Rockers, Ride Ons & Bikes
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Railway enthusiast and children’s author, Reverend W. Awdry was the original creator of character ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ who starred in his series of 42 books titled ‘The Railway Series.’ First published in 1945, the initial titles were based on tales he repeatedly told his son Christopher as he recovered from measles; the latter of whom later also contributed to the series. Located on the fictional Island of Sodor, the engine characters were predominately based on real classes of locomotives and in the mid-80s led to the popular and award-winning children’s television series.

The icon of children’s entertainment has a 70 year heritage that continues to appreciate in value through its multiple global theme parks, movies, inspiring TV series, theatre performances, ‘Days Out’ with Thomas family events, online apps and entry in Guinness Book of World Records for the longest toy train track. In 2014, ‘Thomas and Friends’ was justly awarded the ‘Best Classic Licensed Property’ at the UK Licensing Awards. Retailers can stock toys and baby gear from this popular license, under ownership of Mattel since 2012, from award-winning wholesaler Baby Brands Direct.

Children just love a toy they can sit on. Go to any baby group or nursery and you’ll see that the toddlers all make a beeline for the rockers, ride-ons and bikes. And sales reflect that - according to research by Global Research Intellect, the Global Ride-on Toys Market has been growing at a faster pace and has seen substantial growth rates over the past few years, with plenty more to come until 2026.

Conjure up an image of a traditional nursery and you will no doubt imagine a beautiful painted horse in pride of place. Today’s modern rockers act as a focal point in a nursery or playroom, their muted shades complementing contemporary interior décor while providing plenty of fun.

Ride-on toys also help in the development of a host of skills including gross motor skills, independent play, confidence and balance. These big-ticket items make perfect gifts from grandparents and because they will be looking for quality in that gift, Baby Brands Direct only stocks a select few trusted brands such as Little Bird, Vtech, Janod and Taf Toys. 

Rockers, Ride Ons & Bikes

Toy giant, Mattel acquired the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ licence from Hit Entertainment in 2012 for a reported $680 million. In previous years Fisher-Price had a licensing agreement with the Company to manufacturer some of it toys and was paying Hit Entertainment royalties on them. The partnership was very successful, soaring its property’s toy sales particularly in the US and becoming the number one toy brand in China. At the time, Mattel reported that the Thomas toy sales exceeded $150m a year and planned to ‘continue to expand and grow the product lines into the foreseeable future.’ Commenting on the purchase, Mattel Chief executive Robert Eckert stated, “Mattel is the right home for Thomas and friends," Baby Brands Direct is a UK Mattel distributor, offering trade prices on the Thomas and Friends range of products to its registered retailers.

Why rockers, ride ons & bikes are best sellers

Parents have a soft spot for a ride on toy – in a recent survey, bikes came in the top 10 of favourite toys (and the cycling market has seen unprecedented growth since March 2020 according to NPD). They represent a first step towards independence as any toy that you can ride on offers a chance to get going under your own steam. Balance bikes are the first step on that journey to two-wheeled independence. It will be no surprise that rockers, ride ons and bikes help children develop great balance and other physical skills, but they promote more skills that may not be so obvious straight away.

Fuel their imagination

Playing with a ride on toy helps children learn how to engage with others, to interact with them, to recognise spatial awareness and - given how popular we’ve established ride on toys can be – learn to share. They also encourage imagination and creative play – climb aboard a rocking horse or the lovable donkey that is the Little Bird Told Me Bojangles Ride on, and you can be heading down to grandma’s for cake, a knight riding off to fight a dragon, or an Olympic showjumper. There are so many possibilities.

Generations of play

Rockers, ride ons and bikes also follow a trend recognised at the 2020 US Toy Fair. The US Toy Association announced that one of the year’s trends was what it called ‘Generations of Play’, where adults and children spend time together playing. According to the association’s Genius of Play initiative, when adults and children play together, the children show better language development and problem-solving skills. It also gives parents (and grandparents) an opportunity to reminisce about their own childhoods and the toys they played with. Because small children need adult supervision, especially when learning how to play with toys in this category, it encourages one-on-one time with a parent, strengthening bonds and building trust.

No skills shortage here

Learning a new skill – whether it’s how to balance on a rocker or mastering a balance bike - takes some patience. This is a very useful life lesson. Teaching perseverance, determination and learning from your failures are valuable skills to start earning at an early age. These skills, along with learning how to share, will stand children in good stead as they go to nursery, pre-school and school. Finally, this category of toys can teach responsibility and self-reliance. For very young children, no other toy requires them to take responsibility for their own safety in the same way. They must learn to hold on in the right way, make sure they keep their balance, watch where they are going and keep themselves and others safe. And they learn self-reliance as they eventually learn to make a rocker rock or push along a ride on toy all by themselves.