So it came time to select a few new bicycles for the older boys, and of course, the usual options would include those from Walmart and Target. Unfortunately, it's my experience that these are junk. Not just heavy for no reason, they are have fatal design flaws that lead to frequent repairs, costing you and your family more money than you originally bargained for.
Instead, I recommend a good base. Make sure the frame and wheels are the right size. I prefer looking for aluminum frames, since they are lighter, and allow younger riders to feel more balanced. That confidence, and reduction of drag, allows for better sporting activities.
My recommendation, if looking for a good mountain bike for the children, is to stick to hard tails. Front shocks aren't really even necessary until the child weights over 100 pounds, but it's a marginal comfort factor at that point.
I prefer good frames, such as those by Diamondback and Specialized, as components can always be upgraded later. One such upgrade I always recommend, is removing the typical shimano twist grip shifters. Those are terrible, and I personally can't stand them like cars without cup-holders. I also recommend, depending on the age of the child, making sure the frame is designed around their use. For instance, many pre-teens tend to stand while using their bike, so a dip below the seat can make their life easier.
Lastly, always make sure to go over basic safety even if you think your child knows. Some common sense things, such as not running straight into curbs at full speed, or trying to make a hard turn on sand, are apparently not part of the common core of bike riding from the 1990's. Helmets only can protect your head, the rest of your body is just as exposed to serious injury.