Around the Nation
7:23 am
Sun November 24, 2013

More Kids Roll In Style In Tricked-Out, Giant Wagons

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 12:33 pm

Outside the giant river otter exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo, 5-year-old Emily checks out the sights while her baby sister lounges in a canopy-covered wagon.

The girls' aunt, Maggie Hathaway, is among a growing number of parents and caregivers who are rolling their kids around in wagons instead of strollers. "Sea World, or the fair — anywhere where ... the little one wants to lay down," she says.

The girls couldn't be happier with their bright blue wagon stocked with pillows and toys. Hathaway's only complaint is the oversized wagon can be hard to navigate through crowds or tight spaces.

These are not your traditional little Radio Flyers, and nothing like a typical stroller. These wagons are big, strong and often tricked out with coolers, canopies and other creature comforts.

At the Los Angeles County Fair, Brenda Lemus is pulling a 7-by-4-foot wagon she bought at a booth here six years ago, when her daughter was a newborn. It has wooden railings, the front is emblazoned with an LA Dodgers logo, the back holds a cargo rack with an ice chest and there's a chrome storage locker under the wagon's belly.

"We put our undercarriage on the bottom, just so we won't have to be carrying bags and bags and bags," Lemus says. "We can just put everything there and it's very convenient."

Convenient? Yes. Affordable? Maybe not. The wagons average anywhere "from about $395 to the 'oh my God' range," says Tiffany Nelson, owner of LA-based West Coast Wagons.

Those high-ticket wagons, loaded up with DVD players and other accessories, can cost up to $2,000 and usually go to her celebrity clientele.

Many kids hate being confined in strollers — but they don't necessarily want to walk, either. So these parents say wagons are a good compromise. The kids have more space for playing and parents have room to load up their stuff, too. Heavy duty wheels and handles make them easier to pull along.

These souped-up wagons weren't Nelson's original intent. She customized her first wagon when her daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and couldn't sit up in a stroller. Now, West Coast Wagons has a line dedicated to kids with disabilities.

"It's nice to be able to help those kids out as well," Nelson says. "Get them out of those wheelchairs, get them out of those predicaments."

Back at the LA County Fair, the Lemus family and their Dodgers wagon are headed for the booth where they bought it six years ago. They check back on every visit, Lemus says, to see if there's anything fun and new to purchase or add.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Most of us haul our kids around in some kind of stroller. Maybe it's the barebones, umbrella kind; or maybe the super-tricked-out, room-for-your-latte, awesome-turning-radius kind. But really, if given the choice, would a kid rather ride in a stroller or a wagon? And not just any wagon - a really big wagon. Well, apparently wagons are all the rage these days. Molly Callister is on the story.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEA OTTERS)

MOLLY CALLISTER, BYLINE: Outside the sea otter exhibit at the LA Zoo, 5-year-old Emily checks out the sights while her baby sister lounges in a canopy-covered wagon.

MAGGIE HATHAWAY: She runs this place.

CALLISTER: Maggie Hathaway - the girls' aunt - is one of a growing number of parents and caregivers who are putting their kids in wagons instead of strollers.

HATHAWAY: Sea World or the fair, anywhere where maybe the little one wants to lay down.

CALLISTER: The bright-blue wagon is stocked with pillows and toys and the girls couldn't be happier. Hathaway's only complaint is the oversized wagon can be hard to navigate through crowds or tight spaces.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Please have your tickets ready for the next ride, and enjoy your time at the fair.

CALLISTER: At the recent L.A. County Fair, Brenda Lemus has an even bigger wagon she bought at a booth here six years ago. It's seven feet long and about four feet tall. It has wood railings, the front is emblazoned with an L.A. Dodgers logo, the back holds a cargo rack with an ice chest, and there's a chrome storage locker under the wagon's belly.

BRENDA LEMUS: We put our undercarriage on the bottom, just so we won't have to be carrying bags and bags and bags. So, we could just put everything there and it's very convenient.

CALLISTER: Convenient? Yes. Affordable? Maybe not.

TIFFANY NELSON: We average from about $395 to the oh my god range.

CALLISTER: That's Tiffany Nelson, the owner of West Coast Wagons. She says high ticket wagons with DVD players and other accessories can cost up to $2,000 and usually go to her celebrity clientele. Truth is most kids hate being confined in strollers. But they don't necessarily want to walk either.

NELSON: Kids, God bless them, they get lazy. They really do.

CALLISTER: So, parents say wagons are a good compromise. The kids have more room to play and parents have room to load up their stuff too. Heavy duty wheels and handles even make them easier to pull along. But that wasn't Nelson's original intent. She customized her first wagon when her daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and couldn't sit up in a stroller. Now, West Coast Wagons has a line dedicated to kids with disabilities.

NELSON: It's nice to be able to help those kids out as well, get them out of those wheelchairs, get them out of those predicaments.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHATTER)

CALLISTER: Back at the fair, the Lemuses and their Dodgers wagon are headed to the booth where they bought it six years ago when their daughter was a newborn.

LEMUS: And we always stop at his spot and see if there is anything new that we can purchase or add or...

CALLISTER: Always in search of something bigger and better. For NPR News, I'm Molly Callister in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.