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Toy cars come in many shapes and sizes and are one of the most classic toys out there. For good reason, too. As they zoom about the house or a makeshift ramp or race track, these fun toys — a type of figurine — provide hours of fun, imaginative play, says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in New York City.
Because many toy cars are suitable for a wide range of ages, they end up in households for years at a time, passed down from child to child. As an added bonus, most sets come with additional accessories such as tracks, tunnels, action figures, and more to subtly teach kids even more skills including dexterity, coordination, and cause and effect as they build to their heart’s content.
Here, the best toy cars for kids.
Best Build Your Own Younger: Think Gizmos Take Apart Toy Racing Car Kit For Kids
The only thing more fun than racing cars may be taking them apart and building them again. This car kit lets kids do it all. It includes 30 parts, as well as a drill, screws and even the required batteries, so the fun can begin right out of the box. The car has working lights and makes realistic sounds for lots of racing fun when it’s together. When they’re ready to get to work, kids can take it apart and rebuild as many times as they want.
Recommended for ages three and up, little mechanics can be just like daddy (or mommy!), tinkering with their own car. It’s great not only for pretend play, but also for building important motor and problem-solving skills.
Best Classic: Hot Wheels Basic Car 50-Pack
No kid’s car collection would be complete without some Hot Wheels. These zippy little cars have been a staple of racing fun for decades, and this set comes with 50 — yep, count ‘em, 50 — Hot Wheels vehicles in one pack. There are classic models, new versions and every type of vehicle from roaders to racecars. Traffic alert!
It’s a great way to start a collection for a kid or absolutely blow away someone who has already started theirs. Designed for kids ages three and up, each car is also individually wrapped in case you want to split the haul between more than one kid or dole them out over time.
Pullback Cars: Yeonha Toys Pull Back Vehicles
Pull-back vehicles add a whole new element to the racing scene, and this 12-pack of them pulls no punches when it comes to fun. You simply pull them back, and off they go for a zipping, smashing, crashing a good time.
There are six cars as well as six construction vehicles in the set, including bulldozers and dump trucks with working parts. Each is made of brightly colored plastic and is about 2.5" long, just the perfect size for little fingers. They’re great for playdates, parties and anytime the need for speed sets in. Designed for kids ages three and up, they can be used indoors or out for fun no matter what.
Best Bumper Cars: Little Tikes RC Bumper Cars Set of 2
For all the crashing, smashing fun, nothing beats bumper cars. You’re actually supposed to crash them into one another. What can be better than that? This set from Little Tikes comes with two cars — one red and one blue — as well as matching remote controls and drivers. Even better, each set is equipped with an ejector button that launches the driver out of the car when the car is hit. Whoever sends the other driver soaring through the air first is the winner!
Designed for kids ages three and up, the remotes are easy-to-steer and designed for little hands. The cars do require 10 AAA batteries in all (three for each car and two for each remote), so you may want to buy them in bulk.
Best for Girls: Jada Toys GIRLMAZING Big Foot Jeep R/C Vehicle (1:16 Scale)
For a little girl power behind the wheel, this stylish, pink, radio-control Jeep from GirlMazing is perfect. It sports big wheels, an open top and many realistic details of areal 2014 Jeep Wrangler. While the pink is pretty, this ride is full of power too. It can go forward, backward, left and right, and give dolls and action figures a zippy little ride.
It comes with 20 stickers so kids can deck it out according to their own desire. It runs on four AA batteries and one 9V battery, which aren’t included. Recommended for ages six and up, girls will give boys a run for their money in this vehicle. Heck, the boys just may want to take a turn in the driver’s seat of this sweet ride as well.
Best for Toddlers: Fisher-Price Little People Wheelies Stand 'n Play Rampway
On your mark, get set, toddlers will go, go, go with this fun racing set from Fisher-Price. Not only does it come with two Wheelies vehicles —a sports car and a race car — which are a lot of fun on their own, but it comes with a rampway for tons of twisting, turning racing adventures. Standing just over two feet tall, it’s the perfect size for toddlers (recommended for ages 18 months to 6 years) to stand and play and for older kids to sit and race.
To further fuel the action there are tunnels, a moveable elevator and a car lift. Honking, cheering, gas-guzzling sounds set the scene, and they’re off! A bonus DVD, “Eddie and the Mystery Driver” is also included with this set to offer even more inspiration.
What to Look for in a Toy Car
Prioritize quality to ensure toy cars don’t have small pieces that can easily break off, posing a choking hazard to children, particularly smaller babies and toddlers, says Hafeez. In cars, this may be things like doors, steering wheels, or even side mirrors or bumpers.
For young kids, you’ll want to skip over the true figurines, or toy cars that don’t move. Toys with functional wheels that easily move around are much more engaging and appropriate for small children. That said, there are different types of functional toy cars. Some only move by force of your hand, some have pull systems, others crank and go, and still others have battery-operated motors. If you want the toy to travel further without much energy, opt for one of the latter options.
Toy cars typically come in one of two materials—plastic or metal. Plastic toy cars aren’t quite as heavy and are better suited for younger children. As kids get older, they’ll be more capable of handling heavier metal cars, including popular items like Hot Wheels.
Because toy cars come in a range of materials and come in varying degrees of intricacy, it’s important to evaluate all potential toys for age-appropriateness. Check the manufacturer’s recommended age, a great indication as to whether the item is suitable for your child. In general, when shopping for smaller babies and toddlers, avoid small, intricate cars made of tough materials like metal. For older toddlers and kids, look for more engaging cars, like battery-operated motors or handheld remote controls.
Where can I find a durable toy car?
Age-appropriate toys tend to be more durable for the child's style of play at that age. Toys like the take apart car are designed to be taken apart and put back together and may withstand more rough handing from a child. Hot wheels and other small metal cars are also very durable for children age three and up.
What are some affordable toy cars?
There are plenty of affordable toy cars, like pull back cars and take apart cars. Look for individual toy cars rather than large sets. You can also search for a cars and accessories to add to the child's current toy car collection.
How can I find a gender-neutral toy car?
Toy cars do not need to be gender-specific. You may wish to avoid colors like pink and blue since they are associated with genders. Look for toys that match the child's personality but don't contain images or action figures of a specific gender.
When is it safe to let kids play with toy cars?
Kids can play with toy cars as soon as they are able to hold toys. However, it's important to get age-appropriate toy cars. Toddlers should only play with durable toy cars that are too large to swallow and contain no loose parts. Look for the age guidelines on the package before purchasing.