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My 4 years old son is been obsessed with Thomas the tank engine train set for more than 2 years and also loves cranes excessively because of the hooks that are attached to them. Will playing with just these toys restrict his brain development and should I stop buying them?

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Hi many thanks for everyone responded to my question I would like to explain the reason of my concern, this is because of a relative of mine whose only toy he would play with is washing machine till now at his early teenage years he is still like to watch it spinning. The problem rises to a level that he would not play or socialize with the school children during his nursery and primary school years but rather stay indoors playing with the pretend toy machine. Sometimes he would take a plastic bottle fill it with water and tiny bits of strings or fabric then spin and shake it all day long sitting alone. When he is watching something on the internet he would watch some clips only about washing machine. So with my son he would associate lots of things as trains or crane, I’m just not sure about him if he’s behaving normal and maybe I’ll observe him how he progress and he would behave with friends.

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  • A crane can get building materials from a truck, and the crane can deposit the building materials on, for example, a building site. So a child would understand he needs more than just a crane.
    – user42564
    Aug 31, 2023 at 0:26
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    My gut feeling would be that the behavior of the other child is possibly outside the norm and that teen may be neurodivergent in some form, but of course I'm neither an expert nor would I dare to "diagnose" anything from just a few sentences.
    – Stephie
    Sep 4, 2023 at 8:00
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    @Stephie - I cringed a tiny bit, but I think you're right. Juma, your son is not going to be like your relative, you need not worry. He sounds like a normal little boy. Sep 4, 2023 at 18:34

3 Answers 3

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This is my personal opinion and it is not in any way scientifically supported.

When buying toys, I have 2 main considerations:

  1. Does the type or theme of the toy fit within the interests of the child. If it doesn't fit their interests, I think it is unlikely they will play with it.
  2. Looking at the toy collection they already have, does this new toy create new ways to play or to develop themselves. Depending on how well you know what motivates the child, this can be quite out-of-the-box. For example, if your child is motivated enough to want to build a crane in order to be able to play with it, you could also consider buying a crane-set from some brand of construction toys.
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My 4 years old son is been obsessed with Thomas the tank engine train set for more than 2 years and also loves cranes excessively because of the hooks that are attached to them.

You're using terms like "obsessed" and "excessively" carelessly. I doubt your son is "obsessed". He has a passion for these things; they're interests of his. That's great!

Will playing with just these toys restrict his brain development [...]?

No, why on earth would they? On the contrary, pursuing his interests will help him develop.

[S]hould I stop buying them?

No, please continue to buy them and assist your son in pursuing his goals.

Parents are worried about everything. Is there anything more harmless than Thomas the tank engine? You have nothing to worry about.

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Your son's play with his trains does not seem out of the range of typical. The play of your family member seems more a-typical.

That said, it is very unlikely that the toy itself caused your family member's way of playing, rather it is most likely that he has a specific 'way' of playing that made the washing machine and other spinning toys attractive.

Likewise, buying more trains for your son is not going to cause him to only like trains or only like one aspect of the train. Certainly, it is good to broaden exposure to other toys - different types of trains, different types of cranes for example. Neurodivergence (atypical development including play behaviour) is not caused by anything a parent does or provides - most of the time it is genetic.

By your description, you do not list other developmental concerns, but if your son's development seems unusual in other ways (delayed language, limited interest in social interactions with others, intense emotional outbursts that seem too extreme for his age) then it is always great to talk to your physician/pediatrician/health nurse about how he is developing.

Best wishes!

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