Learning to ride a bike is an exciting rite of passage on the road to graduate from a little kid to a big kid. It can also be scary for kids and stressful for parents! But, it doesn’t have to be. According to my research, most kids learn to ride a bike between the ages of three and eight, with the average age being age five. However, many kids aren’t emotionally ready until closer to six. These five tips for teaching your child to ride a bike can help you approach biking riding with confidence!
1. Start with Balance
Starting with a balance bike is great, but you can just take the pedals off your child’s bike and voila! You have a balance bike. You can get a pedal wrench for about $10; however, we were able to get my daughter’s pedals off with a regular wrench. The trick to learning to ride is learning the balance. Training wheels essentially make a bike more like a trike where turning means turning the front wheel with the handlebars. A two-wheel bike can turn with more leaning than the turning of the handlebars and front wheel.
This video had simple advice and helped me teach my 5-year-old, who really wanted to keep up with her big sisters! She started by coasting down the driveway on her pedal-free bike. When she was able to coast all the way down and turn at the end of the driveway, I knew it was time to put the pedals back on. She wanted them back on within minutes of taking them off, but giving her a few days to master the balance made it so easy to learn to ride a two-wheeler.
2. The Right Bike
Kids grow so fast, and it can be hard to know if they have the right size bike. This chart will help you out. All the expert advice I found said to be sure you have the right size bike for learning to ride, but if you don’t, choose a little too small of a bike, rather than too big. With pedals on, the balls of the child’s feet should touch the ground. If the rider can touch flat-footed, it makes pedaling harder and their knees will go up too high.
3. Ready to Roll
Choosing a smooth, flat surface for learning to ride with pedals is key. Parents can be tempted to teach on grass; after all, if there is a fall, it won’t be so hard. Just say no to riding on grass. Having properly inflated tires also makes a huge difference in getting those tires rolling. When my first daughter was learning to ride, my neighbor kindly aired up her tires. It was noticeably easier for her to ride on firm tires with enough air.
4. Helping Hands
When helping, hold your child under the armpits instead of holding the bike seat and handlebars. Your rider won’t get the feel for how to balance if you are holding onto the bike. It’s also much easier on your back! If they lose balance, you have a hold of your child even if the bike hits the ground.
5. Stop and Go
Some kids won’t need much direct instruction to start and stop, but it can really help with a hesitant rider.
If your child has hand breaks, you can teach braking by having them walk alongside the bike and squeezing them both to practice stopping. Most kids will squeeze too hard, which could launch them off the bike. It’s easier to let them get a feel for the right amount of pressure to use while walking alongside it. With backpedal brakes, have them start and stop on your smooth, flat surface several times before they can ride faster.
To start, teach them to put the pedal of their dominant side in line with the bike frame (in about a 2:00 position) and push down hard. Show them how to get their pedal in the starting position by putting their foot under and lifting it up to be in line with the bike frame.
A child who is ready can learn very quickly, but encourage them to not give up when they don’t learn quickly. It’s ok to take a couple of days! Talk about how being brave means you might feel scared, but being brave is a choice. They can choose to be brave when they chose to keep trying. Failure is only found in giving up. My dad’s favorite saying was,
“If you don’t fall down, you aren’t trying hard enough.”
Falling is simply a sign of giving it your best effort and that’s definitely a reason to be proud! Remember to have fun and celebrate your new rider!
Ice cream, anyone?
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