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A first trike is a huge milestone in any toddler's life, but when the toddler has a developmental delay it becomes an even more special moment. Although he is nearly two and a half, Freddy has a significant developmental delay having only started to walk at the age of twenty months and still being unable to hop, skip or jump. Freddy is also a large toddler, being on the 97th centile both weight and height-wise, which makes choosing a suitable trike quite difficult. He's clearly too big for many of the bikes considered suitable for his developmental age and yet not able to easily use those suitable for his actual age. After many hours of researching online I happened to spy a post on the Early Learning Centre's Facebook page advertising a flash sale where the My First Smart Trike was on offer for just £12.49 as opposed to the standard price of £24.99 and decided to take the plunge.
The My First Smart Trike is the most basic (and cheapest) in the Smart Trike range and available in several colour-schemes, including a girlie pink. We had no choice in which colour-scheme we received, but luckily it was the very unisex "Cupcake" version, which is red, white and green. The trike itself is supplied in a very small box and requires assembly before use. I will warn you now that assembly is fiddly and the instructions are not as clear as they could be. After five children over twenty years, I consider myself quite a pro when it comes to assembling children's toys and it took me well over an hour and I have to admit that I did turn the air blue a few times. Although an spanner is supplied, you will also need a cross-head screwdriver and a screwdriver with a short handle will make securing the wheels a little bit easier as these screws are awkward to access.
For such a cheap and basic trike The My First Smart Trike features a fair number of features and is suitable for a relatively large age and developmental range. At the most basic level there are two positions for the saddle, meaning that the trike can grow with your child, there is also a tip-up bucket at the rear of the trike and cup/bottle holder on the handlebars. The three wheels are chunky, and being made of hollow plastic they do not need pumping up, but this does also mean that unlike solid rubber tyres they are somewhat prone to damage. The trike is directly powered through the front wheel via pedals, I must say that I personally feel these pedals are a little small and flimsy, making it harder for a toddler to use them. Steering is via the handlebars and there is a good range of movement.
What makes this trike "Smart" are a number of extra features that mean it is suitable for children aged fourteen months upwards. Firstly there is a three point harness to hold a younger child safely in place, although I have to admit we haven't actually really bothered with this feature. This belt is adjustable and has the same type of clip that is used on buggies and strollers (so you will have to watch little fingers). For those children who either cannot reach or use the pedals there is a parent handle so that you can push them along. To add to the safety element, the pedals can be fixed in place when use the handle so that little feet don't get caught in them. Personally I find the pedal lock quite difficult to operate, but once in place it is very effective. The handle comes in two parts that need to be clicked together using a ball button and hole affair (I don't know the correct name for this arrangement), which is then clicked into place in the bike. What I particularly like about this system is that when the handle is not in use the connecting tube on the bike is capped off with a plastic lid, which reduces the risk of injury and prevents the child from filling the hole with bits and pieces.
In the main the construction of The My First Smart Trike feels very solid, the main frame is formed of light, but strong metal tubes, while the handlebars, saddle, front mudguard and tipper bucket are formed of a shiny, thick plastic. The parental handle is also formed of tubular metal and is topped off with a large, plastic handle. The harness is formed of nylon webbing, which feels as if it will resist fraying. As I've said previously the only possible weak points are the pedals and I must say these are the only parts of the trike that belie the low price tag, if you don't look at the pedals you could well imagine that this trike costs far more than even the standard selling price. Due to the fact that the trike is constructed from rust-proof metal (I'm guessing it's aluminium) and plastic, it is very easy to clean (whether with a cloth or a hose down) and can be left outside without worrying that it will corrode.
As Freddy has a significant developmental delay I wasn't exactly sure how he would get on with this trike and was a little worried that he wouldn't be able to use it at all, but I really needn't have worried because he absolutely adores it and has done since the moment he set his eyes on it. Although he is a all child, his legs are actually quite short in relation to his body, so I fixed the saddle in the position closest to the pedals. For the first few days, Freddy struggled to actually get on the bike, although this was due to a combination of his physical difficulties along with the height of the saddle. Personally I do feel a younger, shorter child would need to be helped on to the trike as even with the saddle in this position it is a little high, although I would imagine that a child with average development would have no problems at the age of two. With the saddle in the front-most position, Freddy is able to just about touch the floor with his feet and can reach the pedals, without ending up with his knees up to his chin. Getting off the trike proves far more of a problem for Freddy, he struggles to keep his balance and coordinate his legs, but has found a way round this by either scooting up to a stable surface (table) to hold on to or holding is hand out for me to help.
I'm not going to say that Freddy can actually manage to pedal the trike, or not without lots of help and encouragement anyway. Most of the time he's on the trike he scoots along by pushing his feet on the floor, which is something he is immensely proud of. One of his favourite pass-times seems to be to fill the tipper bucket with toys and then put his beloved Uh-ohs (Teletubby beanie babies) in the bottle holders and take them for a ride around the living room. I'm grateful that he hasn't yet learnt the trick of using the trike as a scooter by standing on the tipper bucket, holding on to the handles and scooting, not least because the bucket simply does not need a lot of force to tip. At least once a day, I do like to spend a short time helping and encouraging him to use the pedals, and he can manage to keep his feet on them for a complete rotation and it doesn't seem to take a lot of force for him to use them to move the trike, but he simply doesn't yet have the coordination to make it quicker or easier for him to use them rather than scooting with his feet.
While in the main Freddy does play with the trike indoors, we do sometimes take it out in the garden to play with, or attach the parental handle for trips to the park (suitably protected with a cycle helmet and knee/elbow pads of course). Being made of a lightweight metal and plastic the trike is light enough to be easily carried outside, even if like us there are a number of steps to negotiate. The chunky wheels have a suitably deep tread which give good grip on any but the wettest of surfaces and have so far proved resilient to stones and other sharp objects. The parental handle is fairly easy to fit, but I do (and always have) struggled with anything that demands a push a little ball under a tube to separate poles. The handle is a good size and fairly comfortable to hold for shorter periods, but does start to hurt the hand after twenty minutes or so. I have no trouble controlling where I want the trike to go with the exception of kerbs. Although I do try and always use the slopes in kerbs, many of those around where we live still have fairly deep dips, meaning that I have to try and lift the front of the trike up.
There are certain toys that I feel that every child should be allowed to experience if at all possible, and a trike/bike is one of those. Although Freddy does have physical problems, we are lucky that he is able to access a standard trike, albeit that I had to research to find one that was suitable, (should your child be unable to access a standard trike then I recommend speaking to their physiotherapist as there are specialist trikes available for more severely disabled children). Trikes and bikes have so much potential to help a child develop their gross motor skills and coordination while having fun and burning off excess energy. Since buying this trike for Freddy, I have to say that I have seen an improvement in his coordination (albeit a very small one) as he learns to get on and off, make it go where he wants and try and use the pedals. What I feels sets The My First Smart Trike apart from other, similarly priced trikes, is that it allows a child to express the joys of cycling at a younger age (time-wise and developmentally), due to the harness, lockable pedals and parental handle.
I really can't recommend the My First Smart Trike enough and it certainly gets Freddy's seal of approval. Although relatively difficult to construct, it feels very well made (bar the pedals) and it would be easy to believe that it cost £40 or more rather than the £25 standard price, or £12.50 that I paid. This definitely is one of my better purchases as I can see this trike giving at least a year's (and probably more) worth of service, before Freddy gets too tall for it, as it is certainly much taller than many trikes on the market. So Freddy and I are in complete agreement that The My First Smart Trike deserves a resounding five stars out of five and we are recommending to the parents of any toddler who is looking for their first set of wheels.
This popular 2 in 1 tricycle grows with your child and is strong, sturdy and designed for quality and functionality. With a removable parent handle for the first stage, an anti-rollover toy basket, a press out clutch for freewheeling which protects your child's feet from injury, non slip pedals and a bottle holder.Quick facts:•Removable parent handle for first stage (later removed)•Adjustable seat and seat belt•Steering lock•Press out clutch for freewheeling•Metal construction•Bottle holder•Non slip pedals•Anti rollover toy basketGreat for your child?s development:Let you child enjoy the outdoors and really benefit from the sense of fun and freedom a tricycle can offer. What you need to know:Size: Length 45cm x Width 23cm x Depth 30cm. Self-assembly: Easy one-person self assembly.Brand information:Smart Trike is the world leading brand for baby tricycles and is best known for their super smart trikes that grow with the child, eye catching design and smooth engineering. Smart Trike has won nearly every possible award in the tricycle field. Age range: 15 months - 3 years.