Radio Flyer no more: kid wagons go luxe

A new class of luxury wagons offer kids lounging space, onboard coolers, and even DVD-players. The high-end wagons sparked the ire of many online commenters who see such pampering as a clear path to the dystopic future seen in 'Wall-E.'

Screen shot from littletikes.com
A new class of deluxe wagons for kids has sparked some contentious Facebook debates. This Deluxe Ride & Relax Wagon from Little Tikes features seat belts, drink holders, a cooler and a detachable umbrella.

Canopies, coolers, and DVD players: accessories for a luxury boat or SUV, yes, but also extras available on wagons used for hauling around kids. NPR's story on tricked-out wagons details the new way of transporting and entertaining children at destinations like Sea World: load 'em into a massive wagon with a cargo rack and ice chest, and let them recline in style, taking in the features of the park from the well-appointed lap of luxury.

The wagons can cost up to $2,000, and at the high end, they tend to go to wagon-maker West Coast Wagons's "celebrity clientele."

The story doesn't even allude to a backlash or downside, part of the art of stoking conversation in the modern digital media environment: lay out half an argument with the "ooh, that gets me steamed" half unsaid, and the public will supply the rest of the story.

The vox populi response to the piece seems to be summed up by this remark:

"...why aren't those kids walking?!? Those kids look like they are maybe 6 and 4. fully capable of walking on their own. Sure you gotta hold mom or dad's hand, but jeez what kind of laziness is our society encouraging?"

And this one:

"Now it is all about being chauffeured and catered to with rolling entertainment centers. I understand the need for children coping with mobility issues, but healthy children being treated like little pashas is something else."

Personally, this seems to put the finest point on it:

"This SUV-ification of children is borderline criminal."

As the comments suggest, there are shades of gray: kids with disabilities or tiny toddlers going on three-hour safaris could well benefit from a place that's mobile, shaded, and stocked with water and healthy treats. On the other hand: if able-bodied five- and six-year-olds start associating any kind of stroll (the farmer's market, the zoo) with creature comforts and someone else doing all the physical labor, the throughline from wagon to SUV to mobility scooter to early, obesity-related death seems to be a fairly clear one.

The wagons feed into a larger story, too – that somewhere between the lives of frontier children – i.e., hunting, fishing, and killing bears starting at around age nine – and between the roly-poly, GPS-equipped, iPad-using luxury tots that exemplify the extreme of modern cocoon parenting, there is some sort of ideal way to raise kids ... or at least, your kids in particular.

Personally: I could have used a bit more supervision, what with plunging through the ice on a frozen lake while going solo exploring (I survived, obviously, but it was no picnic) and the way my friends and I would regularly roam the neighborhood in packs, stripping golf courses bare and attacking cars at random with water balloons. Danger aside, it's hard not to idealize that freedom and think that it's ideal for kids to get at least a taste of the wild side. But how much?

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