I've got to admit that when the Didicar Walk 'n Ride (£34.95) first arrived for us to review, I didn't have particularly high expectations.
That's partly because the one we were sent to review was pink and white, which I didn't think would pass muster with my pink-loathing sons, but also because it looked much less robust than the the original Didicar, which we were already big fans of.
We first came across the Didicar at our local children's shoe store several years ago. The proprietor had cannily invested in a few of these funky, self-propelled cars to help keep kids entertained while waiting to have their feet measured. We've never actually owned one but when I told my sons we'd be reviewing the newest member of the Didicar family, I think they were expecting something a bit more, well, whizzy than this first appeared. I did warn them that the Walk 'n Ride is aimed at toddlers and children aged 1-3 years old but nevertheless they were blatantly hoping to burn some rubber, and the Walk 'n Ride just isn't that kind of toy, nor does it claim to be.
But on the plus side it was very easy to assemble, and we had it ready to use within minutes of unpacking it. It also comes with a sticker pack which enables you to customise the Walk 'n Ride, and I'd imagine little fingers would take great delight in going to town with those. (Personally I had to confiscate the stickers from my lads, who proceeded to try sticking them over one another's mouths.)
What marks the Walk 'n Ride out from other baby walkers is its design. Unlike similar toys designed to aid walking, toddlers can stand independently in front of it, using the handles to support themselves as they toddle around and find their feet. The manufacturers say this allows greater independence than standard walker toys, which stimulates spatial-awareness and builds self-confidence.
I was a bit sceptical about this design feature to begin with. The packaging promises that the Walk 'n Ride's rubberised caster wheels allow for complete 360o freedom of movement at the same time as preventing slipping, but given how reckless I recall my sons being when they were first getting to grips with walking I had visions of this thing flying out of control, leaving poor unsuspecting tots spread-eagled on the floor. But when we cautiously tried it out on a friend's toddling tot we were impressed to discover that it really doesn't slip and slide out of the 'driver's' hands, and yet it's surprisingly easy for little ones to manoeuvre.
In fact I have to admit to becoming quite smitten with this feature of the Didicar - it's lovely to see little ones' faces light up as they gather momentum and gain a little more independence on their own two feet, without the restrictions of being strapped in or seated.
I could imagine that my skirting boards and radiators would take something of a battering if we had a toddler and a Walk 'n Ride in the house on a permanent basis, though.
The other major benefit of the Walk 'N Ride is that once little Didicar drivers can walk unaided, it turns into a ride-on toy (suitable for riders weighing up to 25kg), making it liable to be in use for much longer than standard baby walkers. It's also suitable for use both indoors and outside, which is another major advantage over other baby walkers and ride-on toys, many of which are unsuitable for use out of doors. And an added bonues for parental peace of mind is that it confirms with European toy safety regulations.
Verdict: Despite some initial scepticism as to whether this would measure up to the original Didicar, I'm now a huge fan of the Walk 'n Ride and would recommend it wholeheartedly. If you're thinking of buying a baby walker this outsmarts all the other alternatives in my opinion, and offers unbeatable value for money because of its convertibility to a ride-on toy. Since my boys are older than the recommended age limit of three years old I had planned to pass this on to a friend once we'd finished reviewing it, but I now intend to save it for our forthcoming extra family member (who should be making an appearance later this year). That's if my boys haven't totally monopolised it and claimed it as their own by then.