The greatness of bicycles cannot be overestimated: it’s not just a vehicle – it’s real fun for people of all ages. However, two-wheel bikes present a really steep learning curve for some children. How to teach your kid ride a bicycle? Here’s the whole gamut of recommendations to make your lessons simpler and more productive.
First things first. Before you start the practice, make sure to buy a perfect bicycle! Using the older brother’s bike for a toddler might be a cheaper solution, but it’s like learning to drive a car using a tractor. The requirements basically boil down to the following:
- Find a small two-wheel bike with the right size of wheels (14-16 inches depending on the child’s age and height).
- Pay attention to the height of the saddle: it should be set up so that the kid’s toes would touch the ground, but not the entire flat feet. This way, knees won’t be too high to interfere with the steering.
- The lighter – the better, as it takes less leg power to maintain balance and keep control over the bike.
- Ideally, the bike should be stopped by pedaling backward because kids tend to switch attention to handbrakes and lose control over legs. Leave handle-brakes for the future when your little one masters riding perfectly.
Actually, you can try a balance bike, or you can remove pedals from a regular bike. It will teach the little rider balance and due confidence.
Safety first! Together with a bike, purchase the protective gear: a convenient helmet, cycling mitts, and knee pads.
At what age can children start riding a bicycle?
‘Why can’t my child ride a bike?’ some parents ask. Maybe, it’s too early? When it comes to cycling, it’s individual: some kids won’t start riding a two-wheel bike earlier than in 7 (I finally learned to ride a bicycle at the age of 13!), others are ready to ride once they turn 3. As a rule, parents may start teaching their children at the age of 3.5-4.5 years. If you find a small lightweight bike, it won’t be a problem.
Usually, parents can clearly see when it’s the right time for a little one to ride a bike. If your little one cannot push pedals and maintain at least resemblance of balance, it’s probably too early – postpone your exercises. Let your child watch others bicycling: that will give them the idea of how pedals are turned.
Choose a Place
You might be tempted to organize your cycling sessions in a park on soft grass, but it’s actually harder to push pedals on such terrain. What you need is smooth and flat tarmac ground that allows gaining momentum. Also, there must be plenty of space for the kid to turn and roam around without messing up with the traffic.
Now you are ready to start the bike riding lessons for kids!
The Classic Method
1. Support efforts, not the bike
Once your little one sits on the saddle, you don’t need to hold the bike all the time. Do not interfere with how it leans according to rider’s weight. Just stand behind the bike so that the rear wheel would stay between your calves and feet. Support your kid with the hands under his armpits so he would control the bike, not you.
2. Let the kid go (but stay nearby to catch)
Once your child gains confidence, you can let him go, but be ready to grab the kid in case of falling. If you’re running behind, you can guide the kid’s body to teach making turns. As a rule, kids ready to ride will find a balance and start pedaling forward quite quickly: within some 30-60 minutes.
3. Set off!
Now when the little one has mastered balancing and pedaling altogether, you can show him how to set off. Explain the kid that the stronger feet should be put on the pedal and pushed hard down. The second leg is used to push on the ground and gain momentum. Be patient: it’s not what always comes easy.
4. Teach to brake
As we’ve mentioned, it’s better to start with a bicycle without hand brakes: the kid should first learn to stop the wheels by turning pedals backward. It should be done during the process of riding, there’s no other way to learn such a method of stopping the vehicle.
With hand brakes, you can teach the kid to stop the bike without actually riding it. Just start moving it walking alongside and show the little one what happens when you squeeze the brakes slowly. Once the child gets the idea, let him do it while riding. Remind of putting their feet down!
5. Practice makes perfect
Now, all you should do is just practice! Dedicate some time to your lessons – it won’t necessarily come as easy as they show in movies. But if you’ve chosen a convenient bike and an appropriate place, sooner or later, you will congratulate your kid with the first miles ridden without your support.
The ‘No Pedals’ Method
Suitable for: Small kids who need to learn to balance.
How it works: Remove training wheels and pedals from a bike, or use a balance bicycle. Lower the seat so that kid’s feet would lie flat on the ground while sitting.
Here’s what you should do:
- Make the kid scoot around on the bicycle while he moves feet on the ground;
- Lift the feet off the ground to coast. A kid can stretch legs to the sides for balance;
- Add turning while coasting. These can be big turns;
- Place objects for the kid to turn and make big circles. Practice turning in both directions;
- Keep it fun! Make games of riding between objects (cones) and doing 8’s.
The Towel Method
Suitable for: Kids who don’t feel confident enough and have problems with finding balance.
How it works: Set the bike seat so that kid’s legs would be just slightly bent when the pedal is down.
How to teach a scared child to ride a bike? Towel method presents another interesting approach. In this case, you need to wrap the towel around the kid’s chest and under the armpits. The whole idea is to hold the towel so that the kid wouldn’t fall. Make sure nothing dangles so that the towel wouldn’t get in wheels or pedals.
Here’s how you should wrap the towel:
You don’t need to hold the bike – you will just help the kid to maintain balance with the body. Start riding straight forward, then the kid should learn to turn in each direction. As your kid gains confidence, proceed without the towel.
The Grass Hill Method
Suitable for: Kids who don’t push pedals strongly enough to gain momentum.
How it works: This method allows the kid to understand how balancing during the ride works. You should practice this method on low-grade grass slope – it will help kid gain momentum. There must be enough space for maneuvering, and the steep should be gentle, without any obstacles on the way. The grass will protect your kid in case of falling. The seat should be lowered a bit.
As you may guess, the grass hill method presupposes releasing the bike to start rolling. The kid can straighten the legs not to touch the ground or pedals. The kid can slow down using feet or brakes. Once your child masters balancing, teach to steer and brake. After that, teach how to pedal.
Bicycling is not just an essential skill, not just sports – it’s fun, too. So now you know how to teach kid ride a bicycle, so buy one and start your lessons!