Riding Toys

Tricycles, bicycles, pedal cars, scooters and go-carts have always been popular toys for children but the opportunity for using them seems to get less and less. Tricycles are probably the best play value for money of any large toy. Shapes and styles have changed over the years and some are even made in heavy-duty plastic instead of the more familiar metal. In spite of all the advances and changes it is still necessary to check safety features and to ensure that the size is related to the size of the child. It is far better to have a second-hand vehicle which is the right size now than buy an expensive large size which will ‘last for years’. One way of cutting out a stage is to have a small pavement bicycle with stabilizers rather than a large tricycle. It is absolutely vital that at the early stages of learning to ride a two-wheeler the child’s feet touch the ground easily. Another point to watch is that some of the small bicycles are designed to carry only a limited weight and keeping them too long is not a good idea. Brakes should be efficient and the child should be able to reach and use them easily. So often they are put too far away from the handgrip for a small hand to stretch and grasp properly. The safety of other people depends on every child’s road sense even when accompanied by adults. Children can often ride faster than the adult can trot and as they turn round to see what all the calling behind them is about they can so easily turn the handlebars towards the road inadvertently. A stout piece of rope attached to the saddle stem may infuriate the child and make the adult holding the other end feel silly but it is a good idea. Once they are old enough for formal training this could be very helpful if there are classes near enough to attend.

Children are often very keen to have a pedal car but when it arrives it may be only a nine-day wonder. Scooters come into this category too. They are so much less efficient than tricycles and are much more limited in their use. The use of pedal cars is often extended by providing suitable material for car ramps, and a set of tools for pretend games. A piece of hosepipe nailed or otherwise fastened to a fence or post as a pretend petrol pump also adds to car games.

Go-carts and trolleys are usually best left till five or six years although small children will enjoy having a go on one that hap-pens to be left around. Quite often an improvised or home-made version lasts just as well and gives as much fun as a bought one. Unfortunately pram wheels are not what they used to be. The best’ chariot’ (one could hardly call it a go-cart) that I ever came across was a large zinc bungalow bath on a huge set of pram wheels. Six children could crowd into it and although it looked fearsome and made a tremendous clanking noise no one ever seemed to come to any harm through its use – perhaps because there was a very large garden with plenty of space away from the more populous activities.

Component parts for a trolley, including very good sets of wheels, can be bought from most large hardware stores. For any vehicle it is important to have wheels which are completely covered or enclosed from centre to rim. Spoked wheels are all too easy to trap fingers in. Sets of wheels can be attached to a sledge to make a good pull-along toy. Older boys will demand front wheels which can be swivelled and this construction is best left to an expert. The real expert is likely to be a teenage boy who has a feeling for mechanical tilings.