Riding Toys Safety Tips

Riding toys are one of the best ways to teach your child balance, coordination, and other essential physical skills. But with so many toys being recalled each year, it can be hard to choose one that’s both safe and efficient. Here are some tips to help you out.

As your child learns to walk and run, he develops a “need for speed” that propels him to walk faster and go greater distances. For most parents, this is the best time to give them riding toys—toys that they can sit on and drive with their feet. Riding toys help children develop a sense of direction and control, both of which are essential skills they’ll need in the next few years.

But useful as they are, riding toys have been the subject of much recent debate because of the hazards they pose. Thousands of kids every year are injured by falls, bumps, and other riding-related accidents. More often than not, these happen because the toy is substandard or improperly used. Here’s a quick guide to choosing the safest riding toys for your kids.

Choose age-appropriate toys.

Children’s skill levels improve with age, so the ride-on you bought for your two-year-old may not be appropriate when the child is five. There are three main riding toy designs, each made for a particular age level:

Rocking toys have a fixed, curved base that moves much like a rocking chair. The child straddles the seat and holds on to a grip, usually located on the toy’s head. Rocking toys have a fixed back-and-forth movement, so your child won’t be able to move around the room yet. This is great for kids 18 to 24 months who are still learning balance and speed control.

Pedal toys are best for three- to four-year-olds whose legs are strong enough to drive the toy around. They are also great for burning off all the excess energy that kids of this age seem to have. Pedal toys help develop eye and body coordination, as well as a sharper sense of direction. Start your kids out with training wheels or a tricycle, so that they can learn balance at a comfortable pace.

Motorized toys are powered entirely by batteries, so all your child has to do is steer it in the right direction. These are ideal for older kids with a more developed directional ability. Your child will want to take it out of the yard to really enjoy the added speed, so invest in safety gear such as helmets, elbow and knee pads, and comfortable riding shoes. Note that these are required in some states, so check with local authorities to see what kind of protection you need.

Look for sturdy construction.

Badly crafted toys are the main cause of riding accidents in children. Make sure your ride-on toys are tightly constructed with no loose parts or connections. Most of them will have small parts, but those designed for toddlers should keep them well-hidden as they can pose a choking hazard. The best riding toy materials can withstand rough use, while staying light enough to provide easy handling.

Choose lightweight toys.

Lighter toys are less likely to cause injury when they fall or tip over. Wood and metal are considered the best materials for riding toys, as they are half as bulky as metal while still having excellent strain resistance. Light toys may be harder to balance, though, so make sure the base is even and the wheels properly attached.

Have your child try it out.

The toy may be the safest in the market, but if it’s no fun to ride on, your child won’t want to use it much. Go toy shopping with your kids and have them try out your safest picks to see which ones are most comfortable. Padded seats, adjustable grip, and well-placed footrests should be your top considerations. Your child can also choose the designs they like best. A toddler may want something fun and colorful, while an older kid might prefer something more realistic.

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