Ben Kao Everyday fun! Fatherkao loves... Milestones and growing up What to Expect... As a Mother

From two to four, of toys and more

November 25, 2013

This post chronicles my son’s development over the years, particularly his changing obsessions with toys and characters.

This post is written for parents with little boys – I’d like to offer you a glimpse of what you might encounter the next few years raising your son.

This post is about the many phases of boys and their toys, and what weekly emails from parenting websites like Baby Center never warned you.

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Vehicles of every kind

At two, my firstborn was crazy about construction vehicles. As soon as he started talking, he started learning the different names of the huge trucks he saw on the roads – excavator! concrete mixer! dump truck! he would try to say.

First trucks

And so very quickly he got himself a whole load of these toy vehicles to play with.

A few months later, he started liking trains. He became fascinated with someone called Thomas and all his (goddamn expensive) creepy round-faced friends. He got an entire collection of die cast trains for Christmas that year.

Thomas and friends

When he turned three, his obsession with cars started, which very incidentally, also got his father (the bigger boy) extremely excited. They started amassing Tomica die casts and building tracks of all kinds, which very quickly consumed them to the point of obsession. They would sit together to watch cars move from Point A to B after building those massive car tracks that take up half the space in the living room for hours on end.

Car track

Unfufilled childhood dreams

I never understood the point of it, but apparently, it was like being in car heaven for these boys.

Handy Benji

After the car phase, Ben’s curiosity with tools began, in part because he started watching a series called Handy Manny on Disney Junior and in part due to observing his father work with tools to build the stuff we bought from IKEA.

Tools

And just like that, I suddenly had a handy little man at home overnight, “working” with hammers, screwdrivers and spanners. It was a very noisy phase indeed as he went knocking around the house all day and night.

Building blocks and Lego

When tools became passé for him, he spent hours creating things from his imagination with his Lego blocks.

Lego

Lego Quadro

He made all sorts of stuff – stuff we can never make out, stuff which existed only in his mind, and a whole range of playthings from dragons to zoos to carnival grounds. Whenever he came to us to show us what he’s made, we’d say, “Wow, that’s amazing! What’s that?” but it never deterred him from making more and fuelling our own imagination too.

Dinosaurs, wild cats and animals of all kinds

Between playing Lego and sometimes revisiting earlier obsessions like his toy cars and tools, Ben started getting curious about animals, particularly those prehistoric giants that have gone extinct a long time ago.

Dinos

That was when we threw him a dinosaur party. That was when I also had a challenging time learning all those five-syllable names of dinosaurs talking dinos with him all day long (oh yes, the pterodactyl flies! oh wow the acrocanthosaurus ate these! watch out, here comes the nedoceratops!). I’m telling you, the dino phase was the one most tiring ever! I’m actually secretly hoping Nat skips that cos’ I ain’t wanna name another dinosaur ever in my life.

At four, Ben moved from dinosaurs to animals – farm animals, zoo animals, safari animals. There was this time he was particularly interested in big wild cats. Ask him now and this boy can tell you the difference between a leopard, cheetah and puma. Ask him now and he can also tell you also why the tiger and the lion are both kings in their own respect. He knows where these cats live, what they eat and their different characteristics. Because of his interest in animals, he’s pored over many encyclopaedic books all by himself at home and at the library just to learn more about them.

Animals

Bam! Bam! Bam! Kababoom!

Nerf battle

Ah yes, weapons. How can I forget? Sword, shield, bow and arrow, oh yes, and GUNS. So my four-year-old, together with his sister and baby brother now, are so into them. In the beginning, I was one determined mother who swore that I would never allow my kids to play with toy weapons. Not even water guns in the pool. Everyone has an informal causation theory that playing with guns leads to aggression and violence, and I am one big believer of this theory. Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for the kids, their father thinks otherwise. “No link!” he says. “This is what boys play!”

And that was how I lost the battle against weapons.

Actually, what made me not insist any longer was this piece of research I found online:

According to Michael Thompson, PhD, child psychologist and author of It’s a Boy!  Your Son’s Development From Birth to Age 18, children learn how to control impulses, delay gratification, think symbolically, and view things from another’s perspective through imaginary games. Play also allows children to act out their fears and aspirations. “As a little boy, you’re not very powerful,” Thompson says. “With a gun, you feel powerful and heroic.” According to Thompson, it’s really about dominance and heroism, winning and losing, and who gets to be the good guy in the end. Of course, when there’s hurt and aggression involved, that must be stopped by the adult.

So the kids started playing with Nerf guns with their father (I shared here about Fatherkao making dinosaur target boards to play with the kids, and it was great for hand-eye coordination!), “smiting” one another with swords and learning how to defend themselves with shields and playing with bows made of plastic and arrows that had suction cups.

Sword play

Ben the Knight

Ben also started watching the animation series Mike the Knight and was immersed in a world of bravery and chivalry, and dreamt of knighthood day and night for months.

More than meets the eye

Transformer fever

Three months shy of his fifth birthday, some creatures that can change their bodies at will have started to dominate his world. Intelligent robots, called Transformers that could think and feel, are now his favourite playthings, and he’s experiencing a fascination with these species of “living robotic beings” with a curiosity and obsession I’ve never seen. He’s fired me with questions after questions about these beings after watching the movie, and finally took out his Transformer toys which he never really could figure out or understand in the past that were given to him as gifts. He now talks to them and about them all the time, and functions in a world of Transformer-speak that has a huge invisible sign warning everyone else to keep out.

Transformer love

~~~

As I mentioned, this post is about boys and their many toys. Although I write from my experience with one boy, I’m sure what I’ve shared isn’t just specific to Ben alone.

Comparatively speaking, the little girl doesn’t seem to have obsessions of these varieties. She’s ok with stuffed toys, dolls, girly things and masak-masak play like cooking, cleaning and other domesticated things but has never dwelled on it every single day liking just one particular thing for months! I’ve not ever stereotyped toys for my boys, not at least before they were three. Ben plays with dolls and engages in play activities like cooking and cleaning occasionally with Becks and Nat, but it’s interesting how his preferences and interests have geared towards things with masculine attributes all on its own, and turned into phases of obsessions which are going to be so unique to him to remember his childhood by.

And it’s incredibly amazing how God wired boys. From what I understand, these boys remain, umm, boys, for a long time even in adulthood with bigger, better toys. Quite apparently, the one person that influences Ben’s interests in toys is himself one big boy looking to relive his childhood too. You should see the look on both their faces whenever they are in a toy store. (Right, Fatherkao?) 

I know more exciting times lie ahead as my little boy turns 5, then 6, then 7, and I am thinking the Justice League of Superheroes, war soldiers, and more Transformers already!

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15 Comments

  • Reply stayathomemumof3 November 29, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    Any idea where to buy Mike the Knight DVD? My 4yo also into it now after we happened to borrow the book from library..

    • Reply MotherKao November 29, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      I thought I saw it at Kiddy Palace (the one at Next)! :-) Try those video stores like LaserFlair?

      • Reply stayathomemumof3 November 30, 2013 at 10:51 PM

        i found it at Popular today! usual price $14.90, now it’s $9.90! Yay!
        i think it’s really great your son has all these interests. my son has no idea what transformers are cos he watches only dvds selected by me. From your earlier posts, you also don’t let your children watch much tv, right? May I know how your son learnt about all these, and how do you encourage his interests? I would love for my kids to have things to ‘obssess’ over too!

        • Reply MotherKao December 1, 2013 at 11:10 AM

          Hi stayathomemumof3, thanks for sharing about the sale! My son only started watching a little bit more tv programming recently (at 4 y o) – that’s how he learned about Mike the Knight, Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Diego. I limit tv to about 1 hour a day still. Haha. :-) Before that, when he was younger, the interests he had in cars, trains and construction vehicles came just so organically, I didn’t even know how that came about! But I picked up on it very fast, and talked to him about what he liked, and read related books with him. With the dinosaurs, I read up on my own so I could further interest him with interesting facts and stories. That helped to fan his obsession a lot.

          Now that he’s older, he turns to his father and is influenced by him a lot. When father and son spend time together, they talk about stuff, and that’s how he probably learned about Transformers. Ben found a Transformers comics at a book fair and was so intrigued as his father started explaining some things to him – that’s how this all started!

          We try to “feed” his interest by exposing him to related stuff (like watch Transformers cartoon, buy him a sword and shield – his father got him that when he went to Sweden where they sold lots of knight and Viking stuff on the streets, throw him a dinosaur birthday party, go to the library just to pick out books specifically on construction vehicles, etc) just so that he would be thoroughly immersed in the phase / obsession until he feels it’s time to move on. Hope you’d have fun doing this with your boy too! :-)

          • stayathomemumof3 December 1, 2013 at 12:51 PM

            Ok! Thank you very much for the detailed advice! 😀

  • Reply Homeschoolsg November 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Yes it’s clearly a boy’s thing. I’ve those tomica tracks and cars, countless & varies type of Thomas tracks, trains, Lego after Lego after Leog, a number of angry bird series, must read every book in a particular series, and blah blah blah blah. My niece has no obsession but her brother has a passionate liking for dinos. I cannot help but feel its a boy’s thing.

    • Reply MotherKao November 26, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      Yea, I think so too! I’m thinking, when I was a kiddo, Polly Pocket and My Little Pony only lasted like, what? Maybe a week? Haha. But the boys in class would be playing with He-Man forever!

  • Reply Adora @ Gingerbreadmum November 25, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    Hmm. I’m trying to think if my girls are obsessed over anything. I’m not really sure. I don’t think so! But I suppose the IKEA kitchen set is pretty used around here, as is the little doll pram that both girls like sitting in.

    Well, my wallet is pretty empty to begin with so maybe that plays a part!

    • Reply MotherKao November 26, 2013 at 11:05 AM

      Lol! You have great girls, Adora! They really use their toys well and make every thing you buy so value for money eh! Good for you. We’re breaking the bank just catching up with Ben’s obsessions!

  • Reply Waiwai November 25, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    My son also loves Thomas, cars and building blocks – things that hurt my feet when I accidentally step on them!

    • Reply MotherKao November 26, 2013 at 11:06 AM

      Haha! When boys like these toys, we’re the ones that get injured eh, Waiwai!

  • Reply sengkangBabies November 25, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Funny, I can so relate to your post. From both my kids and my own perspectives haha. You will be adding online games and youtubes soon :)
    Cheers,
    Andy (SengkangBabies)

    • Reply MotherKao November 25, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      Lol, Andy. I’m sure you’re a boy too and having great fun with three boys!

  • Reply Mabel November 25, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    It’s the same with my boy! And some of his obsessions can’t really be found in Singapore (read: bleeding in the wallet), like The Octonauts. It’s mostly got to do with cartoons though. Haha.

    He has so many different phases, so many toys. Thankfully, he knows how to return to earlier obsessions and not just leave them behind. With each new episode we find, to the toys he has, it will usually steer him towards playing those toys again. Haha! But I can see the constant obsession is rockets and ducks for Blake. Haha.

    Oh, and I remember going through weeks before giving birth to Nakayla, and through my entire confinement, and weeks after, watching and playing ‘Little Einsteins’ with Blake. Haha!

    • Reply MotherKao November 25, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      So Blake’s interests are inspired by the programmes he watched? Interesting. For Ben, it initially ain’t so, and I really can’t point to any starting point except perhaps his father. Haha. Can so identify with a bleeding wallet, Mabel!

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