A ride-on excavator is a child's toy that mimics the look and function of a full-sized excavator. An excavator is a piece of heavy machinery that features a boom arm with a bucket on the end; this bucket is designed for digging trenches or holes, and the body of the excavator consists of a base with tracks or tires, and a rotating "house" in which the driver sits to operate the vehicle. The house rotates 360 degrees, allowing the excavator to access all areas around it. The ride-on excavator is a much smaller version of this machine, usually non-motorized, intended for child's play.
The size and function of a ride-on excavator can vary, though most models are small enough to accommodate small children from three years old to nine or 10 years old. The quality of the machine can vary by brand, and while high-end models may feature wheels or rotating tracks that make propelling the machine forward possible, lower-end models may only be stationary. Some models feature a rotating house just like a full-sized excavator, while others may be stationary. Almost all ride-on excavator models feature a moving boom arm and bucket, though they will not be operated by hydraulics like a full-sized excavator is.
A seat is usually mounted behind the boom arm on top of the house; this seat is usually hard plastic, and the child can sit on the seat to position himself or herself behind the boom arm controls. The arm is operated using hand levers; one lever extends the boom, while the other controls the position of the bucket. Some ride-on excavator models feature metal buckets, while others feature plastic buckets; the durability of the bucket and the boom arm will often dictate whether any real digging can be done with the machine. In some cases, the machine is not very good at actually moving materials, in which case it is best used in a sandbox. Others can dig quite well and can even move heavy soil.
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Many parents choose to buy a ride-on excavator for a child because it is entertaining for the child, but also because it can help the child develop dexterity and coordination. Operating the controls can also improve a child's hand-eye coordination as well as his or her strength. The excavator is usually a safe toy, though some may feature small parts that can pose a choking hazard for extremely small children.