For those of us who are parents, you’ll know how exciting it is to teach your child to ride a bike for the first time. It can be stressful too, not only do you have to buy the correct equipment, but you have to worry about the safety of your little one. Cycling is a great way to introduce children to risk, to build their confidence, and to give them a little bit of independence, so most parents are anxious to get their child onto a pair of wheels as soon as possible.
A bike is a child’s first experience on wheels with anything other than a tricycle, and with that comes another problem. Just how do you teach a child to ride a bike? Well, so you’re not completely on your own, we’ve put together this handy little guide to help you find your feet with training (and to help your kid find their wheels too).
Should My Child Use Stabilisers When Learning to Cycle?
The first question that you need to ask yourself is what bike you’re actually going to buy. Back in the day, stabilisers ruled the roost, as their super safe no-fall design meant that toddlers could speed around the yard without a care in the world. But times are changing and plenty of people now agree that balance bikes are the way forward.
Unlike a pedal bike, a balance bike doesn’t come with stabilisers, pedals and some don’t come with brakes. They are closer to the ground, and rely entirely on your kid’s sense of balance rather than steering.
Why Use a Balance Bike?
- Work on Balance Not Steering: Balance bikes aren’t called balance bikes for no reason. They focus primarily on balance, and as they don’t come with pedals, it means that kids can raise their feet off the ground between pushes.
- Safer for Your Child: Balance bikes are a little safer too. They work by pushing yourself along with your feet and while you push you can work on your balance. If your child loses balance, then they can drop their feet to the ground.
- Easy to Operate: A balance bike comes with no pedals, no chain, no gears, and no brake. This means that they are extremely easy to operate and require next to zero maintenance.
- Suitable for All Ages: Balance bikes are suitable for kids of all ages. You can purchase them for toddlers from the age of zero, all the way through to young adult.
- Learn at a Faster Rate: By focusing on balance rather than steering, you can tackle the biggest hurdle of biking. This means when they’ve moved onto pedal bikes, they get a better knack of cycling than if they’d used stabilisers.
How Old Should My Child Be When Learning to Ride a Bike?
There’s no definitive answer here but the general census seems to be that the best ages would be between four and five. It’s not set in stone though – the younger a child is the more likely it is that they might hurt themselves. However, learning younger has many benefits, including developing better strength, more spatial awareness, and increased motor skills at an earlier age.
Balance bikes are another great option for kids of all ages. They tend to be safer and easier to use, which means that they can be used by toddlers, however, there are also plenty of balance bikes older kids might want to use too, and their emphasis on control rather than steering could get them used to cycling in a shorter time frame.
Getting Started: The First Steps to Teaching Your Child to Cycle
Whether or not you’ve opted for a balance bike, your main aim should be focusing on your child’s ability to balance. This can be done in a number of different ways but should be your priority over things such as steering and braking. To teach balance you can:
- Encourage your child to push forward off the floor and try to move forward for as long as possible without them putting their feet back to the floor. This can get your child used to setting off from a standstill.
- Hold them very lightly while they move. Don’t hold the bike either, as this won’t keep your kid stable and can actually cause them to have an accident. They need to learn how to adjust the position of the bike using their body weight.
- Another option is for the child to push themselves along using one leg. This is an ideal tactic for beginners, and it introduces your child to the notion of balance.
- Finally, we would recommend slowly reducing the contact that you have with your child. When they start to get used to cycling, you can over time start to reduce the amount of pressure that you use to hold them steady.
Where Can I Teach My Child to Cycle?
Lastly, you want to make sure that you’re teaching your kid to cycle in a safe space. The best place for a beginner would be a medium-sized garden, but if you don’t have one at hand, then parks, fields, big empty car parks are great places too. If you don’t have any of those at hand and only have a busy road, we would recommend finding the quietest part of town. Oh, and cycling experts recommend seeking out a slight slope too.
Make Sure You Both Have Fun
Teaching your kid to ride a bike can be stressful, especially if they are a slow learner. But it should be fun, and you must remember that all children learn at a different pace. Cycling is a fantastic gateway to the outside world and can stoke all kinds of curiosity and an insatiable sense of adventure. By following the correct steps, buying the correct equipment, and having a sense of patience, your child might soon be joining you on your summer bike ride.