Serious off-road enthusiasts know that one of the best parts of riding is getting to share the experience with others. And who better to share it with than your own offspring? If you’ve got little ones in your life, chances are they’re dying to follow in your footsteps and get their hands on a machine of their own. And you’re probably equally excited to give them an early start with the pastime you’re so passionate about.
Spending time on an age-appropriate UTV toy as a youngster isn’t just fun—it’s also a great way to help the kids in your life acquire and perfect valuable skills that will come in handy for the rest of their lives. Think about skills like steering, paying attention to your surroundings, and shifting gears. If you want your kids to safely operate the family’s RZR or Pioneer when they’re old enough to do so, it’s best to instill these skills as early as possible.
So you know you want to share your side-by-side love with your kiddos. It’s super fun, an awesome learning experience, and a great way to bond. But where to begin? With so many options out there, it can be pretty overwhelming when you start hunting for the right battery-powered kids’ UTV. That’s where we come in! We’ll go over what to look for when shopping for one of these toys and give you the rundown on five of the most popular toys. But first, let’s dive deeper into how these toys can benefit your children, in more ways than one.
DISCLAIMER: You know your child’s abilities and limitations the best. It’s up to you to pick the toy that’s best suited to your individual child, and to follow all safety guidelines to a T. The advice given in this article is just that—advice. Be safe and have fun!
Electric ride-on toys like the ones we’re looking at below aren’t all fun and games. Whether they realize it or not, your kids are going to pick up some valuable skills while playing. And since they’ll find themselves behind the wheel of their own rig eventually (that day will be here before you know it!), why not instill these skills as early as possible?
Alternating between the gas and brake pedal as needed might seem like second nature to you. Despite this, this act isn’t instinctual—at some point during your childhood or adolescence, you had to learn how to place your foot on the correct pedal at the right time. These toys are pretty realistic, putting your child in total control of the machine’s movement. It’s a great opportunity for them to learn not only how to stop and go at the right time, but also to throw it in reverse and back themselves out if they get stuck.
The simple action of placing your hands on the steering wheel or flipping a switch from the “up” to the “down” position isn’t so simple when you’re a young tot. Seeing as how fine motor skills aren’t fully developed until a child is around two years old, these tasks are still pretty new to young children. No matter where they ride—whether they’re driving in circles in the living room or following you down a trail in the back yard—your child’s hand-eye coordination is being developed while they play.
This is one of the most important skills your kid will pick up while riding a battery-powered UTV, and a skill that most kids (and teens) lack until they reach adulthood. Spatial awareness is the ability to know where your body is and where other people/obstacles are in relation to you. In other words, this is what keeps you from bumping into walls, driving up onto a curb, or running people over with your car. Practicing with a ride-on toy teaches kids to use their mirrors, check their blind spot, and pay more attention to their surroundings when operating a vehicle.
Some side-by-side toys even come with a tow bed and hauling capacity of up to 200 pounds. Talk about starting them young! Even though your kid isn’t likely to put a dent in your workload by following you around the farm in their little Fisher-Price vehicle, it’s good for them to see you hard at work and to see how these machines can come in handy while working around the property. So go ahead and load their mini bed up with some dirt or a few rocks. It’ll make them feel good to help out, and it helps them appreciate the value of hard work.
As we said earlier, it can be pretty overwhelming when you start shopping for these toys. A quick Google search brings up dozens upon dozens of battery-powered UTVs for kids, all boasting different body styles, weight capacities, and features. So how do you know what’s going to work best for your little ones?
There are a few different factors to consider when shopping around:
Most battery-operated kids’ toys run on either 12V or 24V of power. Which type you go with depends on a few things. A 24V battery is going to last longer and get your little one over tougher obstacles. So if your kid has endless ground to cover (think fields, trails, and gravel), we suggest going with a higher voltage, simply because your charge will last longer. If you live in the city and your kid will be taking shorter trips down the driveway or sidewalk and back, a 12V may be more than enough.
Many toys offer two speeds, which is nice because your child can work their way up to the higher speed as they gain more experience. And having a reverse option is a huge plus! Not only does this mean you’ll spend less time helping your kid back themselves out after they’ve gotten stuck, but it gets them started early on learning those controls.
Something else to pay attention to is the max speed of the toy. You want it to be age-appropriate for your kid. A top speed of 7 MPH doesn’t sound like much, but that would be way too fast for a three- or four-year-old who’s just getting started. On the other hand, your adventurous eight-year-old probably won’t be blown away by a toy that tops out at 2.5 MPH. Make sure the speed of the machine is going to be entertaining and appropriate for your kid.
Another helpful feature to keep an eye out for? Parental controls. Going 5 MPH doesn’t sound super risky, but for a little one just starting out, it’s very possible that the higher speed can lead to dangerous situations. It’s nice to have the control and peace of mind that parental controls offer, especially when it means you can keep your kiddo at a lower speed while they’re just starting out. Many toys come with a remote just for parents, so you can control their speed or totally shut it down when necessary.
You also want to pay attention to the maximum weight capacity of a toy. Some max out at 40 pounds, while others can hold over 100. If your kid is on the higher end of the recommended weight, maybe that’s not the toy for you. The last thing you want is to invest in a sweet new toy, have your kid fall in love with it, and then realize a week in that they’ve outgrown it and can’t play on it anymore.
Finally, you want something realistic. Your kid wants to have fun, sure, but we’re willing to bet a huge part of their enjoyment comes from riding a machine that looks just like the ones Mom and Dad ride. Features like working lights and realistic details aren’t just cool to look at—they make your kid feel like they’re rolling with the big dogs.
Let’s crack into it then! Now that you know what criteria to take into consideration, check out some of the best-selling toys on the market right now. (And remember, this is only a handful of what’s out there. If you don’t see something suitable for your needs on this list, do a little outside research and you’ll be sure to find the perfect toy for your family.)
This machine, designed with toddlers in mind, features rubber tires, long-travel suspension, and a pre-installed lift kit. That makes it perfect for families who have property that offers more challenging terrain, like rocks or wooded trails. Thanks to the working lights and an AUX input to play Baby Shark on repeat, your kid will never want to leave the driver’s seat.
This stylish kids’ racer has room for two and is built for all terrain types. It has a sturdy frame and patented Power-Lock brakes, all geared toward making your child’s ride as safe as possible. And it even has a secret storage compartment under the hood, so they can bring along their favorite toys or a Lunchable for the ride.
This mini UTV comes equipped with an MP3 port and Bluetooth capabilities, because sweet tunes make everything better. The enhanced braking capabilities keep your kid safe while they’re cruising the neighborhood or family property. And it comes with a trunk in the rear for storage or towing—remember what we said about teaching them the value of hard work from a young age?!
Everything about this ride can be summed up in one word: cool. If your little hellion is all about speed and thrills, this is the ride for them. The heavy-duty shocks and puncture-proof tires make it perfect for rugged off-road action. It even has a working light bar and headlights, and cup holders that are just begging to be filled with juice boxes.
This company took one of the most classic rigs and made it kid friendly. This mini Ranger RZR is so realistic, you’d forget it wasn’t made for kids if you weren’t standing right next to it feeling like a giant. Individual bucket seats and an FM radio with MP3 input boost the realism factor even more.
Toys like these are a great way for your kids to experience the thrills of the off-road lifestyle in comfort, safety, and style. They can offer endless hours of fun, given that you shop appropriately, based on your child’s preferences and abilities. So talk to your kid (or not, if this is meant to be a surprise!), do your research, and have fun introducing your little one to the wonderful world of side-by-sides.
NOTE: The toys mentioned in this article are geared toward little ones—we’re talking very young toddlers through small children. If your kiddos are past that stage and are ready to take a stab at driving the real thing, check out our article on how to keep your kids safe on the trail. It’s full of great advice, from the proper way to bring them along as passengers to how to set guidelines when they’re ready to take the wheel.