The best ride-on toy – Chicago TribuneOctober 13, 2019
One of the most challenging quests many parents face is finding a toy that will keep their toddler or young child engaged for more than a few hours. High on the list of candidates are ride-on toys, such as miniature cars, scooters, and tricycles. These entertaining toys, whether powered by kids, adults, or batteries, cultivate a sense of adventure while also developing important physical and mental skills. Other types of toys may be interesting, but a ride-on toy is a truly immersive experience.
When shopping for a ride-on toy, it is important to consider the age and skill level of the intended user. Some toddlers will enjoy a trip around the yard or neighborhood, as long as the ride is adult-powered. Others may want to drive themselves around in a miniature car or scooter. Older children are often prepared to take command of battery-powered cars.
In this buying guide, we’ve compiled a shortlist of the best ride-on toys on the market today. Some are entry-level and human-powered, while others have low-speed electric motors for more advanced users. At the top of our list is the Power Wheels Jeep Wrangler, a battery-powered miniature car that is rugged enough for both on-road and off-road duties.
Considerations when choosing ride-on toys
Types of ride-on toys
The one characteristic that all ride-on toys have in common is that the user interacts directly with them, usually as a driver or passenger. The most common types of ride-on toys are manually powered, either by a parent or the child. Some models are pushed from behind, while others are pulled from the front or pedaled by the young driver. A toy wagon or a scooter would fall into this broad category.
Another type of ride-on toy uses a track to create a loop or pathway. The child can push the toy manually or it may have a low-powered electric motor. The Power Wheels train set on our shortlist is an example of a tracked ride-on.
Some ride-on toys depend on a different kind of manual propulsion to move. A set of revolving handles could spin the toy’s wheels, while others depend on centrifugal force generated by wiggling or leaning from side to side.
Battery-powered ride-on toys can be expensive, but are very popular and engaging. The passenger can steer and stop the car, while a low-speed electric motor provides the forward (or backward) momentum.
Age and weight limits
Manufacturers routinely put age and weight limits on the packaging of ride-on toys, and parents should respect those limitations. A toddler under three years of age may have the motor skills to push a manual scooter or sit inside a parent-powered mini-car, but battery-powered cars are generally restricted to older children who can control the speed and steer the car responsibly with minimal supervision.
Weight also plays an important role in ride-on toy specifications, because the toys are often designed to sit low to the ground for safety reasons. The support system can fail under too much stress or rough handling.