What started as a simple, fun ride-on toy for kids has unexpectedly morphed into a mobility device and a business that is helping children with special needs thrive both physically and emotionally.
The Pumper Car was created by Mike Jones, who simply wanted to build something to replace the toy stolen from his son. Mike saw how much his son loved the toy and the entrepreneur in him lit up. He launched Pumper Car in 1998 as a riding toy for children age five to 12. The car is powered using a rowing motion.
Soon Mike was receiving heartfelt letters from parents saying that Pumper Cars helped their kids who struggled to ride a traditional bike now play with their friends and siblings. They also mentioned how the toy was a great workout.
Through word of mouth, the benefits of the Pumper Car started to spread among parents and eventually the medical community. The patented rowing motion that requires kids to use their legs and arms to power the car helps develop core muscles that in turn help with speech development and fine motor skills. The total body workout helps to redevelop muscles and restore joint mobility. While all this is a result of the exercise, the kids simply are having fun and interacting with other children.
“We started as a toy company, but once we realized our products did much more, we changed our focus,” said Jones.
There are more than a whopping 19 conditions that medical professionals have found that the Pumper Car can help with including; ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, ataxia, autism, brachial plexus injuries, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, childhood obesity, down syndrome, general weakness, hemiplegia, muscular dystrophy, poor regulation of activity level, poor sensory awareness, sensory integration dysfunction, spina bifida, torticollis and type 2 diabetes.
Pumper Cars are also being used as a tool in pediatric physical and occupational therapy to work on a variety of goals including; age-appropriate play skills, bilateral coordination, directionality, extremity development, increased endurance, motor coordination, muscle tone, posture stability, praxis or motor planning, regulation of activity, self-esteem, self-confidence, social skills development, spatial awareness, speech and visual skills.
“The Pumper Car has become one of our favorite therapeutic tools in our inpatient and outpatient programs, said Kristin Brickmeyer-Stubbs, MS, OTR/L, Director of Occupational Therapy at Kennedy Krieger Institute “The Pumper Car can be used with most children with varying diagnoses that effect muscle strength, coordination, endurance, motor planning, visual and sensory-motor concerns.”
An independent review study conducted by the University of Michigan found that Pumper Car had significant therapeutic value for children with Down Syndrome and traditionally developing children. The study shows the Pumper Car provided a full-body increase of 188% in children with Down Syndrome. In usage of traditionally developing children, the device increased the intensity of a full-body exercise by 230%. In 2018, the Pumper Car received the FDAs designation as a non-measuring exercise device means that if Pumper Cars are prescribed by a medical professional, the cost might be covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.
School districts across the country are getting on track with Pumper Car. Elementary and middle schools use it as therapy for students with special needs, in physical education classes and as playground equipment. Because the Pumper Car creates inclusivity it helps schools address the Every Student Succeeds Act, which aims to provide equal opportunities for special needs students.
“Maria had coordination issues, balance issues and low muscle tone. She was not motivated to really engage in any physical activities,” explained her mother, Irene Rickey. “When Maria saw the Pumper Car she was drawn to it and we had difficulty getting her off it. This device has made a difference in my daughter’s life and I know in many other children with Down Syndrome. Maria is now part of a dance group and is working to try out for her high school’s cheerleading team.”
Currently, the Pumper Car has two models, the original aimed at children ages five to 12 and a junior model created for kids ages two to five. The company is in the final stages of developing a new model called the EXT. This new model is adjustable and can grow with your child from age three to 18.
As a company dedicated to providing fun equipment that leads to improved health and quality of life for children of all ages and abilities, Pumper Car often partners with children’s charities for giveaways and discounts on both a local and national level. Pumper Car has supported Special Olympics, Autism Society, Head Start and more.