A loud power tool that can wake up an entire neighborhood in the morning has become one toddler’s favorite toy.
Heidi Heilig recently asked her husband, Bret, to bring home a leaf blower after she noticed her 3-year-old son, nicknamed “Riot,” was talking more and more about the tool as he saw people using them in his Brooklyn neighborhood.
She figured she could justify buying the blower since she tends to her co-op’s garden, but when Bret brought home the bright red Milwaukee blower with its jumbo-sized black tube, their son took no time warming up to it, carrying it around almost everywhere he went and tucking it into bed.
“Riot was entranced and would insist on stopping to watch whenever we passed someone cleaning their sidewalk,” Heilig, 37, tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t quite realize his affection would run so deep but in retrospect, I should have realized, because this is a kid who tucks LED light bulbs in at night with his extra blankie.”
Riot loves removing and replacing the blower’s tube, and even reads the safety symbols and warns his mom not to get her hair stuck in the motor.
Heilig, who is the author of The Girl From Everywhere and The Ship Beyond Time, says Riot’s fascination with the leaf blower and other electronics may have stemmed her husband’s work as a solar installer and manager.
“They bond over it. Most of their play involves swapping light bulbs in the ceiling fan or putting the diffuser on or taking it off, or building things,” she continues. “He has a shelf full of plastic and stuffed toys and animals. I guess he just prefers the real stuff.”
Riot’s passion for the leaf blower started with his fascination with fans—any kind, whether ceiling, table, floor or box. A leaf blower, of course, is just an extension of that obsession.
“We bought him a ceiling fan for his room last year and he also tucked it in and napped next to it before he let us install it,” Heilig recalls.
Riot loves fans so much that he is probably the first kid in the history of Halloween to trick-or-treat as a ceiling fan.
Heilig embraces her son’s quirky interests and hopes that other parents encourage their children when they take up something unusual (as long as they stay safe and supervise them).
“Kids are just funny and unexpected and the way they adore things is so pure,” she says. “They are who they are and they like what they like from a very young age and the sooner you encourage them to be themselves, the happier everyone will be.”