Enabling Environments: Tried and Tested - Wheeled toys

Nicole Weinstein
Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wheeled toys help develop children's gross motor skills and co-ordination and encourage co-operative play. Children in early years settings give the latest variations on bikes, trikes and scooters a road test and the practitioners tell Nicole Weinstein how they went

 

CREEPER SCOOTER

GALT
AGE: 3+
PRICE: £65
CONTACT: 08451 203005 or www.galt-educational.co.uk

Children sit on the scooter and manoeuvre it forward by swinging the handle left or right.

Tested by Alderman Leach Primary School, Darlington

'When the product arrived, some of the children thought it was a ride-along vehicle and used their feet to try to push it and drive it forward. Others noticed there was a foot rest and decided that it couldn't be a ride-along toy. Problem-solving skills came into play as the children tested out their ideas. Intense determination was evident as the children tried to work out how to make it move. Co-operation and collaboration seemed to be the key as the children persisted with the challenge. As they turned the wheel backwards and forwards, they began to notice it moving, and there was genuine excitement and a real sense of achievement when they realised that they had finally moved forward without using their feet. A couple of SEN children, who are unable to use pedal bikes because of general physical delay and mobility issues, were overjoyed to find themselves moving.

The scooter proved to be an excellent tool for developing positional and directional language, as the older children endeavoured to tutor the younger pupils. It's not cheap, but we prefer it to the bikes and scooters because it poses a greater challenge to them initially. We also liked the fact that they couldn't fly around on it as fast as the bikes. In comparison to other similar products, we felt it was good value for money and we would be keen to buy another. The younger children were more inclined to use it as a ride-along toy. I think it is ideally suited to four- to six-year-olds.'

Star Rating: 4 out 5 - Very good.

PILOT 300 POLICE TRIKE

GALT
AGE: 0+
PRICE: £210
CONTACT: 08451 203005 or www.galt-educational.co.uk

A strong steel trike that can carry a passenger on the back. Size: 69cm x 114cm x 56cm.

Tested by Downsend Epsom Lodge, Epsom, Surrey

'The bike was sturdy and easy to assemble. It encouraged turn-taking and working together. The children used their imagination and created lots of make-believe scenarios. One child picked up a boy who was lost and took him back to the police station to be reunited with his parents. It fitted in well with our topic, People Who Help Us. Another child with co-ordination problems benefited from this product because it helps develop gross-motor skills and is also good for spatial awareness. The pedals were quite stiff, which made it difficult for some of the smaller reception and nursery children to move around, but a gentle push soon got them on their way. It's very good value for money because it's robust and can be used to enhance learning across the curriculum. We would definitely be interested in buying one.'

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 - Excellent.

TWIN WALKER

TTS EDUCATION
AGE: 3+
COST: £87.50
CONTACT: 0800 318686 or www.tts-group.co.uk

This is a body weight-propelled walking platform for two children. Size: 66.5cm x 52.5cm x 71 cm.

Tested by Mayfield House Kindergarten, Kidderminster, Worcestershire

'It's an excellent product for co-operative play. Changing direction created huge hilarity, especially when trying to go backwards. It's great for muscle strength development, balance and spatial awareness. It also requires concentration. The children loved it. It was also enjoyed by parents and staff. We would definitely consider buying it, because it's safe and stable and can be used by more than one child at a time. It's very bulky to store and transport by staff and it needs a smooth, hard surface to operate at an optimum.'

Star Rating: 3 out of 5 - Good.

WINTHER SILVER RANGE SCOOTER

GALT
AGE: 3-6 years
PRICE: £70
CONTACT: 08451 203005 or www.galt-educational.co.uk

This scooter features solid rubber tyres with spokeless wheels, and strong, heavy-duty tubing to ensure maximum strength.

Tested by Gaer Infant School, Newport, Wales

'The scooter was introduced in the reception garden. The children helped assemble it, taking turns to use the spanner to tighten the finished product. The instructions were straightforward. The scooter was a hit and was constantly in use. We have another scooter and I put both out to see which one they chose. The Winther Range was the most popular.

'One child suggested we put a basket on the front like the one she had at home. We attached one to the handlebars and the children used it to carry dolls and soft toys. The base was solid and provided enough room for the foot. I wouldn't recommend it for children under four - some of the smaller children in the nursery class found it too heavy. I think the child's height also affected their confidence and general ability to use the product. It is more suited to four- to five-year-olds.

'This is a strong, sturdy product which is good value for money. We would definitely consider buying one, but possibly in a brighter colour - some children considered putting stickers on the grey paint to make it more interesting.'

Star Rating: 3 out of 5 - Good.

LIKEaBIKE MOUNTAIN CLASSIC

LIKEaBIKE UK
AGE: 2-6
PRICE: £179
CONTACT: 01937 844068 or www.likeabike.co.uk

A pedal-less bike made from durable Marine Birch plywood and held together using stainless steel fixings that don't rust. Covered by a two-year guarantee.

Tested by Chelsea Open Air Nursery School and Children's Centre, London

'This bike adds another dimension to the world of children's bikes and wheeled vehicles. However, the cost could be prohibitive for many early years settings. The bike was introduced to the children attending our two-week holiday club and was available along with a range of other pedalled bikes and wheeled toys for the children to freely use in their play. It proved popular with several children who used it as their "motorbike", while for others, used in conjunction with a firefighters helmet, it became their fire engine, speeding them away to deal with all manner of emergencies.

'It proved useful for those children who lack the strength, co-ordination or patience to pedal a bike, yet provided a challenge in managing a somewhat smaller seat and maintaining balance while moving around the garden. It proved safe for all the three- to five-year-olds we tested it on. The price is comparable with many bikes and wheeled vehicles available for nursery use.'

Star Rating; 3 out of 5 - Good.

WISHBONE BIKE

MINDSTRETCHERS
AGE: 12 months - 5 years
PRICE: £190
CONTACT: 01764 664409 or www.mindstretchers.co.uk

This product, designed in New Zealand, converts from a three-wheeled to a two-wheeled bike. The rotation of the cross bar responds to children of different heights.

Tested by Three Monkeys Playgroup, Muswell Hill, London

'The bike was first tested inside the nursery. The children were keen to have a go, but they lost interest because the space was not large enough. When I took it into the large hall they enjoyed it and had a lot of fun because they had enough space to go fast and in a straight line. We have two-year-old autistic twins who expressed great pleasure when being pushed on the trike. However, left on their own, they found it too difficult to move. After one hour of play the rubber padding came off the seat. Four days later one of the back wheels came off - despite tightening it when we first put it together. I wouldn't consider buying this, because the younger children found it heavy and difficult to manoeuvre. When the wheel fell off I changed it from a three-wheeler to a two-wheeler, but a lot of the children got very frustrated at not being able to balance and lost interest.'

Star Rating: 2 out of 5 - Satisfactory.

STAR RATINGS
5 out of 5 - EXCELLENT
4 out of 5 - VERY GOOD
3 out of 5 - GOOD
2 out of 5 - SATISFACTORY
1 out of 5 - LESS THAN SATISFACTORY
All prices exclusive of VAT and post/packaging

BEST BUY

For Julie Palin, co-ordinator, World's End Under Five Centre, London:

'Two years ago we refurbished the garden area and purchased new bikes and trikes. We chose the Danish bike company Winther. They offer good value for money and provide a wide choice of bikes and trikes, including those with and without pedals, two-seaters and scooters. Our selection is well-used and left out in all weather conditions. Two years on, they are still like new. They also come fully-assembled.'

For more information visit The Consortium at www.earlyyears.co.uk or Galt at www.galt-educational.co.uk

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