The market for RC toys is huge. Manufacturers know that children love to imitate their parents but also love action. Radio controlled toy cars provide the excitement that children desire and let boys and girls drive just like mom and dad do; but before you go out and buy an RC toy car or truck for the “underage” driver in your home, make sure that it’s one they can handle and will also hold their attention.
Is It a Toy or a Hobby RC?
Hobby-grade RCs are a major investment and require a great deal more skill and maintenance than even some adults can handle. Toy-grade RCs generally cost less, are less complicated and are often designed with kids in mind. Assembly is rarely required and maintenance requirements are minimal. Until you know your child is definitely interested in radio controlled vehicles, basic electric RC toys are the wise choice.
You can also combine the fun of RCs with the fun of building blocks for the educational experience of building an RC. Look for kid-friendly RC kits with no soldering, easy assembly, and clear instructions.
Does It Have Simple Controls?
It's best to start with a basic RC toy car or truck. You don’t want your child to accidentally destroy something that cost a month’s paycheck. Look for RC toys with simple controllers. A good starter controller for 6 to 12 year olds would be one with forward, back, left and right capability. Controllers tend to vary from vehicle to vehicle from buttons to sticks to pistol style. Airplanes and helicopters are harder to handle although some indoor helicopters are simple enough for kids 8 and up with adult supervision.
Where Will the Child Operate the RC Toy?
If you live in a small house or an apartment without regular access to a park or playground, don't get an RC toy that's too big to use indoors. For playing in the backyard or at the park, get an RC toy truck or dunebuggy that can run on grass and in the dirt. For indoor use you might want to look at RC robots or UFO hover crafts that stay in one small area and do tricks or entertain without racing down the hall.
How Patient Is Your Child?
Short run-times are not necessarily bad but the longer it takes to charge the battery pack between uses, the less likely the RC toy will hold the child's interest. The average charge time and run time is usually printed on the box. Make sure to keep this in mind when shopping for that birthday or holiday present for the little one in your life.
Does the RC Toy Look and Feel Durable?The younger the child, the fewer small parts the RC toy should have. Look for heavy-duty bodies and tires. Most RC toy vehicles will have a small parts warning or choking hazard printed on the box, but not all of them do. If it looks cheaply made, it probably is. RC toy cars and trucks are generally more durable than airplanes and helicopters.
Is the RC Toy the Right Size for Your Child?
Some kids think bigger is better but a car that's too heavy for the child to pick up or carry around will go unused. Smaller RC toys, including micros and minis, fit little hands, are easy-to-store and make good take-along toys for vacations and trips to grandma's house - as long as the child is mature enough not to put them in their mouths and to keep them away from much younger siblings. Little wheels coming off can pose a choking hazard. Use your best judgment and the guides on the box to determine what RC toy size is right for your child.
Does the RC Toy Have Extra "Bells and Whistles?"
While adults are concerned with what's under the hood, kids are attracted to what's on the outside. Look for RC toys with flashing lights, colorful paint jobs or decals (especially ones the child can apply). Honking horns, ringing bells, or engine sounds are extras that kids enjoy. RC toys with a popular cartoon / TV show theme -- like Batman, Barbie, or the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard -- or that look like alien craft appeal to some children more than true-to-life models.
What Frequency is the RC?
In order to play with brothers, sisters, or friends each RC toy needs a separate frequency. Most toy-grade RC cars and trucks run on either 27 or 49 MHz (in the US). The frequency of your child’s RC toy will be printed clearly on the box. When buying for two children who are likely to play together, get two different frequencies. Some toys come with hobby-like crystal sets or quadfrequency settings to allow 4 or more vehicles to run together -- look for details on the box. Many micro-sized (and some larger) RCs aren't radio-controlled at all. They use infrared technology, no frequencies involved.