Kiddie rides are coin-operated rides for small children. Kiddies rides commonly appear in amusement parks, arcades, malls, hotel game rooms and outside supermarkets and discount department stores. Less commonly, they may also appear in other venues such as restaurants, food courts, grocery shops and auto dealerships. When activated by a coin, a kiddie ride entertains the rider with motion, depending on the ride type (miniature Ferris wheel, miniature carousel, track ride or stationary platform ride). Most rides include sounds and music, and some feature flashing lights, pedals, and buttons. Commercial kiddie rides often use simple but colorful equipment, with the driving mechanism usually hidden under vacuum formed plastic covers.
Newer, more advanced rides usually do not start as soon as coins are inserted, instead prompting the rider, parent or guardian to press a start button. This is to provide time for the rider to seat him/herself comfortably before commencing the rides. These rides will also play a starting message before starting movement once the start button is pushed (some older rides might play a starting message once the coin is inserted, but this proved to provide insufficient time for the rider to prepare him/herself). Additionally, they may also play an ending message once the ride ends to let the rider know that it's safe to disembark. Other safety precautions commonly found in more advanced rides include allowing use of the start button to pause the ride so the rider can reposition him/herself or even disembark safely if he/she so desires, safety sensors that detect if anything or anyone is potentially obstructing the ride's movement and halt the ride accordingly until the obstruction is removed, overload sensors that stop the ride from moving if the weight limit on the ride is exceeded to reduce chances of overloading and damaging the motor and/or electronics of the ride, and a slow start/stop action as to not shock and frighten younger riders. The most advanced type known even has the ability to tune into an atomic clock and provide accurate time to the rider. Many of these advanced rides would also accept multiple denominations of a currency (i.e. The same coin slot can accept 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents and dollar coins, making it unnecessary for the parent to go look for coin change of a particular denomination) or even have a paper note acceptor, allow the parent, guardian or rider to purchase multiple rides in advance, and award bonus rides based on the amount purchased, akin to many arcade games (i.e. award three rides if the parent inserts a dollar coin if a go on the ride costs 50 cents, giving the parent an extra ride if he or she should buy two rides).
To attract attention, most rides occasionally flash their lights (if they have lights, many animal rides don't) and play a sound and/or music clip at set intervals, although it should be noted that many older rides as well as low-cost rides do not have an attract mode at all.
Some rides may, instead of playing songs, narrate a story. Others may feature a video monitor and/or provide limited interaction with the video displayed (see Kiddie ride/video game hybrid rides, below).
In the United States, the standard price for these rides is $0.25. The coin mechanism, however, can be changed to accept tokens or other currency. At one King Soopers grocery store, for example, the mechanical carousel costs 1¢ (one penny) to ride.
In the United Kingdom, most rides costs 50p a ride. Paying £1 on machines that support it would usually give the buyer 3 rides.
In Malaysia, ride pricing varies widely. In some grocery stores, rides go for as low as RM0.20 a play. In many grocery stores, small supermarkets and low traffic malls, it's usually RM0.50 a go if it's a base ride or RM1 a go if it's a carousel ride. At high traffic malls, large supermarkets and hypermarkets, a base ride usually costs RM1 a go while carousel rides costs RM2 a go. Many rides at high-traffic malls have a note acceptor as well for convenience. Sometimes it's normal to find a base ride in an area of the mall costing RM1 a go, while in another area in the mall another base ride costs only RM0.50 a go. Rides at amusement centers and some supermarkets run on tokens costing between RM0.50 to RM1 apiece, taking one to four tokens a play depending on the settings and the cost of the tokens. One local supermarket chain called Giant, however, offers free kiddie rides at most of their outlets. The rides on the chains' premises all have their coin mechanism replaced with pushbutton switches that starts the ride when pushed.
In Singapore where kiddie rides can be found in abundance outside shops in most areas, the rides usually cost S$0.20-S$0.50 a go, while rides at shopping malls can cost up to S$1 a go for base rides and S$2 a go for carousel rides.
While kiddie rides are primarily used to garner extra income for commercial areas like shopping malls, supermarkets and amusement centers, like classic arcade game machines they are becoming increasingly common in homes in many developed countries, usually bought by game collectors and families who want to give their children an edge. This renaissance is being led by Denver-based Kiddie Rides USA, and have received coverage in many magazines including Time, Fortune, United Airline's Hemispheres, and on CNN.
Many of the rides are ex-location units which have been wrote off by the original owner, usually to make way for newer games or rides, and bought for a fraction of what they would cost brand new, either directly from the previous owner or over auction sites like eBay and various other online dealers.
Usually, older rides would be slightly modified in which the coin mechanism is replaced by a pushbutton switch to allow for free-play, while more sophisticated rides that have a mode switch would be set to be permanently on free-play. Some have even found it an innovative way of teaching their children to save by leaving the ride on standard operation mode.