Ride-ons and walkers are essentially the same type of toy, with a walker intended for the infant learning to walk and a ride-on an enhanced walker with wheels for the older child. A young child wants to imitate the adults around him or her and one of the biggest differences a toddler sees is that adults have the ability to walk. Giving a child an aid for those first steps will benefit both the parent and the child.
The simplest walker for a toddler is a wooden base on wheels with a handle for the child to hold. The walker steadies the child as he or she takes their first steps. As the child learns how to walk, the walker becomes less a support and more a toy with which the child can play. For example, children love to pretend to be shopping for groceries in a walker that looks like a shopping cart. Other types of walkers for toddlers can be more like a ride-on, where the child sits on top, straddling the toy and use their legs to push themselves along. With these types of walker ride-ons, the child can pretend to be driving a truck. Or, with those ride-ons shaped like animals, they can pretend to be riding a horse, an elephant or even a whale. The child is not only learning how to use their legs, but is also engaging in physical exercise that leads to more muscular strength and greater endurance.
The next step after the walker ride-on is the pedal ride-on, a progression that leads eventually to the child’s first bicycle — we do have to mention the Big Wheel, a staple of every child’s first ride, but that’s a whole other subject on the progression from tricycles to quad bikes to training wheels to road bike to mountain bike. Think of the wonderful times children and adults can have cycling together.
Pedal ride-ons can be imitations of vehicles, like a fire engine or jeep, or continue a child’s fascination with animals. The pedaling itself is an intense exercise for the child, building muscle. A child doesn’t even have to pedal to have fun — we know one little girl who never drove her little car, but who delighted in getting in and out, opening and closing the door each time. But, just as with any activity that takes the child away from home, care must be taken that children are taught basic safety precautions: don’t ride in the street, don’t run into pedestrians, yield to other vehicles. Children as young as three years of age can start enjoying pedaling adventures.
In the next range of ride-ons, we come to the electric-powered ones. These are actually little vehicles with many of the same requirements and precautions as the full-sized vehicle. You’ve probably seen the child in your neighborhood excitedly driving what is actually their first car. The speed of these electric ride-ons may be no more than a fast walk, but remember that a parent should always be close by for safety reasons.
Electric go-carts and other more mechanised vehicles are the last step in the ride-on category before we actually reach those teenage years and the need for a real motorcar. It’s not always necessary to buy a go-cart for a child interested in going for a run, because these not-quite-toys-anymore can be rented at go-cart tracks. If a child expresses a real interest in go-carting, be sure to invest in all the safety gear as well as the go-cart itself.