Play Power • 7 Ways to Play with Matchbox Cars

In an age where our children are constantly entertained by one of the hundreds of structured activities available or by the fast-changing, flashing colors of a screen, unstructured and creative play is becoming a lost art.

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Psychologists have linked the decline of unstructured play to the rise of childhood anxiety and depression. As parents wanting our children to grow up with good mental health, it is important to support them in learning unstructured play.

It can be a difficult thing for a child to move from being entertained to learning to entertain themselves through play.  As a parent, you can offer opportunities to get your child thinking outside of the box to play with toys.

These 7 matchbox car play ideas are simple and more than likely you already have all the needed materials on hand:

1. Side Walk Chalk Town

For this activity, allow your driveway to become a city! Together draw roads leading to drawn bakeries, banks, school, work, church, parks, or anywhere your child likes to go or thinks to draw. The creation of the town may be more entertaining than actually driving the cars through it!


2. Ramp Race

Stack some blocks or books and place one end of some cardboard or plywood on top of the books and put the other end on the floor to form a ramp. Let your child race the cars down the ramp. There can be several heats to determine the fastest car.

3. Stolen Car Police Hunt

This activity is basically a game of hide-and-seek but with a creative play twist. Tell your child that a blue matchbox car has been stolen and the owners need their help. Hide the car in an age-appropriate way and make your child an honorary detective for the police department.


4. Flashlight Follow

Grab some flashlights and make the room dark. Have your child drive the car to stay in the beam of the flashlight as you move the beam of light slowly across the floor.

5. Car show

Let your children put on a car show for you. They can describe details of the cars and talk about whether the car is slow or fast or how much the trucks can haul. Let them use their imaginations to come up with details.

6. Trash-to-Treasure Parking Garage

Toilet paper/paper towel rolls, boxes, some markers, and packing tape can be used to make a fun parking garage complete with parking spaces, 2-3 levels, and even ramps.


7. Car Characters

Give each car a name and personality and let them talk and interact with each other to solve a problem, go on an outing together, or just carry on conversation. This can be fun to combine with the sidewalk chalk town.

Now encourage your child to come up with a new way or game to play with cars! The possibilities are endless and the more your child plays, the easier it will be to create new ways to play.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” • Carl Jung





2 thoughts on “Play Power • 7 Ways to Play with Matchbox Cars

    1. Play skills are near and dear to my heart as an OT for the kiddos I work with and also for my own children. It’s an important part of childhood for sure! Thanks for reading and commenting.


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