How to choose the best scooter for your kids
Scooters are ridiculously popular with kids, as they have been for generation after generation - and for good reason. For many kids, getting around the neighbourhood or the local playground and rustling up some mayhem on a scooter is the pastime of choice before graduating to a bicycle.
From foldable scooters to dirt scooters to big wheel scooters to three and four-wheel scooters and even electric scooters, knowing where to start when it comes to choosing the best scooter for your kids can seem daunting. But it's important to remember, no matter what their age may be, the best scooter for your child will be one that's safe, durable, provides great value-for-money and gives them a smooth ride they will love.
Here are some essential considerations for deciding on the best scooter for kids...
Construction and material
Many good scooters on the market for kids are made from metal and plastic. When it comes to the best one for your purposes, it's a combination of their age and the weight of the scooter that's important.
For younger kids, plastic scooters are fantastic introductory scooters. They're traditionally lighter in weight, which makes them safer when the inevitable spills occur while learning to ride. They're also easier for younger bodies to manoeuvre and balance on, and hassle-free when it comes to putting them in the car to head to the playground or on playdates.
As your kids get older, stronger and heavier, metal-framed scooters are more resilient and better value for money than their plastic counterparts. And, as your kids become more proficient and more adventurous in their riding abilities, you'll appreciate the durability of metal scooters for withstanding the different terrains your kids will traverse, as well as coping with the tricks they'll want to master, without falling apart or breaking.
Three and four-wheel scooters are the ideal choice for anyone starting out on a scooter, as well as for kids whose sense of balance is still developing. The added wheels play an important role in providing that little extra stability, which helps build their riding confidence (and increases Mum and Dad's peace of mind knowing the chance of a nasty fall is reduced). Naturally, as their confidence and skill levels improve, it will be time to graduate to a two-wheel scooter.
The size and materials used to make the scooter's wheels are also important. The larger the size and the more malleable the wheels, the better the shock absorption will be for riding over bumps and negotiating cracks in paths and tracks. At the opposite end of the scale, smaller and harder wheels can help provide extra speed but won't give younger kids' knees, ankles and wrists much support while they're scooting about on rougher surfaces. Larger wheels aren't as manoeuvrable as smaller wheels so, for beginners and younger kids, the front wheel of their scooter should be a minimum of 10cm in diameter.
Scooter wheels should use high quality bearings. The better the quality bearings, the better the wheels of the scooter spin, and the more enjoyment your kids get because it won't be as tiring for them to get from point A to point B.
Handlebars and steering
Having the handlebars of the scooter set at the right height will help your kids get the most fun out of their scooter time. Personal preference is always the best way to go but, in terms of safety, the height of the bars shouldn't be lower than your child's waistline or higher than their chin. Scooters with adjustable handlebar heights represent great value for money because they can prolong the scooter's life as your child grows taller.
Scooters have two main methods of steering: Turning the handlebars like you would with a bike (predominantly two-wheel scooters) or a lean-over method like you would use to steer a skateboard (predominantly three- and four-wheel scooters).
Depending on who you talk to, it's hard to single out one method as safer than the other. Lean-over steering might not be the best call for kids who need to improve their balance, while too big a steering arc in the scooter's handlebars can lead to sharp oversteer and contribute to falls. Choose a steering method that plays to your child's strengths.
For younger kids and beginners, it's wise to go with a deck height that's not too high from the ground. This improves the scooter's centre of gravity and gives that little bit of extra help with overall balance. It also makes it easier for the rider to scoot or 'kick' the scooter along. Lower deck heights also mean, when the inevitable stack happens, your child won't fall too far, minimising their risk of serious injury.
Don't compromise on safety equipment - adding a helmet that complies to Australian/New Zealand standards (AS/NZS 2063:2008), as well as elbow and knee pads, to your shopping trolley before you leave the store should be non-negotiable if you don't already have them at home. Additionally, it's worthwhile spending some time with your kids talking about road safety and the road rules that apply in your community or investing in some introductory lessons.
Scooters are an excellent tactic for getting the kids to turn off the gaming console, leave the couch and get more movement into their day. Choose wisely, allowing for growth and varying abilities, and your kids will have years and years of enjoyment with minimal scrapes and injuries.