How to Buy RC Toys for 6- to 12-Year-Olds

Kids love to pretend to drive like mom and dad plus they also love action--radio-controlled toy cars satisfy both desires! But before you purchase an RC toy car or truck for your “underage” drivers, make sure it’s one they can handle and will also hold their attention. Here are some factors to consider before making the purchase.

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 needed and maintenance requirements are minimal. Until you know your child is definitely interested in radio controlled vehicles, basic electric RC toys are the smart choice.

You can also combine the intrigue of RCs with the fun of building blocks for an educational experience building an RC. Look for kid-friendly RC kits with no soldering, easy assembly, and clear instructions.

Simple Controls

It's best to start with a basic RC toy so your child won't 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 includes one with forward, back, left and right capability. Controllers tend to vary from vehicle to vehicle and feature buttons to sticks to pistol style. Airplanes and helicopters are harder to handle although some indoor helicopters are simple enough for kids ages 8 and up with adult supervision.

Where the Child Will 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, purchase an RC toy truck or dune buggy that can run on grass and in the dirt. For indoor use, consider RC robots or UFO hover crafts that stay in one small area and do tricks or entertain without racing down the hall.

How Patient Your Child Is

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 your child's interest. The average charge time and run-time are usually printed on the box.

  • What is a Battery Pack?

RC Toy Durability

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.

RC Toy Size

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. Just make sure your child is old enough not to put them in his mouth and to keep them away from much younger siblings. Little wheels coming off can pose a choking hazard.

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 your child can apply). Honking horns, ringing bells or engine sounds are extras that kids enjoy. RC toys that look like an alien craft or those with a popular cartoon or TV show theme -- like Batman, Barbie or General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard -- can appeal to some children more than true-to-life models.

RC Frequency

In order to play with siblings 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 is printed 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 quad frequency settings to allow four 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 are involved.