Everything that's wrong with that Little Tikes stationary bike for kids (hint: lots).
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An image of a little girl on a tricycle.
Credit: Getty Images.

This article has been updated to include comment from Little Tikes.

At-home fitness—and, more specifically, indoor cycling—took off like never before during the pandemic. Peloton sales skyrocketed by 172 percent, SoulCycle launched its own at-home bike for $2,500, and everyone and their mom was clipping in on the regular. (Even Mr. Big got in on the Peloton craze in the Sex and the City reboot recently.) I'm sure that's why Little Tikes decided to hop on the bandwagon and make a miniature copycat version of the at-home bike for children—but was it really necessary?

The new Little Tikes Pelican Explore & Fit Cycle—which is basically like a kids Peloton bike and retails for $157.99—is touted as the answer to "cycling or spin class for kids." The kiddie stationary bike even boasts a YouTube channel with Pelican trainers for kids ages 3 to 7 so the whole experience really is just like what Peloton offers. But did little kids need their own version of spin class? When did riding their actual bicycles become too old-school? Why do we need to put so much emphasis on exercise at all?

In a way, I do understand the appeal and why some parents might see nothing wrong with their kids joining in on some exercise right alongside them. Heck, my 3-year-old is obsessed with my Peloton. Seriously, it's taking real effort to keep him away from the bike. And that's part of the issue here. As parents, it actually is our job to keep our little ones away from things that could potentially be dangerous to them. Earlier this year a child died in an accident involving a Peloton treadmill and the company has urged parents to keep kids away from products—and their safety keys—when not in use. Giving young children their very own stationary bikes could give them extra confidence and entice them to try out the real things even more.

And I'm no stickler for screen time rules—seriously, research shows that quality matters more than quantity when it comes to TV or iPad time—but if we are going to allow our kids to clock some extra time in front of the screen, do we really want it to be in the form of an exercise class?

According to Little Tikes, however, the Pelican shouldn't replace a regular bike for kids, but be a safe and engaging toy that kids can use right alongside their parents—and can be used with or without the screen. "[We] created a product that would make kids happy and stay active regardless of the state of the world," says Kevin Bloomfield, Little Tikes Vice President of Design. With so many families stuck inside due to COVID—and the looming cold-weather months—Little Tikes sees the Pelican as an indoor solution to keep kids active and help avoid post-school "flopping on the couch."

On Instagram, Little Tikes posted, "Nothing says adventure like hopping on the Pelican Explore & Fit Cycle to ride into the woods, fly through the sky, and ski across the water!" Except, you know, actually going outside into nature on an adventure with your family.

"While this is not the worst idea in the world, it might be in the running," says Daniel O'Neill, M.D., Ed.D., a sports psychologist, orthopedic surgeon, and author of Survival of the Fit. "Children this age do not need to exercise, they need to play. Get them outside—get a ball, a bike, a jungle gym, some sand—and get out of the way. It is the rare day when children cannot go outdoors to play. On that day, there are plenty of intellectual pursuits that can be combined with activity. Board games, musical chairs, Twister, or a cooking or baking adventure."

While some parents are all for their kids playing with the Pelican while supervised, especially when cabin fever hits, many parents are not happy with the toy. One commenter on Instagram called the product "disturbing," while another called out a deeper issue with the bike: "I'm all for kids being active, but this is too much. Way to introduce diet culture and beauty ideals even sooner."

Dr. O'Neill agrees that these types of indoor bikes should remain strictly for adults, even if the intent might've been good: "In any given Peloton class the instructors compliment you on having the discipline to get on this bike and sweat. And it does take discipline because it is not fun—it is work. You don't have to convince an adult to ski or surf or play tennis or go on a bike ride in Central Park because this stuff is all fun. I do not want kids equating exercise (e.g. being on an indoor bike) with drudgery."

Sure, some people do like their indoor cycling classes—I mean, I'm a huge Cody Rigsby fan myself—but the point is that young children should be focusing more on play than exercise. So a toy that's modeled after a piece of workout equipment? Maybe not the best idea.