When my boys were toddlers, their fascination with watching big trucks like haulers and fire engines drive by was rivaled only by their love of playing with miniature toy versions of these same trucks. If your toddler is obsessed with trucks, their intense attachment to these mega machines is actually a part of their natural development, and could be beneficial for them in the long run.
If your toddler is constantly drawn to trucks big and small, can regurgitate obscure facts about trucks, and knows the different noises of each type of truck by heart, they have what scientists refer to as an extremely intense interest (EII) in trucks. A study in Developmental Psychology by three university level researchers examined the prevalence of EIIs and how children's obsession with certain objects and topics present themselves. They found that an EII in vehicles with wheels is among the most common in young children.
The same study also found that most children's obsessions would wane anywhere between 6 months and 3 years after the interest began. So, you probably don't have to worry about your child yelling as loud as they possibly can every time they see a dump truck for the rest of their lives.
Passionate obsessions — whether truck-related or not — are actually beneficial for kids. It all boils down to personal preference and taste, and according to a report by Perri Klass, M.D. for The New York Times, neuroscience cannot explain why some children develop certain obsessions versus others, but it is evidenced by how young children can often recite complex facts about certain subjects like trucks that their intense attachment to these topics are real.
Does this mean that your truck-obsessed kid will turn out to be a mechanic or drive a tow truck? Not necessarily. You won't know whether your child's obsession with trucks will morph into a more mature interest or a career choice as they grow older until that time comes.
Your toddler's obsession with trucks can actually help them hone in on some specific sensory and physical development needs as well.
"Playing with toy trucks is great for hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills," Laura Blair, a physical therapist assistant with Therapy 2000 tells Romper. "It creates that connection between vision and hand movement when they’re driving the truck on certain patterns as well as crossing midline to play with two trucks simultaneously involving both hands. If they are really playing in a large area and getting in a crawling position this can engage their core and build shoulder stability as well. It can also improve skills in motor planning and spatial awareness as the toy goes above, behind, or through a bridge."
From turning the tiny wheels of a miniature truck around and around with the thumb and forefinger to developing a pincer grasp to moving their entire body when playing with large trucks, your kid is learning every time they indulge in their truck obsession.
"If they are large push-toy trucks that the child is moving around, this is great for what we call heavy work and gross motor activity," Blair says. "If it can involve their whole body, they will learn and improve in body awareness. But if the child is playing with a small truck, it’s still great for visual input and auditory if the truck makes sounds. Lining up or driving the truck around is great for motor planning as well."
Laura Blair, physical therapist assistant with Therapy 2000
Studies Referenced: Planes, Trains, Automobiles—and Tea Sets: Extremely Intense Interests in Very Young Children. (2007). Developmental Psychology. doi: 10.1037/0012-16126.96.36.1999.supp