Top 5 Tips for Choosing a Ride-On Toy
Oh boy, what a selection to choose from. If you head on over to Amazon or Target, you’ll see that you could spend a few hours just browsing for ride-on toys. Tons of colors, styles, and options. This is worse than shopping for a car!
If you don’t already know, a ride-on toy is any toy that a child can sit, stand, or ride-on. This includes all battery-powered and kid-powered versions; 2, 3, and 4 wheelers; 6, 12, 24, and 36 volt models; etc.
You can see how that permeates into a large number of toys. I break things down into easier-to-swallow categories, so be sure and browse around after reading. Hopefully I can help you to make a well-informed decision.
Let’s jump right into the 5 important tips to consider when buying your child a ride-on toy.
Safety and well-being are of the utmost importance in young children. After all, they’re dependent on us, right? When choosing a toy for them to play with–and not just ride-on toys–conduct your due diligence and verify the safety requirements for your toy.
Does this toy have–or require–pedals or brakes? Does your child even know how to use either?
Some models (Radio Flyer Deluxe Steer and Stroll Trike) include a mechanism that allows children to rest their feet on the pedals while in motion.
This is great when a parent is in control, pushing the child forward. Otherwise, the only method of stopping will come when a child reverses motion on the pedals on their own, effectively locking the freewheel.
Other toys (Little Tikes Cozy Truck/Coupe) come with a floor panel that keeps children from extending their feet through to the ground. This is great for learning in stages and allowing the parent to maintain control.
Does the toy require a helmet? Does it come with a safety restraint? Is there any other gear that is required and may not come with the toy? Know what’s necessary to be safe. Err on the side of caution and be diligent in maintaining your child’s safety.
And remember, always wear a helmet
Wheelbase & Balance
The wider the wheelbase (distance between the two furthest parallel tires), the less likely the ride-on toy is to tip over. I will also note, a three-wheeler with the same wheelbase as that of a four-wheeler won’t have the same stability.
The safest toy will be one with four wheels. One having a width larger than its height and preferably a roof or roll bar. If a toy is taller than it is wide, there is a likelihood that it may tip or roll over.
If possible, have your child ride the toy around and observe how it reacts to their movements. Do any of the tires lift up when they turn? Does your child readjust themselves to counteract the movement of the toy?
There are two main sources of power when it comes to ride-on toys:
A beneficial side-effect of having a child power the toy themselves is the burning of energy. If there’s one thing that makes for a great nap, it’s solid playtime.
One concern with having a kid-powered toy is that they have the potential to go much faster than their battery-powered counterparts. Extra precaution should be taken when children ride any kind of push scooter or car with no brakes. Make sure they know their limits and start out slow.
On the other side of the spectrum, battery and motor-powered toys are just like mom and dad’s cars, right? Press the pedal and we’re zooming around, over grass and through the driveway.
Well, one drawback is their maximum speed. The majority top out at around 5 miles per hour. That’s a little faster than a power-walk. Not exactly warp speed. Don’t worry, a few models can get up to 17 mph, but we’ve saved those for another article.
Can my child reach the ground or power a toy safely on their own? Does my child have the experience and responsibility to drive their own battery powered ride-on toy?
The Right Fit
So now that you’ve got a better idea of the style with which you’d like to begin, let’s make sure that we find the safest fit for your kid.
It would be silly to get a 24 volt Razor motocross bike for a 2 year old. Even a simple balance toy would be out of the question. If the kid has a tough time walking, there’s a good chance they can’t sit up on a two-wheeler.
All toys come labeled with an age range and weight limit. Be mindful of these values. Factor in height, coordination, and experience as well.
Some ride-on toys require considerable coordination. Others require the ability to balance or perform many movements at once. Based on your experience–not to mention the informative description on the package–you should be able to determine the requirements to ride.
Ultimately, you know your child’s skill level best. But don’t push them into a toy just because you think they’d look real cool riding around in it, or figure that they’ll just learn as they go.
Trial by fire isn’t a smart teaching method with kids at this age. Instead, look at toys that provide stages of growth. Not only will this ease the strain on your wallet, it will also give your child time to get acclimated at their skill level and their rate of learning.
Does this ride-on toy fit within the age and weight limit of my child? More importantly, does my child show the skill level and responsibility to ride this toy safely?
Why buy two toys when you can simply buy one?
Our child absolutely loves to ride on my Razor A5 Lux scooter. And by ride on, I mean that they’re standing on the scooter base with their hands safely grasped onto the handlebars under mine.
We only walk a few feet in the driveway and I make sure we both wear our helmets. Still, I understood that this method of play wasn’t safe.
We needed something more in their age range, with a wider base and softer edges. After a bit of research, I came across the Radio Flyer Ride 2 Glide Scooter.
This is a two-stage toy where they gain coordination and balance skills while safely sitting a few inches off the ground. When the time comes to graduate, a few clicks and they’re on to a stand-up scooter.
In our case, this model addressed several issues we were presented with. Now, I feel better knowing that we’ve not only made an informed and safe purchase, but we bought a toy that can be re-used in the future when the next stage is necessary.
Does this ride on toy provide more than one stage of learning? Are there any alternative models that can stretch my dollar further?*
After reading through these 5 tips, I hope you’re better-prepared to select a ride-on toy. Ask yourself the right questions to make the safest possible choice.
Remember, your child’s safety is paramount. Put that factor above looking cute or selecting a big and powerful toy that they’ll grow into.
Have patience and know that you can always come back and choose that flashier, faster model when the time is right.