Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
For me there’s something nostalgic and “proper” about wooden toys. I am surrounded by a sea of plastic in our toy room, but I have started to buy some smaller wooden toys for my children, partly due to the general shift against plastic but also due to me having three children and I’m running out of ideas for new toys.
I have plastic sit on toys, and if I’m honest they’re flimsy and cheap but they serve a purpose. I can’t say that I was really aware of wooden options.
My youngest son is 1 and loves anything that he can push along, so this review was perfect for him. The rider arrived in a cute box with a handle, and was well packed to prevent damage. I did let my husband construct the toy, but it took him a matter of minutes. It involved four bolts using an Allen key provided, and apparently it couldn’t have been easier. My husband in fact commented on the quality of the product as he built it up.
Once constructed, it could be a little tricky to remove the bolts again should you want to dismantle the toy, and you would need to use your own spanner to do this. However, I much prefer that it is built to last and doubt that it will ever need to be broken down again.
The colours are bold and attractive. I love the red and black together (Spiderman colours, so my 4-year-old says) and the slightly curved edges of the seat for comfort. Not a sticker in sight thank goodness! The design on the back of the rider is really traditional and effective, but I did feel that something other than “1986” could have been part of the front design (this is the year that Hape Kindergarten Supply was formed); just a minor thing as the rest of the design is so amazing. I am aware that the target audience cannot read, but I’d have liked a more eye-catching front design and number plate personally.
Whilst the red rider isn’t especially heavy, it is very sturdy. Nice chunky red and black wheels and a solid frame which screams quality. Ride on toys often have low handle bars so that the child is hunched over, but these are raised up in front of the child, which has to be better for their posture. The hand grips have stoppers at each end, and a bumpy surface to prevent slipping (and accidents).
A feature that I especially loved was the low back rest; it’s maybe an inch or so high, but enough to stop my tiny 1 year old from sliding off the back. He’s still mastering ride-on toys and he frequently pushes himself backwards and onto the floor using playgroup versions, so this was a well thought out design.
Whilst there isn’t a seat lid to lift up, there is an area under the seat that is easily accessible for little hands. My son likes to store small balls and figures and anything that he can force under there. If your child loses a dummy I can guarantee that’s where it will be!
When I first presented the rider to my son he beamed at me, then actually stood at the front to hold onto the handle bars and push it along. It hadn’t occurred to me that this is also a push along toy. My older daughter then added a teddy onto the seat and we created an unexpected game.
My son is quite small for his age, but as I sat him onto the seat I was relieved to see a gap between the two handlebars (less chance of any tooth or mouth related injury). I cannot describe how proud he looked, and the rider glided along with ease. My daughter popped a little shopping bag onto the long handlebars for him too.
The little red rider didn’t have the wobble and unsteadiness of his plastic ride-on toys, and feels like a much less stressful option when you’re watching your child charge around the room at speed.
My older children insisted that I mention the “performance” aspect of the red rider. They compared it with our old plastic one (which I suspect will be relegated to scruffy outdoors toy now) and I have to agree that there is a smoother and longer glide with the Hape rider (after much testing by the kids).
This would make a fantastic Christmas or birthday present, particularly in that first year when buying mountains of toys seems pointless. All you really need is a handful of quality toys, and for me this ticks every box. It’s a toy that they can grow into, starting as a walker and moving onto the foot powered ride-on. With the storage area there are so many dimensions to this toy and opportunities for imaginative play, such as going shopping or taking a teddy along.
Prices seem to vary, but are around the £65 mark, which you don’t mind paying for this standard of quality and well considered design.
Hape are a real expert toy maker; clearly designed for little hands, bottoms and legs. This toy easily deserves 5 stars out of 5.