Keep on Truckin’: Why Kids Dig Trucks

Parker Barry

Many young kids are fascinated by big trucks: dump trucks, garbage trucks, monster trucks, fire trucks, pickup trucks, semi-trucks, tractors, steamrollers and all types of construction equipment.

Indeed, there’s a truck of some kind almost everywhere something important is being built, fixed, grown or moved on our highways, city streets and farmlands — and kids notice. At the first sight of big wheels, many kids excitedly yell “Truck!” Why?

Trucks are big, their colors are bold, and they make awesome loud noises. Big trucks in motion shout “Important Work In Progress,” and kids love seeing amazing work happening in the grown-up world. So much of what we adults no longer pay attention to in the background of everyday life is still new and exciting to kids. Maybe the question isn’t why are kids so excited about trucks, but rather why aren’t we just as excited as they are?

Trucks are big, their colors are bold, and they make awesome loud noises.

Thomas Berry, archivist for the National Construction Equipment Museum in Bowling Green, Ohio, tells the story of one young boy who visited the museum and was so overjoyed at seeing the big equipment there that he couldn’t leave with taking a part of it with him.

“He had to take a handful of gravel from the parking lot to bring home to his sandbox,” said Berry, who recalled in his own childhood digging in his backyard with a fleet of toy trucks and construction equipment.

Playing in the Sandbox

Learning through truck play

Toy truck play is a terrific way for kids to role play the truck-related situations that look so important to them from their view out of the backseat window.

While it’s obviously unsafe for kids to play with or around big moving wheels of any sort when they’re young and small, toy trucks and construction equipment offer a kid-size way to express that interest. The digging, constructing and building that happens during truck play taps into many areas of play and learning: constructive, sensory (especially if playing outside in sand or dirt and mud), imaginary role play, science, physics, vocabulary and more.

Similar to dinosaur play, truck play is filled with big words that kids soak in as they learn more about trucks. Kids learn the names for different types of construction equipment (dump truck, backhoe, steamroller, cement mixer), farm equipment (tractor, combine, hay baler), truck parts, and the names of their favorite monster trucks. Many kids relish learning and repeating subject-specific vocabulary, such as when a 4-year-old dinosaur enthusiast can fluently say the complex names of 20 dinosaurs. Learning words they’re interested in gives kids language and reading confidence as their vocabulary builds, which helps with later learning in all subject areas in school.


Not just for boys: Girls and truck play

The myth that only boys are interested in truck play is hopefully debunked in most backyards and playgrounds by now. For some girls, however, whether they play with trucks and other wheeled equipment may not be a personal preference but rather a response to a social message that they’re in the “wrong” toy aisle, or a lack of exposure to toy trucks at home or school. Berry tells the story of a young brother and sister pair visiting the museum with their parents. While the boy “made a beeline for the equipment,” his sister held back for a while, but then joined in.

“By the time they left, her hands were as dirty as his were,” he said.

So the next time you and your kid see a truck, yell “Truck!” right along with them. It’s fun for all of us to see how the world rolls.

Editor’s Note: Check out the latest app from Toca Boca’s sister company, Sago Sago. Sago Mini Trucks and Diggers is all about big trucks for little builders.



Related stories