    
Use his interests to stimulate his creativity. Playing with ready-made toy cars is the simple thing to do. The harder is to push him towards different activities, perhaps vehicle-themed, but not really related to them. Jessica has already given some great examples. –  Dariusz Jun 4 at 16:26
    
How about changing the subject to a question? "Will playing with the same toys all the time have influence of my 3 yo son's development?" –  Dariusz Jun 4 at 16:29
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2 Answers 2

There's no reason you can't tie other activities to his interests to help him diversify but still enjoy his object of fascination. "Let's draw a picture of a truck". "lets build roads out of playdoh for your playdoh Diggin Rigs". "Let's build a garage for your trucks out of duplos". "Should we put on construction hats/costumes and pretend play we are building a city?", "Lets build dirt mounds in the backyard and drive trucks on them" etc.

To ask whether you need to diversify, ask yourself whether he's using a wide range of skills and engaged and not bored. Is he getting practice at both gross motor and fine motor skills? Enough social opportunities, etc? Sounds like he is. If you just let him play trucks all day one day, what happens? Does he get bored and spend hours asking you if he can watch bob the builder instead of playing? Does he think of some novel way to use his trucks?

Kids go though phases. They may burn out on their interest after a while, or grow to have additional interests as they get older as well. he may decide he's into superheroes, pirates, sea creatures, dinosuars, legos, etc. Books that combine themes may help bridge some of those interests as well, for example, "Gus the dinosaur bus" is about a dinosaur being a school bus...vehicles and dinosaurs. So as a parent I wouldn't bother to go too out of the way only have toys that match his current theme, lest you suddenly have a closet full of toys he's over...teach him how to creatively use what he has in different ways.

How pushy you are about "it's time to do xyz" or "Would you like to do xyz today?" is kind of a different parenting issue that people have different opinions about They both have their places, but kids do like having choices, so if you can at least set it up as either A or B ...or... here are some ideas if you're bored of your own ideas.

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I think you're overthinking (smile). You are already supplying some diversity (reading, outside play, and daycare which will eventually be replaced with school). I am sure you have other toys and activities available in your house for him to choose from, but he is choosing what he enjoys, what interests him, what gives him comfort. Others have suggested this might be a phase - many children have fierce attachments to one mode of play for several years (dinosaurs, superheroes, horses, dress-up) and they eventually outgrow it. But I can tell you having raised two sons that sometimes cars/trains/planes are a lifelong passion that eventually leads to a career!

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