Since the first Matchbox vehicles landed in kids’ hands in the 1950s, toy cars have been a staple of playrooms everywhere. It makes sense: the shrunk-down versions of things that go vroom make it possible for kids to engage with those big, loud, fast machines they ride in themselves. They’re also great vessels for creative play (a car must have a destination) and fit into narratives kids create with other toys. But all fun aside, and there’s plenty of fun to be had, they’re also standout developmental toys that help kids with their gross and fine motor skills as they push cars back and forth.
“Playing with cars is a sensory activity and one that gives children insight into the cognitive concept of cause and effect — as they experiment with a hard push or a soft push, or holding the car with lots of pressure or less pressure, they discover how the car reacts,” says Rebecca Parlakian, the senior director of programs at Zero to Three. “Car play is a form of pretend play, like when kids make beep-beep noises. Adding props like little people to pick up in their toy school bus or setting up buildings made of blocks can enhance this early pretend play. For older babies and toddlers, look for chunky toy cars that are safe to mouth and chew on.”
The Best Toy Cars for Toddlers
These colorful, chunky wood cars are great for babies 12 months and older. They roll smoothly, and have no sharp or annoying parts. Each car is made from blocks of beechwood.
These standout trucks are made from recycled plastic, which is something we can get behind. But sustainability aside, they're also just cool toys. The fire truck has a 360 degree roof ladder and two removable side ladders. The truck, meanwhile, has a flatbed that tilts up to allow the car it's hauling to roll right off.
Not only does this building set teach toddlers to problem-solve, as they learn how certain pieces fit together to achieve the desired result, but it's also modular. It only has 11 pieces, so kids can build the tow truck of their dreams without getting frustrated.
If they truly feel the need for speed, kids can zoom around in this ride-on toy. It has a removable floorboard and a drop-down tailgate, as well as a driver's door that opens and closes. The weight limit is 50 pounds.
The Best Toy Cars for Kids
Detailed enough to impress older kids but easy enough for 3-year-old fingers to grasp, these wood showpieces are almost too nice to play with. Almost. This gorgeous cruiser is made from beechwood and has 12 interchangeable pieces that kids can add and pull out at will, letting designers build cars and trucks of their own creation.
Future Elon Musks can build the wheels of their dreams with this 32-piece magnetic tile set. It includes 16 squares, 12 triangles, 2 hexagons, and 2 wheel sets. And it's great for kids 6 and up.
So yes, this is the track and yes, it needs specific cars. But this is the set you need for a truly immersive car-racing experience, because it levels up and never gets boring. Kids 8 and up record every mile covered and every race won, and the more they win, the more power they get. Plus they build and overcome more than 50 challenges with reconfigurable track pieces.
Kids can tear some serious shit up with this car, which has a pull-back motor that lets the car accelerate, a sizable front bumper, a large rear spoiler, wide black rims with low profile tires and an engine that pops out on impact. With 139 pieces, it's great for kids 7 and up.
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