whatmomslove | May 12, 2016 | 2
Gift Guide: The Best Vehicle Toys For Car, Truck & Construction Lovers
The best gift ideas for kids who love cars, trucks and construction
Greetings! We’re so glad you’ve landed on one of our incredible 2017 What Moms Love Gift Guides for Kids. If you’re in the midst of frantically searching for the perfect toy for your child (or niece, or nephew, or friend’s kid, or…well, you get the picture) you can breathe a sigh of relief, because this is where you’ll find it. The gift that will not only get gasps of excitement when opening, but one that won’t be relegated to the bottom of a deep, dark storage bin.
In case you’re not familiar with our guides, we work year-round testing toys with kids of all ages and stages, and feature only the ones that repeatedly knock their socks off. We arrange these gems in our different guides based on a child’s interests because we asked parents how they typically shop, and the overwhelming response was that they search for what their child is currently obsessing over – you know, that one “category” they just can’t get enough of.
This particular guide is perfect for the hard-core car, truck, construction vehicle or anything-that-goes aficionado. You know the ones, right? Well they’re the ones we dumped a Santa’s-sack-worth of vehicle toys, accessories, games and books on to find out which ones were worthy of this gift guide. You can imagine the excitement of our machine-devotees when they got their hands on them, but we constantly checked back in to see which ones were still being played with, long after the initial enthusiasm had dissipated.
And can we confess…we are a bit obsessed with these vehicle toys too. They are such wonderful open-ended toys. They require a child’s creativity and imagination to truly bring them to life. And if you’ve ever witnessed a child engrossed in play with their beloved vehicles, you will understand what we mean. They have such immense playing power – from parking garages, to construction sites, to transportation for their sisters’ princesses (or heck, their own!), to sand box toys, bath toys and never-let-go toys. They foster such a sense of discovery about the mechanics of how things work, and a general delight of the noise “vroooom”.
We’re so excited to share with you the top picks for car and truck (and a few other things-that-go) toys in our detailed guide, so let’s get started!
Oh, just a bit of housekeeping first. We have listed the manufacturer’s recommended age, but would note that many times your child will be ready for these toys before that age. Ultimately you know your child best.
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*recommended ages are from manufacturers; prices may vary from what is listed
Best First Vehicles For Babies + Toddlers
O Ball Rattle and Roll Car (age 3 months+)
The Oball Rattle and Roll Car is the perfect introduction to things-that-go for babies and tots. The top of the car is made from the same soft and squishy material as the popular Oball, and has their patented finger holes that make it easy for a baby to grip and maneuver. When the car is pushed, the colored beads inside the wheels rattle together which got plenty of smiles from our testers.
Stash this one in your diaper bag to use as a teether, rattle, or push car for when an emergency arises (like a grocery store meltdown).
Kid O Go Car (age 12 months+)
The Kid O Go Car was well-loved by all of our baby and toddler testers. It is the perfect size, and the handle is ergonomically designed for their little hands to grasp, and push along. The fun, bright colors are courtesy of the shiny hard plastic that won’t chip and has no PVC, BPA or Phthalates (ie. safe for those who’d rather use it as a teether).
The rubber wheels go reeeeally fast and easily spin on any surface (great for young’ens who often like to hang out on the carpet or rug).
And if your child isn’t quite ready for pushing it along just yet, its simplistic and modern shape make it a stunning piece of art to display on a playroom shelf. (editor’s note: my daughter got this car, in pink of course, for her 1st birthday and still plays with it almost 4 years later. It’s really smooth to push around and can zoom super fast!)
We also love the Kid O Tip Truck which features the same fun colors, safe materials, modern simplistic design and fast wheels.
Indigo Jamm Colin’s Camper Van (age 18 months+)
After a long search for something that compares to our beloved old Fisher Price “Little People” caravan from yester-year, we finally found it!
Take a look as this incredible wooden retro Camper Van from UK company, Indigo Jamm! The family of peg people fit snugly inside (the roof comes off for easy access), and have color-coordinating seats to help boost your little one’s matching and color recognition skills. And bonus – all of Indigo Jamm’s toys are made from a sustainable rubberwood that is durable and safe.
We are also majorly crushing on the Indigo Jamm Freddie Fire Engine which comes with 4 firefighters who can ride either inside the truck or on the ladder. And Bernie’s Number Bus where the peg passengers can be seated by number and color inside this awesome London Double Decker!
Run, run, run and get these before they run out! (editor’s note: these will be one of my go-to gifts from now on!)
Playmobil 123 (age 18 months+)
We’re big fans of Playmobil for their durability, playability and attention to detail, and their junior line, Playmobil 123, doesn’t fall far from the tree. The brighter colors and larger pieces are perfect for children aged 18 months and up, and our toddler tester’s repeatedly went back to these toys for hours of play.
You really can’t go wrong with anything from the 123 line-up, but the ones that started to gravitate to the top of our tester’s most-loved list were the ones with the most interactive elements, like the Airport Shuttle Bus where children can load the people and their luggage in and out of the bus (over and over again), the Recycling Truck which includes 2 containers to slot into the sorting compartment at the back of the truck, and the Truck with Garage where you can fill up the dump truck via a fun shape sorter.
Wow Toys (age 18 months+)
There’s something that we have a real love-hate relationship with when it comes to toys: batteries. Sure we love how kids’ get excited about real-life noises, pressing buttons and automatic movement, but having to switch out 8 DD batteries every other week can get a little tiring (and those noises…).
For this reason (and a few others, like wanting kids to use their imagination to the fullest), we don’t recommend a ton of battery-operated toys on our site. But sometimes, you got to admit, kids really do like them.
Luckily for us, Wow Toys has come to our rescue. They make fantastic toys that actually “do stuff”, all with the power of friction! Simply give any Wow vehicle a little helper push and they’re off on their own (with realistic engine sounds) – without a Triple A, Double A or C in sight.
All of the Wow Toys got incredible reviews from our tester’s, but a few really stood out as having that extra bit of playing power like Dexter The Digger, Flip ‘n’ Tip Fred, Poppy’s Pony Adventure and our favorite, Tow Truck Tim (this one has a super fun winch that pulls up the car onto the truck by attaching the magnetic rope and then pressing a button! Totally brilliant.)
Bruder Roadmax (age 2+)
The Roadmax line from Bruder uses the same high-quality materials and detailed designs as the original Bruders, they’ve simply made them safer and more inviting for toddlers. All the Roadmax vehicles have bold red, yellow and green colors, soft wheels, and fully functioning features that can be easily worked by smaller hands. They are great for using indoors or out, and can withstand plenty of rough and tumble play.
Take a look at this video on the Amazon listing for the Roadmax Loader Backhoe and you’ll see what we mean about realistic, smooth movements. The Roadmax Dump Truck and Roadmax Transporter with Skid Steer Loader also shouldn’t be missed.
These trucks are well worth the money and will get years and years of heavy play.
Melissa & Doug Race Car Carrier (age 3+)
The Melissa & Doug Race Car Carrier is one of those simple, classic wooden toys that really resonates with young kids. We’re not sure if it’s the brightly colored cars or perhaps the fun up-and-down motion you use to convert it from a double-decker carrier to a flat-bed trailer, but our testers (who ranged from 18 months to 4 years old for this one), went ga-ga over it. They were driving the race cars up and down the ramp to “load it up” again and again, and many began to use it as a way to cart around all their favorite little things…from army figurines to markers (!).
At 2 ½ feet when fully extended, it’s a great size for little hands to maneuver, but there is a slightly smaller version with 4 cars if you feel max’ed out on space!
best for big(ger) kids
Hot Wheels 20 Car Pack (age 3+)
This Hot Wheels 20 Car Pack makes a mighty impressive gift for any car lover. Large in size with a gigantic see-through window, your child will be able to see all 20 car variations the moment they rip it open.
But rest assured, the play time with these cars will last long after that first wave of giddiness passes. There are just so many ways kids can (and will) play with them – from setting up races and parking garages, to shooting them down paper towel rolls, the imaginative possibilities with these little cars is endless. (editor’s note: I never travel anywhere without a plastic baggie full of these cars for my kids to play with at restaurants, in waiting rooms, or on vacation!)
And if you want the ONE Hot Wheels set that ALL your kids will love (and one that they can play with together), get the Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Track (age 5+). It has motorized “boosters” which send the cars flying along the track…and eventually into one another. Yes it’s a hunk of plastic (and has batteries, gasp!) but the fun the toddlers and grade-schoolers had playing with this was off the charts. The laughter was so infectious that we just couldn’t turn a blind eye.
The Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Bots are perfect for the 2–4 year old set. They love the bright colors, chunky design and how they easily transform into their favorite vehicles. And if your child is a fan of the TV series, they’ll be even more psyched to transform Optimus Prime into a Semi-Truck, Chase into a Police Car, Hoist into a Tow Truck, Blades into a Helicopter, Heatwave into a Fire Truck, and many others. We had a hard time getting these away from many of our testers. One boy even insisted on sleeping with them (and we weren’t about to crush a dream).
Bruder (age 3+)
You can’t beat Bruder trucks in realism and function for this age range. You just can’t. These trucks are the mack daddy of them all, and at several feet long, kids can really examine the features and learn more about how the real ones operate.
The Bruder MAN Crane Truck definitely got top ranking, with the swiveling crane that can be extended high into the sky, stabilizing legs, and a steel hook that can be attached to your chosen item (we had stuffed animals, smaller cars, baby toys and more going for a ride!).
The Bruder MAN Garbage Truck is also absolutely stellar, and mimics the real-life action of a back loading garbage truck (there’s also a side-loader but we tested both and it’s much easier to get more “stuff” into this one), complete with loading arm for 2 garbage cans and turn-handle “crusher”. We gave our tester’s some newspaper and magazines to rip-up and they had a ball tearing them into small pieces, stuffing into the cans, and then collecting. (editor’s note: my son was a huge garbage truck fan, and as a result we own every single garbage truck toy in existence. This was by far the best functioning and most loved of them all. A must-buy if your child runs to the window to watch your trash drive off every single week.)
Hess Trucks (age 3+)
These incredibly crafted Hess vehicles have been a holiday tradition for over 50 years. Each year (usually in early November) a new vehicle is released, and due to their extreme popularity amongst kid-enthusiasts and collectors alike, they almost always sell out before the holidays. Vehicles in the past have included fire trucks, helicopters, space ships, tractor trailers and tanker trucks, and all come fully loaded with realistic audio and light features (with batteries already installed!). Sign up for alerts on the latest version here, or browse through past years’ models on Amazon.
Some of our former favorites include:
The Toystate Caterpillar Construction Mini Machines are some of the best miniaturized trucks we’ve encountered, with moving parts that simulate their actual function (the dump truck bed can really be “dumped”, the loader’s shovel, backhoe’s arm and bulldozers blade can move up and down, and the steam roller can spin). They make the perfect small sandbox toys, and also pack a strong punch with kinetic sand, playdoh or a tray of dried pasta or rice.
Take these with you to a restaurant (use to move around those sugar packets!), or the beach, and you’ll instantly be in quiet play mode (cue the sigh of relaxation).
John Deere Big Scoop 21” Dump Truck (age 3+)
If you’re looking for an awesome outdoor-only truck that can be used for truckin’ around sand, wood chips, leaves, dirt and snow, may we recommend the John Deere Big Scoop 21” Dump Truck. The sheer size of it makes it a very impressive gift, and it has a huge steel dump box with an easy-to-use dumping handle (we should note, the rest of the truck is plastic, but we had no problems with it going through some pretty rough handling, and it makes it lighter and easier for kids to move around).
You can of course use it indoors if you please (it does make a pretty awesome transporter for blocks and stuffed animals), but we found most of the kids who tested it wanted to immediately take it outside. And the moms (thinking of crammed playrooms), were all too happy to oblige.
Pair this with the John Deere 21” Big Scoop Tractor and your child may never come inside again.
Playmobil (age 4+)
Earlier we mentioned our love of the German-made Playmobil, and here we are again – this time touting their main Playmobil line, geared towards kids age 4 and up. All of their toys include incredible details for realistic play (often in the form of small pieces, so be warned if you still have little ones who mouth things…these pieces may need to be put away before gifting), and their figures are unmatched for accessories and ability to bend, sit, stand and turn their heads.
We had our tester’s experience many of the Playmobil vehicles, and all garnered so much play time that it was hard to discern the winners. We’d suggest choosing the ones best suited for your child’s individual taste, but will say our own personal favorites are the Police Cruiser, Rescue Ambulance, Green Recycling Truck and Summer Camper.
Best For Building
Lego Duplo My First Cars and Trucks (age 1.5–5)
This Lego Duplo My First Cars & Trucks set is a wonderful introduction to the world of Legos for toddlers, and has a ton of playability. You get 3 wheelbases and assorted blocks (including a ladder, dump truck box, siren, crane hook and various drivers) which you can use to build all sorts of fun vehicles. Use the included building idea cards or make your own!
Add-on the Duplo Truck and Tracked Excavator (age 2–5), and Duplo Big Town Construction Site sets (which were also big hits with the 2–5 year olds we had testing these out), and combine all the pieces to create one incredible city/construction scene!
Automoblox Minis (age 3+)
Ok, we are just completely enamored by these Automoblox Minis (and we know your child will be too). They are incredible mix-and-match cars made of beautiful German beech wood that can be taken apart and easily snapped back together in countless different ways, thanks to the interchangeable parts.
We tested various 3-packs and the kids had an absolute field day swapping out the wheels, roofs, and front and back ends to create unique vehicles all their own. And once they were done building, the real rubber tires allowed them to race really fast!
We highly suggest either the S9/C9/T9 3-Pack or A9/X9/M9 3-Pack sets (pick the one with your child’s favorite colors), and the must-must-must is the Mini Emergency Playset which adds parts for Police, Fire and Rescue vehicles into the mix.
LEGOS (age 4–15+)
There are tons of Lego vehicle sets out there, and we won’t pretend that we’ve tested them all, but we have built and played with most of this year’s most recent sets, and have listed our favorites below. These are the sets that have the most buildability (many can be assembled and re-assembled in numerous different ways), and playability after the building is complete.
In the easier-to-build Lego Juniors category, the Race Car Rally (age 4–7, lots of rebuilding opportunities and comes in a great LEGO container for storage) and Demolition Site (age 4–7 – tippable dump truck and demo crane with wrecking ball equaled lots of playing time) are the ones to get.
If you’ve read our Best Building Toys Gift Guide, you know that we love the Lego Creator 3-in-1 sets, and the Turbo Track Racer (age 9–12), Fast Car (age 7–12) and Airshow Aces (7–12) all topped our tester’s lists.
And finally, if you have an older child skilled in Lego-building, they’ll absolutely love the Lego Technic Stunt Truck (age 7–14) which features a cool pull-back motor which allows it to race towards (and fly over!) the included stunt ramp. You can even combine the pieces with the Technic Stunt Bike to create a larger power racer. Doesn’t LEGO just think of everything?!
Zoob Car Designer (age 6+)
We are big fans of the Zoob building system (in fact, we featured it in our Best Building Toys Gift Guide), and whether you are a first-time Zoob’er or a Zoob master, the Zoob Car Designer set should not be missed. With enough pieces and rubber tires to build 3 cars at once (good for use with siblings and play dates), kids can choose to follow the instructions, or free build their own creations.
We had kids build some really cool-looking cars with this set, and they enjoyed the process of racing, crashing and re-building for hours at a time.
And if you become one of the aforementioned Zoob masters, try the Zoob RacerZ Fastback H2H which includes 2 “motors” that allow you to build pull-back motion cars that can travel up to 40 feet (no batteries required!).
Modarri Delux 3 Pack (age 6+)
For car enthusiasts who also love to build, these create-your-own Modarri cars are the perfect combination of design, creativity and function. Using the mix-and-match pieces (including car frames, hoods, fenders, wheels and seats), your kids can create thousands of unique car designs – all of which can be put together with 4 simple screws. (Editor’s note: these awesome cars are about 4” long so the pieces and screws are relatively small. We found that most children under 7 needed some assistance with the screws)
After they’re satisfied with their designs, they can take them for a spin using just a finger! Modarri cars have a patented finger-steering and suspension that lets kids easily maneuver the cars – from straight-aways to complex turns. Major fun!
If you missed it in our guide, Gifts For Learning & Expanding Horizons, this Remote Control Machines kit from Thames & Kosmos was a run-away winner with the older kids (aged 7–12) who constructed some pretty amazing machines (pick from 10 models like a bulldozer, race car or crane).
We think the nifty 6-button remote control they used to move their creations around probably had something to do with it, but we must say they really enjoyed the building process as well.
If you’re looking to pull your child away from the lure of video games and the iPad, we think this one can do it!
RELATED: Also check out the Batatt Take-A-Part Toys in our Gift Guide: The Best Building Toys For Kids (From Blocks To Robots)
Best Play Houses + Mats
KidKraft Deluxe Garage Set (age 3+)
If you have the space (and an extra hour or 2 to put it together!), the KidKraft Deluxe Garage Set is the best large play house for cars that we tested. It’s well-made, extremely durable, has tons of colorful details, and includes a car wash with moving scrubbers, liftable service station door, ticket booth with up and down gate, gas station, 6 wooden cars, 4 people and even a helicopter for the landing pad! We did have to use a little WD-40 to get the elevator crank to loosen up, but once it did, it was smooth sailing.
But far and away the most loved feature was the twisty ramp that goes all the way from the top floor to the bottom. The included cars wiz down at high speeds and is most satisfying to watch. We tested them with Hot Wheels cars as well, and had varied success – some went down perfectly, others flipped off the sides (much to the kids’ delight). A few of our testers made a fun game out of it and would ask “do you think this one will make it?” before launching each car. Imagination at work!
If you don’t have a large enough space for the KidKraft garage above, we highly recommend the Melissa & Doug Service Station Parking Garage which has a ton of features, all in a neat little take-along package.
It includes a car wash (with moveable belt), gas pump (with hose that fits into the included cars), service garage (with working doors), elevator, parking booth gate and a fun ramp to send your cars flying.
Playmobil Police Station (age 4–10)
Yes, yes, we know, we’ve totally doted on Playmobil in this guide, but with their realistic details they magically draw-in kids and spark great imaginative play. And the Playmobil Police Station is certainly no different. There are 2 main rooms (a lobby and a screening room), a large parking spot for their police cruiser, and of course a jail cell (with gate that slides and locks). But the part that your child will love the most? The trapdoor that prisoners can use to escape…and set off the alarm! To the rescue!
This set requires more assembly than you think, so if you’re gifting for Christmas or a birthday, you may want to consider putting it together ahead of time. You can still wrap the box to get those wide eye looks of glee, but then play can commence right away, without Mom or Dad having to miss the rest of the party.
Melissa & Doug Round The Town Road Rug (age 3+), $20.79
This Round The Town Road Rug from Melissa & Doug was hands-down the most played with “accessory” we tested. The well-made 3-foot rug includes plenty of roads for multiple kids to play at once, and we had kids putting blocks and the mini Caterpillar Construction machines in the construction zone, animals on the farm, and parking the Hot Wheels cars in the parking lot.
The rug has a sturdy skid-proof backing, so it won’t slip on hard woods, and can be rolled up for easy storage.
There’s also several different variations of this rug to match your child’s specific interests, including a Construction Rug, City Rug, Speedway, and an even bigger (6 ½ x 4 ½ feet!) Jumbo Activity Rug.
HABA Moover Wooden Dump Truck (age 12 months+)
This beautiful, Danish-designed Moover Wooden Dump Truck makes the ultimate first ride-on toy, and will be played with and cherished for many, many years to come.
Now don’t despair when it’s delivered in a very flat box – assembly is a complete snap with Moover’s patented “click key” system and takes no time at all – no tools, screws or frustration necessary. Once your child is a little older, they can even take it apart and put it back together all by themselves. Take a look at the video on this Amazon listing to see how it is effortlessly built.
Once constructed, kids love to hop on the back and scoot around – the front cab can be maneuvered from side to side, acting like a steering wheel. There’s even a fun “secret hiding” compartment that lifts up at the back where kids can store their favorite small toys and other treasures.
PlasmaCar (age 3+)
If your kids have never experienced the kid-powered PlasmaCar, they are sure in for a treat. With no batteries or pedals they may wonder how to “drive” it, but with a few slight back-and-forth turns of the steering wheel, they’ll soon be moving along and feeling totally grown-up.
We’re not quite sure we understand how it all works (something to do with inertia, centrifugal force and friction we’re told), but all that matters to your child is that they have all the power to make this cool car go. With tons of fun colors to choose from, and the ability to use it indoors or out, it’s no wonder it’s won every toy-award under the sun (editor’s note: and don’t be shy about taking a seat and giving it a try…from, ahem, experience, it is a blast!).
Reeves Big Dig Ride-On Working Crane (age 4+)
The Big Dig Ride-On Working Crane must be a part of every kid’s backyard fantasy. Whether it’s being used in a sand box or dirt pile, on a gravel driveway or in a snow drift, the durable metal frame and double hand-controls make digging so much fun.
The base swivels so it has full 360 degree motion, and at approximately 10lbs, it’s not too heavy to be moved from one “construction site” to the next.
Anki OverDrive Starter Kit (age 8–15+)
If you want to truly wow your kids on Christmas day, this Anki Overdrive next-generation race track kit is a sure thing. Think of your typical slot-race track amped up with a powerful computer/virtual reality component – so while you’re racing physical cars on a race track in front of you, you’re controlling their moves (speed, weapons, stunts, etc) via a tablet or phone.
Now you’d think the set-up for a “toy” this complex would be, well, complex. But thankfully it’s just the opposite – in just a few minutes, you can create your track (there’s 8 different layouts to choose from and pieces are magnetized for easy assembly), download the app (free for iOS and Android) and be off to the races. The app amazingly senses the cars on the track and brings them to the start line!
You can choose if you race against a computer-simulated opponent (which come in various levels so kids of all ages can be challenged…or not!) or a friend (just note that each person requires a device to control their car). There are also different modes of play including time trial, king of the hill and race against an opponent – so plenty of variation to keep it fresh for easy-to-bore tweens and teens.
One feature that our kid testers loved was that as you complete more races you collect awards which allows you to customize your car with “weapons” that will allow you to penalize other cars during a race – you use the weapon via the app and you’ll see your opponent’s car slow down…so neat!
This starter kit comes with all you need to start your engines, but there are also track expansion packs and different custom cars and trucks you can add-on to continue the fun. We agree with one of our testers who exclaimed after their first race, “…this is just the coolest thing ever!”
Puzzles + arts and crafts
If your machine-enthusiast wants to take a break from the fast-paced world of racing or digging, they’ll love our top-rated arts, crafts and puzzles that all incorporate…yep, you guessed it…vehicles!
This awesome set includes four 12-piece wooden puzzles (race car, train, school bus and fire truck) that can be neatly organized and stored in the accompanying box (which also doubles as a board to construct them on). Tuck it into your bag on your way to Grandma’s!
There’s also a Construction Vehicle version which is just as great.
Melissa & Doug Jumbo Coloring Pad – Vehicles (age 3+) and Reusable Sticker Pad – Vehicles (age 3+)
When it comes to high-quality arts and crafts, it’s hard to beat the selection from Melissa & Doug.
Their Vehicles Jumbo Coloring Pad is a must-buy with 50 oversized pages full of trucks, cars and anything else that vrooms. The paper is thick, easy to tear out and each design contains just the right amount of details to make it fun for young art-eests.
Combine this with the Vehicles Reusable Sticker Pad, which features 5 backgrounds and over 165 clinging stickers to reposition over and over again, and the Decorate Your Own Wooden Rescue Vehicles Set (age 4+) with 3 modes of transportation to assemble and paint, and your child will be in vehicle craft heaven.
Kids love the Sticky Mosaic kits from The Orb Factory, and they are a terrific fine-motor activity. The larger foam stickers of the My First Vehicles set is geared towards younger kids and requires color and shape recognition to create the 5 fun designs. This one will get you a ton of quiet time as they expertly craft their vehicles.
How To Draw Books
Learning how to draw their favorite vehicles can be so much fun! With the help of our top picks, your child will learn how to break-down each car, truck, plane or train into simple shapes that they can actually recreate. You’ll be amazed at the pictures they’ll draw using these as their guide.
For kids 4+
- Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World
- Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains
- How to Draw Cars and Trucks and Other Vehicles
- How to Draw Planes, Trains and Boats
For kids 7+
- How to Draw Awesome Vehicles: Land, Sea, and Air
- All About Drawing Cool Cars, Fast Planes & Military Machines
- 20 Ways to Draw a Bike and 44 Other Incredible Ways to Get Around
This war-style game is a great first card game for kids. The over-sized cards feature the funny vehicles from Richard Scarry’s Car & Trucks & Things That Go book, and each is assigned a number from 1–12 (which is also represented by that same number of passengers). Players flip over their top card and the one with the highest number (or most passengers) wins. For more advanced play, add in the special bonus cards which allow you to pick extra cards and add the numbers together.
Kids love the familiar and silly illustrations, and counting the passengers (or adding them up with the advanced play) is great for developing mathematical thinking. This is a great one to keep in your bag to have accessible to play while waiting at a restaurant, watching an older sibling’s sporting event, or to take with you on vacation.
SmartGames Trucky 3 (age 3+)
We’d like to shout from the rooftops “buy this game!” because it was such an enormous hit with our kid testers. The aim is simple: pick one of the challenge cards and load up the trucks with the specified blocks…but just make sure none of them are overflowing.
We had kids clamoring to have a turn with Trucky, and hands flying in every which way to try and turn and test the pieces to make them all fit. They were having so much fun they had no clue they were building their spatial awareness abilities and logical thinking skills.
Note: we think the manufacturer’s recommended age of 3+ is a little on the young side. The 3 year olds who we had testing this game loved piling the blocks in the trucks and driving them around, but didn’t have much interest in solving any puzzles. The 4 and 5 year olds were able to complete the Starter level challenges, and the 6+ year olds could test their hand at the Expert and Master levels (and we must admit, we even had a hard time with some of them!)
Also try SmartGames Smart Car for a similar one-player puzzle game – this time featuring a wooden car.
RELATED: For more top game recommendations head over to: The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)
Books are often where a child’s love of vehicles is born and nurtured. Our favorites are the ones that they’ll sit through quietly and ask you to read over and over again.
If your little gear-head loves studying vehicles, learning their names and seeing how they operate, then wooo-weee do we have just the perfect gift.
Although The Ultimate Book of Vehicles: From Around the World is not a storybook, it will more than capture their attention with the beautifully detailed color illustrations and the pop-ups, flaps, pull-tabs and rotating wheels that adorn each and every thick page.
But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill lift-the-flap book. These interactive elements make the vehicles “come alive”, with excavators that scoop and dump trucks that dump, and illustrations under flaps so you can see what’s inside.
This book is so thoughtful and the kids we put in front of it never wanted to let it out of their sight. Many sat for extended periods of time going meticulously through each and every page, examining and interacting with the machines.
Just a stunning book that we can guarantee will be totally devoured by your child.
If I Built A Car by Chris Van Dusen (age 3+)
If you haven’t read a Chris Van Dusen book to your kids yet, well, you are both missing out. With the beautiful bright illustrations and lively rhymes they are not only some of our kids’ favorites to listen to, but they are our favorites to read as well.
If I Built A Car centers around a young boy who dreams of designing his own car. The book takes you through different fun features he’s imagined like a snack bar, swimming pool and a robot driver, that are all far more exciting than his boring station wagon. If you can get through it without a giggle, “so cool!” or “I want to design my own car”, you’ll be the first.
The Amazing Machines box-set is a close runner-up to the books above, and will suck in your preschooler with great rhymes, colorful artwork and fun animal characters – oh, and of course the machines! Each one centers around a different vehicle (trucks, tractors, cars, boats, rockets, submarines and more!) and incorporates real-life facts.
At the end of every book is a fun illustrated glossary that gives additional information about the machines’ accessories or working parts.
You can easily get through a few of these in one sitting…the only difficult part is choosing which ones!
A few other classics that shouldn’t be missed:
- Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
- Let’s Go For A Drive (An Elephant & Piggie Book)
- Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel
- Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (and don’t miss the beautiful follow-up: Mighty, Mighty Construction Site)
- Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?
- Little Blue Truck series
So that’s it friends, some pretty incredible ideas that will send your wheels-obsessed child off to the races.
But don’t race off just yet, make sure you check out the other guides from our 2017 What Moms Love Gift Guides For Kids:
- The Best Building Toys For Kids (From Blocks To Robots)
- The Best Gross Motor Indoor Toys For Active Kids (To Get That Energy Out!)
- The Very Best Babies, Dolls & Doll Accessories For All Ages & Stages
- The Best Doll Houses & Accessories For Your Doll-Obsessed Girl (or Boy!)
- The Best Princess-Themed Gifts For Your Little Princess
- NOW LIVE! The Best Gift Ideas For Super Hero & Star Wars Lovers
- 200+ Unique Stocking Stuffers For Babies To Teens (That Aren’t Junk!)
And we’re currently working on even more guides, including:
- The Best Personalized Gifts for Kids
- NOW LIVE! The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)
Make sure you don’t miss them by subscribing to our newsletter and we’ll let you know the moment they launch. We’ll also let you know of any exclusive discounts or special deals on any of the toys included on our list:
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And if that’s not enough, if you’d prefer to gift something that isn’t a toy but rather an experience that will stay with them for a lifetime, an educational present that can expand their horizons, a fun practical item that can be used every day, or a sentimental treasure with deeper meaning, head over to our Unrivaled Guide To Non-Toy Gifts. 200+ Presents For Kids Of All Ages (That Aren’t Toys!)
This ultimate guide includes 6 parts:
- Non-Toy Gifts For Learning & Expanding Horizons
- Non-Toy Gifts To Spark Creativity, Imagination & Special Interests
- Non-Toy Gifts That Are Practical (But Far From Boring)
- Non-Toy Gifts For Making Memories
- Non-Toy Gifts To Receive In The Mailbox
- The Best Board Games For Kids & Families (That Aren’t Candy Land or Monopoly)
BONUS! FREE PRINTABLE COUPON BOOK
If you haven’t made it to our Making Memories guide yet, we don’t want you to miss out on our free printable coupon book. This includes 12 super fun coupons in Christmas, Hanukkah and Birthday designs that your kids will go gaga over. Plus blank templates for you to personalize your own. These make a wonderful stocking stuffer! Get more details and get the link to download here.