Despite appealing to a younger rider, the modern kiddie ride is alive, well and using new technology to maintain its appeal. Jon Bruford spoke with the industry’s leading lights about the enduring appeal of the kiddie ride.
With a history going all the way back to 1930’s. you would be forgiven for thinking kiddie rides’ best days were behind them – but you’d also be wrong. Manufacturers are continuing to innovate, adding technology to appeal to the more refined customer and also to make life easier for the operator. It’s a sector that is anything but on the wane. The first ever kiddie ride is believed to have been invented by James Hahs in Missouri, USA in 1930; he created a horse ride as a Christmas gift for his children. The story goes that other families saw it and asked if he could make them what became known as the Hahs Gaited Mechanical Horse. The original ride used wooden horses like those seen on classic carousel rides, but after finding them too heavy Hahs tried to find a company to make him horses from aluminium. On being told it couldn’t be done, the innovator found a way to make the horses from his chosen material himself, and the rest is history.
Modern kiddie rides are usually fairly compact, designed to fit in areas with high footfall of younger children (ie supermarket entrances) without getting in the way; they generally have a fairly simple movement, and increasingly combine the movement with a more interactive element, whether it is a beeping horn on a car ride or a touchscreen game element. The rides are simple chiefly because their target market is up to about six years of age, so the rider needs to be able to pick up the essence of the ride experience very quickly.
So what makes a good kiddie ride? It’s a combination of factors, says SB Machines Managing Director Paolo Sidoli. He told Global amusement & play “It’s a combination of factors Generally, what we have found through experience of supplying kiddie rides in the UK, is that success is dependent on the size of the ride. It has to have a certain visual impact, so we look to the medium-to-larger size of ride; you will always bank on a good return there. A ride that is more than a standard rocker will perform better; it might have a fast and slow movement, or lift up in the air and rotate. A ride may also have some kind of interactive screen involved.” Of course, it’s not just the ride experience that’s important, as Paolo has alluded to there – it’s the visual impression. And that actually comprises several factors too, as a child may be the rider, but it’s the accompanying adult that is paying. Paolo adds: “The ride also has to look good to both the child and adult so the paintwork, artwork, fibreglass, vibrancy of the colours and the amount of lights all come in to play.” Gareth Jones, Production Manager, Northern Leisure Group Kiddie Rides