Derived from the Dakota Sioux’s word for big (“tanka”), Tonka Trucks are nothing if not big fun. The company was originally founded as Mound Metalcraft in 1946 and intended to sell gardening implements. When their building’s former tenants contacted them about the possibility of selling toys, they thought it might make a nice side business to help supplement their original intent. Little did they know that the toy industry was about to become their main source of income.
By November 1955, Mound Metalcraft had changed its name to Tonka Toys Incorporated and was selling metal trucks and automotive toys at an impressive rate. Over its many decades of success, the company has produced a variety of other toys, including dolls, robots, and the infamous Pound Puppy line of the 1980s. Whatever their other endeavors, you’ll find that even today, when someone says the word “Tonka,” most people immediately associate the company with their iconic yellow trucks and construction toys.
Break out those hard hats, because it’s time to break ground! Below, you’ll find 10 of our favorite Tonka trucks. These toys have been vetted for quality, safety, and kid approval, so you know the whole family will really dig them–pun intended.
The Best Tonka Trucks for Kids and Toddlers
Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best Tonka Trucks for Kids and Toddlers
There have always been models that are reflective of the world around us. This has taken various forms since the beginning of time–just think of the cave paintings of Lascaux. Then, followed by the images of the cosmos; star patterns at night; the prominence of both the sun and the moon in the sky. Then, there were the animals in the fields and forests that ran around, birds taking wing. As we became more domesticated, the representations were those of farm animals, then pets, then household items and farm equipment, tools of the trade. Images of other people who could’ve been neighbors or relatives.
In short, these representations have been vital for making sense of the world around us. They are the essential tools for forming the minds of the next generation in each epoch. In the last one hundred years, we’ve gone from horse-and-buggy modes of transportation to cars, bikes, and planes. And, every five years at least, there’s an improvement on that. With the Millennial phase, functional gadgets, not just representations of these–are easily becoming interchangeable with what used to be solely reserved for recreational purposes.
We chose Tonka toys with full knowledge of their timeless factor. For now, in our world, we will still need to use man-operated heavy equipment to construct buildings and clear land. The socialization process has remained the same. While human consciousness is still continually evolving, there are certain aptitudes that cannot outpace gadgets or AI yet. These are just a few of the deeper core issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are any of these toys made of all-steel construction?
A: All of them are composed of some steel construction, but not 100 percent constructed of steel. Much of it varies with each product for the amount of metal construction is used. Invariably, all of them have rubber tires and/or a plastic fender. It can be a mix-and-match build. Typically, the cab and chassis of a particular vehicle is metal. As in the case of the dump truck, the flatbed is metal. With the crane, typically the cab is metal. One crane listed has an entirely metal constructed arm and bucket. In the past, Tonka did have all vehicles constructed from only metal but, now that’s less cost-effective and may pose greater dangers to child safety.
Q: Is the steel rust-proof?
A: Officially, it is not known to be rust-proof. If you keep any of these toys out in the elements all season or for months on end, they are probably bound to develop some rust. That said, we recommend that once playtime has ended outdoors that the toys be brought inside. These are items are also pretty easy to clean-off, air out and dry to prevent rust. Also, there are many water and rust-proofing treatments you can use. When all else fails, Tonka offers a lifetime warranty that any parent can fall back on if necessary.
Q: How durable are the plastic and rubber parts?
A: The plastic and rubber used in these vehicles are of the highest quality. At the same time, you must be aware of the natural limitation of plastic and rubber. They are not as durable as steel. As with the previous question, if left out in the elements for too long, rubber may begin to mildew and rot. Or the opposite, which is to dry out and crack. We recommend taking the very best care of the products as possible in order to get the most out of them. We know this is easier said than done with a toddler, though.
Q: What is covered by the lifetime warranty?
A: The warranty is for items produced after 1989. Usually, there is a circular stamp on the product, and it covers only manufacturing errors. It does not cover flaws that come about due to rust, everyday wear and tear or destruction. This does not mean that there is no lee-way with a particular seller or a generous window of time for a refund or exchange. The best bet, though, is always to take preventative measures when using these products and to want to maintain their shelf-life.
Q: What can I do about replacement parts or if anything gets broken?
A: Tonka vehicles are pretty durable products, but there can be some issues once in a while. For instance, if you’re even mildly handy, many things that may arise could be easily handled on your own. For instance, some of the lever pulley systems occasionally get gummed-up. That fix may just require a screwdriver and some twine for replacement. Another complaint is that some of the treads slip off but these can easily be put back on track and reinforced with an adhesive if necessary. Always remember to visit any troubleshooting sites if you have a problem or be on the look-out for tutorials on Youtube for easy DIY solutions.
Q: Are these the best prices available for Tonka products?
A: We guarantee that these are better prices than any box store retailer could offer you. Not only do we have offerings from the main site, but there are many affiliate seller options to choose from. Tonka has always prided itself on its craftsmanship and durability, so it’s not going to be easy to get any of these products on the cheap or for a song. Sometimes, they are collectibles which makes their value increase exponentially. So, trust us, unless you inherit a toy, these are the best price points currently on the market.