It’s the classic big-ticket item under the tree. And no, we’re not talking about a Playstation/Xbox/Wii—we mean a bike! And the hottest bikes for tots in the 2-5 range are balance bikes – the bikes without pedals that you see on the playgrounds and parks across the US. Though the ubiquitous wooden Skuut is a solid choice (available at REI locations for $94.00), there are many others out there with various bells and whistles that may be a great fit for your tot.

The good folks at Glide Bikes were kind enough to send us a Mini Glider to test out: it immediately won major points both for its resemblance to a grown-up bike and for being red and “sparkly.” The features that make this bike great include the kickstand, the hand brake (great practice for future rides) and, most importantly, the pegs that allow little feet to rest while gliding along. You can order them online here; enter the code FREEBELL at checkout to get a free bell.

Strider Bikes also resemble grown-up bikes and come in a wide array of colors (for those discerning customers picky about pink, or green, or whatever). The bike features an “integrated footrest” similar to the Glide Bike’s pegs, but the Strider’s adjustable seat and handlebars put it ahead in terms of long-term use and growing with your child. The bikes cost about $100 and can be purchased via the Strider website, though Amazon provides some cheaper options.

The Rolls-Royce of balance bikes has got to be Early Rider (pictured). The sleek design of this beautiful wooden bike – including a two-tone wooden flame motif – gets “oohs” and “aahs” from parents and kids alike. Sturdy, good-quality tires, soft leather seats, and comfy foam handlebar covers also scored major points. There are two steering options available, one for beginners and one for experienced bike riders. Early Rider sent us a sample – everywhere we went, it garnered comments and queries of “where can I buy that?” The answer: Many local retailers or online here.

There are more balance bikes out there, of course. Popular alternatives include the high-end wooden Like-a-Bike; Kettler (famous for those push trikes) makes a version similar to the Glide Bike, and Kazam’s bicycle (right) is both reminiscent of a beach cruiser and extremely well-reviewed on Amazon as a good alternative for a child ages 3-6 who is reluctant to tackle a pedal bike.

Have another balance bike your kid loves that you want to recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

—Sarah Bossenbroek