Pros: * Multi-directional movement
* Attractive alternative to plastic ride-on toys
Cons: * Low value given cost
* Can't use outdoors
It can be challenging finding a special gift for a second child when you still have plenty of toys from the first time around. I was stumped until I learned of an amazing 40% off sale with an additional 30% off code at an interent retailer on Cyber Monday.
For about $25, I picked up Prince Lionheart's Small Wheely Bug in the ladybug model. Unfortunately, they were already sold out of the large Wheely Bugs, so I decided to jump on the deal even though buying a large one would have made more sense given my girls' ages. I figured I could always sell it on Craigslist if it were too small as I had seen used small ones sell for around the same price. Thankfully, both girls are still able to play on this ride-on toy so we kept it.
About the Toy
The small model retails for about $50 and is surprisingly expensive given the fact that the toy is covered in "pleather" (fake leather) and has plastic rolling wheels (like a typical office chair). It measures 8-3/4" H by 9" W by 15" D. It supposedly can hold children up to a maximum of 50 pounds. My guess is that given how close the small wheely bug is to the ground, older children's legs are too long to comfortably move themselves forward so they probably wouldn't try to use this once they're past 50 pounds.
The wheely bug has an oval wooden base that sits on plastic rolling wheels. The large hump that your child sits on is firm (possibly also wood?) with some padding and "pleather" fabric in a red ladybug pattern. There is also an upside-down U handle that your child grasps as s/he rides the bug. It is covered with a black rubber grip sleeve.
In addition to the ladybug, it comes in other animal versions (cow, pig, bee, tiger and mouse). They all have the same base, handle, and wheels, but the design and "accessories" differ. The ladybug has antennae on springs, which can be fun but my girls never play with them. The mouse, pig, and tiger have cute fabric ears. The cow has "horns" on the springs and the bee has the same antennae as the ladybug.
In order to ride the wheely bug, your child straddles it with a leg on either side and pushes herself/himself forward, backwards, sideways, or spins. The fact that each wheel can independently swivel in any direction gives your child the ability to swerve, move to the side, and spin as opposed to the typical ride-on toys that only go forwards and backwards.
There are no pedals so this is completely reliant on your child having the strength to propel herself/himself. Given how low to the ground the small model is, the suggested age range is 1.5 to 3. The larger one is intended for children ages 3 and up.
About Our Experience
I'll be honest, it was quite disappointing when my girls opened this on Christmas morning and then promptly ignored it. I had intended it to be my 2 year old's big present yet she decided she preferred her stuffed Tolee toy (of Ni Hao Kai Lan cartoon fame). I also suspected it would be far too small for my 5 year old but she has a tendency to try all her sister's toys so I thought she would at least take it for a spin.
It sat in a corner for at least a few weeks until one day, they suddenly decided to try it out on the hardwood floors. Then the squeals ensued! The rolling wheels enable the rider to spin, turn, or, best of all, do fancy turns where you speed down a straight section and spin at the last second.
We don't have hardwood floors throughout our house, just in the foyer and the kitchen. The rest of the house is carpeted, so my girls can't make a circuit throughout the house. They normally ride around the kitchen island or play in the limited space of the foyer. Thus, I think this toy might be more beloved by those who have hard surfaces throughout their homes.
I will warn potential buyers that this is not intended to be an outdoor toy. The wheels look like standard office chair wheels (hard plastic) and they would quickly get scuffed up outside, which could then lead to scuffs on indoor flooring (particularly hardwood floors). If they could put different wheels (like ones that can go outside and come indoors without causing damage), then it would increase the play value of this toy. If they could figure out a way to use it on carpet, even better since so many houses have carpet!
Frankly, I'm torn on whether to recommend this toy or not. It seems overpriced for its play value. It does look cute so I'd say it certainly has a better impact on my living room decor than the typical plastic ride-on toy like the Dora the Explorer ride-on toy my husband's friends gave to my older daughter. Still, that toy offers music, a piano keyboard, and other features that proved very entertaining to my kids compared to just being a ride-on toy.
I am happy enough with the toy at $25 and have seen used ones on my local Craigslist for that price. I would have been disappointed paying the full retail price. Thus, I am giving this a 3 star rating since most consumers are probably considering new ones at retail price.