Play Better #8: Driving Intangible Learning with Ride-ons

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Self-sufficiency is a great motivator for any child, and kids love toys that let them get around on their own. From timeless rocking horses to Wheely Bugs to vintage pedal cars and speedsters, ride-ons are a unique, well-rounded educational tool that provide intangible learning opportunities rarely taught in schools – but nonetheless still vital for balanced growth.

If you feel that your child is about ready for a ride-on (he/she has to be at least 10 months old!) and you are considering a ride-on, read on and be assured about the full host of benefits that come from this multi-faceted learning toy. We also give you a full run-down on the important things to keep in mind when choosing your child’s first ride, to facilitate your purchase decision and help you avoid common mistakes usually made by many parents.

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BENEFITS OF A RIDE-ON TOY

1. Improved Motor Skills and Spatial Awareness
It’s essential for toddlers and young children to be able to balance as they learn to walk and run. Ride-on toys build these gross motor skills by encouraging the use of large muscle groups. For instance, when kids climb on and off of ride-on toys, they need to balance themselves to avoid falling. Once on the toy, they begin to engage their leg muscles to push themselves along or move the pedals; while rocking toys will require leg and core muscles to move back and forth.

Fine motor skills also come into play with ride-ons. Manipulating steering wheels or handlebars requires children to use smaller muscles and teaches coordination between the hands, arms, legs, and feet. Embellishments such as pretend radio knobs, horns, or bells all require little hands to be able to grasp, push, and turn to make them work. The more kids engage with these types of toys, the easier it becomes for them to move their bodies in complex ways.

2. Encourages Exercise & Outdoor Play 
Television, computers, video games, and tablet devices are increasingly replacing outdoor play for kids. However, getting off the couch and out into the fresh air is an essential part of childhood and imperative for a more well-rounded development. Kids who spend time outdoors tend to be healthier and are more likely to choose outdoor activities as they grow older. Since most ride-on toys can be used in the backyard, on the sidewalk, or at a local park, they encourage kids to leave electronics behind for productive outdoor play. Being outside gives kids positive stimulation from natural surroundings that they won’t get from hours spent sitting in front of a screen.

3. Inspires Independent Play
Though kids (especially the littler ones!) should always be closely supervised when on a ride-on, the type of play that these toys encourage is largely independent. Kids learn to move under their own power, transporting from one place to another with little adult assistance. The opportunity to then take in new surroundings on their own helps them learn to form opinions and draw conclusions about the world, and sets the stage for the type of independent thinking that they’ll need in order to succeed in school in their later years.

4. Builds Confidence
As kids learn to coordinate the different movements necessary to power ride-on toys, they gain confidence in their own abilities. Moving up from toys that they push with their feet to one with pedals, changing from tricycles to bicycles, or graduating to bikes without training wheels are all milestones in which kids can take pride. The more comfortable they become with ride-on toys, the more challenges they’ll be able to face. This confidence translates to other areas of life, helping kids to deal with difficulties that arise as they learn and grow.

5. Lasting Play Value
Too many toys on the market today are only fun to kids for a short time. Whether created as part of a pop culture franchise or made to cater to a passing trend, these toys wind up sitting in closets more often than not, with kids having lost interest soon after getting them. Ride-on toys, on the other hand, have longer-lasting play value. Kids treasure toys that offer lasting enjoyment and tend to hold on to them for much longer than fad-based toys. Some ride-on toys may have adjustable parts to allow it to grow with a child, ensuring years of enjoyment for parent and kid.

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A RIDE-ON BUYING GUIDE

1. Look for Safety Features
All ride-on toys pose some risk of tipping, falling, or colliding with obstacles but generally, they should be made sturdy with wide bases and low centers of gravity. The toy shouldn’t tip easily if you push it from the side, and your child’s feet should rest flat on the floor when they are seated on it. Wooden-made ones are the best choices, as they are hardier and have more weight in their structure.

2. Test for Balance
Rocking Horses shouldn’t be able to rock so far forward or back as this can be especially dangerous for over-enthusiastic rockers. Check that there’s a limited range of motion before you let your tot do a test rock. Plan Toys’ Rocking Horses are particularly well-made for this purpose as they have been designed with safety rockers which prevent vigourous rocking.

3. Ensure Ease of Motor Coordination
Pedal Cars that kids propel with their own feet should also be sturdy and low to the ground. Your child’s feet should rest flat on the floor when he or she is seated, and knees should not be touching the steering wheel when the vehicle starts moving.

4. Always Test Drive.
Unless it is absolutely impossible for some reason, make sure your child is able to test-drive the ride-on before purchase. Ensure that it’s a good fit for him and that mobility is easy – don’t buy a ride-on toy for your tot to ‘grow into’.

5. Consider the Classics.
As with any other thing in life, it’s hard to go wrong with the classics. A ride-on doesn’t have to be complicated to be entertaining. Young children like getting rides in wagons, and the iconic red speedsters have made a comeback in recent years – if you’re a fan of retro ride-ons, our in-house brand Baghera will prove to be a perfect fit for your taste and your child’s enjoyment.

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Driven to get a ride-on now? Take advantage of our Ride-on Promotion all this month at The Better Toy Store! Take your pick from our extensive range of retro speedsters and vintage pedal cars, and stand to save more than $100 with our irresistible deals!

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