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What to look for when buying ride-on toys

Big Wheel Racer (Jakks Pacific),ages 3 and up

Big Wheel Racer (Jakks Pacific),ages 3 and up

The Big Wheel is back just like the original with a large 16" front wheel and a three-position seat that can be adjusted as your child grows. Also available in other colors. ($39.99; target.com) Credit: Handout

Every kid on the block has one. I'm sure you've seen and even heard a child from your neighborhood sporting his or her new ride — ride-on toy that is. I can't believe how many there are now — from motorized cars and jeeps to tricycles and bikes that can adjust as a child grows to classic buggies that children can push themselves — a long way from the original Big Wheel I had as a kid.

Maggie received one as a birthday present that has a handle so we can push her and after she grows a bit, she'll be able to manually push herself using her feet. I never fully thought about what to look for when buying ride-ons — after all, outdoor toys are in a different league than the teething toys I just packed away. So I asked Alex Nunez, automotive editor for ConsumerSearch.com to provide tips of what to look for when shopping for a ride-on toy. Here's what he had to say:

1. Match the toy to the age and skill level of your child. "Every riding toy has an age range for which it's recommended," Nunez said. "This is important to remember because very young children don't have the balance, dexterity or understanding to operate some ride-on toys safely."

2. Consider your outdoor space. Not only do riding toys take up more storage space than smaller, stationary toys, but they often require more space to be able to move around freely. "Some riding toys perform better on smooth surfaces, while others are more enjoyable on rough terrain," Nunez said.

3. Look for proven, time-tested toys. Kids get bored with toys rather quickly. Classics tend to stick around for years because they keep children entertained and interested, Nunez said.

4. Don't forget about safety. "Most riding toys pose the risk of falling," said Nunez. "Children should always wear a bicycle helmet while riding outdoors, especially on any toy that reaches significant speeds. Some parents might also consider knee and elbow pads for added safety."

Shopping for a new ride-on toys? Here are four new ones in stores now:

 — Fisher-Price Power Wheels Kawaski KFX with Monster Traction ($189; amazon.com). It looks just like a mini-ATV and works well on any terrain. Best for kids ages 3 and up.

 — Little Tykes Cozy Coupe 30th Anniversary Edition ($54.99; littletikes.com). This is a classic ride-on toy good for children 18 months to 5 years.

 — YBike Glider Delux Scooter ($69.99; amazon.com). Popular with kids ages 4 and up; it's a great starter scooter.

 — Jakks Pacific Big Wheel Racer ($59.99; available in July at toysrus.com). The Big Wheel is back just like the original with a large 16" front wheel and a three-position seat that can be adjusted as your child grows. Also available in other colors; best for kids ages 3 and up.

Check out our 25 must-have summer toys for more fun, outdoor ideas for kids.

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