The Importance of Ride-on toys and Balance Bikes

These toys may just seem like fun and games, when in fact, they are an important step in your child’s learning, growth and development.


Learning to ride a bike is something most kids experience as a right of passage in their childhood. There is something about feeling the fear and challenge of learning to pedal and balance while discovering a new mode of transportation, which is exciting and exhilarating. Historically, a majority of kids started on trikes, went to training wheels and then after may scrapes, and some fear, pedaled a bike. Now we have a variety of products on the market for ride-on toys and bikes. So which is the right choice for your toddler and what are the benefits of each?

Ride-on toys

These are playthings that children can use to literally ride on. This can include anything from a rocking horse, to a push car, to a trike or a motor, pedal car or a balance bike.

Balance Bikes

A balance bike, is a bike without pedals. To ‘ride’ it, you child uses their feet to push themselves along the ground. Balance bikes have been around in other countries for a while now, and are just gaining popularity in the US. The reason for the increase in popularity is that people are seeing the natural transition to a two-wheel bike and they love that they can start their toddler bike riding early.  Training wheels often give a false sense of balance, where the balance bike first focuses on the developmental benefits of balance and coordination.  The upper body must stay strong to hold the handlebars and steer while the lower body is used to move more freely.  After using a balance bike for a while, children often transition earlier and easier to a two wheel pedal bike.

Developmental benefits

The following benefits are applicable to both ride-on toys as well as balance bikes.

  1. Develop fine and gross motor skills
  2. Encourage social and emotional development

Your child can learn to play independently as well as explore and build their ideas creatively.  It is also a great way to engage others in play and to practice sharing or turn-taking. These are all important skills for your little toddler to develop and explore.

  1. Develop spatial Intelligence

Children learn how to navigate the space they are in or problem solve obstacles when using ride on toys.

  1. Encourage physical activity

Focuses on play that involves motor skills, movement and getting from one place to the next.  Also, many of these toys can be ridden outside which encourages outdoor play and moves them away from screen time.

  1. Fosters independent play and confidence

Through exploring and developing a child’s ability to play independently, a child is also establishing confidence. This is very important as they grow — to feel comfortable exploring and navigating new challenges that they are presented with.

  1. Develops a sense of balance

Children learn to balance on these toys.  Balance bikes and scooters really encourage the need to balance which helps with many sports or physical activities later in life.