Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage, and it opens up a world of freedom and fun to children who are eager to exert independence and energy. I had a hard time getting my first child on a bike, but by the time my second child needed to learn, I was more prepared. Follow the steps below to ensure that your child learns to ride a bike safely; it worked for me!
1. Time it Right
Most children will be ready to learn to ride a bike between the ages of three and six (mine were 4 & 5). This can vary greatly from child to child, and it’s normal for some children to need more time than others. Children’s motor skills develop at different rates, and regardless of how ready your child is, it’s important not to force your child to try. Your child will find it difficult to enjoy riding if they have been pushed too early – believe me, my first child was NOT a fan!
2. Select the Right Bike
A well-reputed bike store will have trained staff who can help you select the right bike. Most importantly, make sure that your child can stand with both feet on the ground while above the top tube of the bike. If your child has to stand on tiptoes, this will increase the risk of stumbling and falling from losing balance and not being able to land on the ground safely. It’s a good idea to ask for help with fitting a helmet. A bike helmet should sit level on your child’s head, not tilted backwards.
3. Where to Practice
It’s important to choose an area that is safe and free of distractions for practice. The area should be free of traffic, with plenty of level concrete or bitumen. Before beginning, you should remove the training wheels, inflate the tires, lower the seat, and at first, remove the pedals. Balance bikes are good for this too! My kids both learned in a small car park around the corner from our house, so they were comfortable there and we were able to be home in just a few minutes.
Coasting without pedals
4. Starting Out
To introduce your child to coasting and balancing, have your child try scooting the bike with no pedals, just to get used to the feel of moving the bike forward. Once your child feels comfortable doing this, challenge him or her to coast with his feet off the ground. Once your child is comfortable doing this, they can try taking some large, easy loops with the bike. You can set up cones for your child to weave around, and set a target on the pavement to make it to. If your child seems to be able to confidently coast and make wide turns, it’s time to introduce pedaling. Help your child by setting up cones and targets as you did before, but this time, coax your child to place their feet on the pedals when ready. As your child develops confidence, increase the amount of time pedaling and set out slightly more complex turns. This will likely get more and more fun, and if your kids are like mine, they’ll get more excited as the “course” gets more complicated!
As your child becomes confident pedaling, raise the seat slightly higher to the standard position for your child’s height. To build your child’s confidence further, cycle in front of your child and have them follow you. Focus on praise and encouragement, rather than criticism.
Lastly, don’t forget to always make sure the child is prepared with a well fitted helmet, bright clothes, and a bike that is the right size and height. Never leave your child unsupervised while riding in traffic, and if you do ride together in areas with light traffic, teach your child the importance of road safety.
Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.