Welcome back to Best Case Parenting. Today, we are going to talk about how to teach your child to ride a bike. Should you use stabilizers? When should your child learn to ride a bike? What type of bike should I buy for my child? We will attempt to cover all the key answers in one place! You may be surprised at some of them, though!
What age should my child learn how to ride a bike?
The first thing a lot of parents ask themselves is the age their child should be in order to ride a bike. To be honest, this varies from child to child and depends on their physical development. However, using the method we discuss here, your child could first start their bike riding journey as young as 2-3 years old.
What is the best way to teach my child to ride a bike?
Enter the Balance Bike
Who ever invented the balance bike should be given a golden star or something! I actually don’t remember balance bikes when I was a child, so it’s great they are widely available now.
I am a preschool teacher and I can see that many children in my care love the balance bike. It allows a child to learn the balancing part of riding a bike at their own pace. They can start by walking the bike along and, as they get faster, it’s a natural progression to start lifting up their feet and letting the bike coast. Coasting is the perfect way for a young child to get the hang of balancing a bike without having to worry about peddling at the same time! It has amazed me at how young some children can take to the balance bike and succeed. It really should be every child’s first step to riding.
The great thing is, there is no need for any coaching from adults with a balance bike. Just let your child loose and they will work it out for themselves! Couldn’t be simpler.
Which balance bikes do we recommend?
When buying a balance bike, don’t be tempted to skimp out and buy something cheap and cheerful. This is something your ‘bundle of joy’ is going to be riding around on, so you don’t want any accidents due to a poor quality bike. A high quality bike can also last a long time in the family, being used for any future siblings that need to learn to ride too!!
Personally, I highly recommend the wooden balance bikes. They can be used inside or out and offer a lighter and easier to handle balance bike for your child to master.
At the time of writing, I really like the Kinderfeets balance bikes found below. It’s a great natural product that can be bought in designs to suit both boys and girls. Click on the image below to go take a look at it on Amazon.
If, for some reason, you are looking for something metal, I would recommend the Joovy Bicycoo Balance Bike. It is a really well-made bike that has an expensive price but can often be found heavily discounted. Again, you can check it out on Amazon by clicking the image below.
How do I know that my child is ready for riding a bike?
When your child is confident on a balance bike and can be seen to coast easily for an extended time, that is the time to try them on a normal bike. However, if they seem to be flailing legs off the pedals and/or loosing balance a lot, I would give them more time on the balance bike.
Most children will already have seen others riding bikes and have an idea about the motion needed when using pedals. If they aren’t try showing them. Again, if they are struggling here, simply go back to the balance bike. It’s another sign they are not ready.
Actually, there is no rush at this point. Allow your child to go between the two until they are confidently riding the regular bike. A balance bike also gives a child a great break from the more stressful task of learning to ride a regular bike. If your child is getting frustrated with the regular bike, end the session for the day and let them switch back to the balance bike. It really is a very fluid process.
You don’t want to cause your child any undue stress when learning to ride a bike.
How should I support my child whilst they are learning to ride a bike?
The natural thing for most parents is to hold on to the bike itself whilst their child is getting to grips with riding a bike. If you do this, you are actually taking away a lot of the feeling your child needs to get to grips with controlling and balancing a bike. The best thing to do is to hold your child under their armpits at first and then by the shoulders as they get going, running alongside to catch them if they fall.
Make sure to teach your child how to start off riding, by putting the pedal at the top of its throw and pushing off into a smooth pedaling motion. Use the one ‘o’clock position on a clock to help them visualize the best starting position for the pedal.
If they have had enough time on a balance bike, this process should go much more smoothly, as they will be mostly learning the art of pedaling and not the art of balancing. If they are having a lot of accidents, take a break and let them go back to the balance bike.
Last but not least, don’t forget to demonstrate what the brakes do at the very start before riding. Ask your child to walk the bike along and press on the brakes so they can get a feeling for how they work.
Where should I teach my child to ride a bike?
You want to find the biggest smooth and flat surface that you can. Big, so that your child has enough room to experiment with their newfound riding skills 🙂 Smooth so that the bike will roll more easily and take less effort to move.
Don’t be tempted to use grass. It’s often too bumpy and uneven, as well as bogging down the wheels of the bike too much and making your child put more force into the pedals. Not ideal for someone just learning to ride!
How to choose a good bike for my child?
The balance bikes above are much more flexible when it comes to size. However, when buying your child a normal bike, you must make sure it is well sized to their body. When sitting on the saddle, they should be able to get the whole front part of their feet firmly on the ground and hold themselves up in a stable manner. Your child should NOT be able to put both feet flat on the ground. If this is the case, they are sat too low and will not be able to pedal freely.
Other than this, make sure that your child’s first bike is simple and high quality. High quality for the same reasons stated above for the balance bike. Simple, so that they can learn to ride without accessories getting in the way and annoying them. If the bike does have a lot of accessories (such as baskets) make sure they can be taken off at the start.
Assuming your child is around 3-4 years old when they first graduate to a fully fledged bicycle, I would recommend the following bike by Royal Baby. As with the balance bikes, this bike is simple but offers an excellent level of finish and quality. Click the image to view it at Amazon.
If your child is 5 years old or above, I would recommend a different but equally excellent bike from Huffy. Click the image to be taken over to Amazon.
What is the worst way to teach my child to ride a bike?
Do not use the traditional method of training wheels or stabilizers when teaching a child to ride a bike. Although this has been a popular method, it is actually the worst way to get children riding bikes.
If you don’t know what training wheels or stabilizers are, they are small wheels that are attached either side of the rear wheel of a bike. They will stop the bike from falling over, allowing a child to ride it with ease.
The main reason these are counter productive is because the training wheels/ stabilizers hold the bike in a bolt upright position at all times, not allowing the child time to properly learn the art of balance, or the ability to tilt into corners. If you think about it, balancing a bike is a major part of the riding process!
These training wheels/ stabilizers give the child a false sense of security too, making a child think they can balance and ride a bike. However, once the wheels are taken away, these children will have to go through a whole extra stage to get the hang of balancing. This often leads to frustration.
So please, don’t be tempted when you see those training wheels/ stabilizers in bike shops! Unfortunately, most bike retailers are not helping with the myth of training wheels, as they often have them on children’s bikes as standard!!
Will a Tricycle help my child learn to ride a bike?
Alongside training wheels and stabilizers, tricycles are really popular among parents. As a totally separate activity for your child they are great, but they will not help your child learn to balance and therefore don’t have much impact on learning to ride a bike. Actually, the balance used for a tricycle is totally different from the leaning motion of a two-wheeled bike.
What they will do is help your child build up strength and ‘pedal power’ in their legs, and for this alone they are pretty useful.
Hopefully, we have given you some key tips to get your child riding a bike and having fun. And that’s the key. It should be a fun thing for all involved. If not, simply return to the balance bikes for further practise! That’s the beauty of this method.
If you have any of your own ideas about teaching a child to ride a bike, we would love to hear all about them in the comments section below.