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Safety Tips for Ride-On Toys

Eric Zeck may be just 2, but he's already the proud owner of an automobile  -- a foot-powered, ride-on one, that is. "He loves to zip around the house in his car, honking the horn and pretending he's going to a restaurant or a bookstore," says his mom, Liz, of Columbia, SC.

Ride-on toys are a big hit with the 1- to 2-year-old crowd, who love fast movement. Cruising along is a great form of exercise too.

Before you buy, have your toddler test-drive a few models in the store. What to look for, plus ways to help him tool around safely and efficiently:

Consider construction

The car shouldn't wobble or tilt when your child is aboard; all joints should be firmly fastened, and the wheels should rotate smoothly, says Keith Boyd, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, in Chicago.

Keep your child grounded

The seat should be low enough for his feet to be planted flat on the floor. (Otherwise, he'll have a hard time propelling himself or stopping.)

Watch out for bumps

Once you're home, steer him toward smooth surfaces, such as wood or concrete.

Give some direction

Don't be surprised if he travels in reverse when he starts out. Some gentle pushes from you will help him learn how to journey forward.

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