Welcome to the world of faster (and faster) movement! After mastering walking and possibly even running, older toddlers and preschoolers are often eager to jump on a ride-on toy and get moving. If a child has had motor delays and has had to wait to develop the strength and balance needed to use a trike or another ride-on toy, they may be a bit afraid or they may throw caution to the wind and try it all as soon as possible!
Selecting the best equipment for kids that have low tone or hypermobility doesn’t end with picking a color or a branded character ( Thanks, Frozen, for bringing up my Disney stock almost single-handedly!). In order to find the right choice for your child, here are some simple guidelines that could make things both easier and safer:
- Fit matters. A lot. Hypermobile children are by definition more flexible than their peers. They stretch. This doesn’t mean that they should be encouraged to use pedals so far away from their bodies that their legs are fully extended, or use handlebars that reach their chins. In general, muscles have their greatest strength and joints have their greatest stability and control in mid-range. Fit the device to the child, not the other way ’round. Choose equipment that fits them well now, while they are learning, and ideally it can be adjusted as they grow. For the youngest or smallest kids, read The Best Ride-On Toy For Younger (or Petite) Toddlers and check out this great ride-on toy!
- Seats, pedals and handlebars that have some texture and even some padding give your child more sensory information for control and safety. These features provide more tactile and proprioceptive information about grip, body positions and body movements. You may be able to find equipment with these features, or you can go the aftermarket route and do it yourself. A quick hack would be using electrical tape for some extra texture and to secure padding. Some equipment can handle mix-and-match additions as well. Explore your local shops for expert advice (and shop local to support your local merchants in town!)
- Maintain your child’s equipment, and replace it when it no longer fits them or works well. Although it is more affordable to receive second-hand items or pass things down through the family, hypermobile kids often find that when ball bearings or wheels wear down, the extra effort required to use a device makes it harder to have fun. The additional effort can create fatigue, disinterest in using the equipment, or awkward/asymmetrical patterns of movement that aren’t ergonomically sound. Repair or replace either than force your child to work harder or move poorly.
Looking for more information about low tone and hypermobility? Read The Hypermobile Hand: More Than A Strength Problem and How Hypermobility Affects Self-Image, Behavior and Activity Levels in Children. My new e-book on living and thriving with hypermobility is coming soon on Amazon.com!