Riding a bicycle is not just a fun, thrilling activity. Thanks to cycling on a regular basis, the child develops physically; his muscles become stronger, his respiratory and cardiovascular systems, as well as his vestibular apparatus, get stimulated, and it trains the sense of balance. Teaching the child to ride a bike is one of the most important and responsible tasks of a parent – provided that the parent does want his child to have such a healthy hobby. So, let’s find out how to teach a kid to ride a bike.
When is the Best Time to Start Teaching Cycling?
Everybody knows that it is easier for a child to learn new things compared to an adult. He grasps things faster, catches on in no time, and memorizes new information, absorbing it like a sponge.
That is why some early development advocates insist on teaching the child to ride a bicycle from the moment the little one starts walking on his own. And they also recommend avoiding all kinds of protective gear or a support such as a tricycle or training wheels of a bike in order to immediately start training the child to ride a regular bicycle.
This approach, obviously, has both advantages and disadvantages. If a small child falls off the bike and gets hurt or frightened, it may discourage him from riding a bicycle in the future. Therefore, it is better to not rush and to do everything in stages. But these stages can be different, depending on the physiological state of the child and his age during which his parents decided to start teaching him to ride a bicycle.
The main stages of training and the factors determining your choice of training methods:
- You can start introducing your child to bicycles at the age of 18 months and older. It can be a tricycle with a special parental control handle, a footrest for the child and numerous additional elements such as a bicycle umbrella or a canopy, built-in musical toys, etc. Sometimes, a child looks at it as a second stroller and does not want to pedal, preferring to rest his feet on the footrest out of habit. If you want your child to start making at least some attempts, try to get him interested – let the kid play with the bike, make him try to steer the handlebar, roll the bike, perhaps, work the pedals by hand.
- After mastering the tricycle, once the child has learned to steer and pedal, you can switch to a two-wheeled bike with training wheels.
- Many parents skip the phase with the training wheels and immediately put the child on a regular two-wheeled bicycle. If your child feels confident on a tricycle, he is physically developed and does not have any fear, you can go ahead and do it too.
Note that everything depends on the individual development and abilities of your child. You cannot force an unprepared child to learn cycling on a two-wheeled bicycle just because other children can do it.
How Do I Teach My Child to Ride a Tricycle?
Those who do not take this mode of transport seriously are wrong: the important point is that a tricycle can become a wonderful solution for a child that has recently learned to walk confidently.
At first, the child might just sit on a bike and, probably, won’t even try to hold the handlebar. But, gradually, he will get comfortable and definitely want to know how and why the wheels spin, what happens if you turn the handlebar, how the pedals spin, etc. Use his interest to start the training.
Your first task is to train your child to steer the bike. That’s how you do it: you must demonstrate that upon turning the handlebar, the direction of the bike’s travel changes. Help your child to get one foot on the footrest, located on the rear axle of the tricycle, and to start steering the handlebar while pushing off the ground with his other foot.
Perhaps, it will take some time to master the steering; afterward, it is time to introduce the kid to pedaling. It is necessary to move to the next stage of training only after your child has clearly understood and memorized the fact that the bicycle turns and rolls in the direction of the turn of the handlebar.
To make the learning more exciting and to create some sort of motivation, train your child in the area where there are other children learning to ride or already riding their tricycles, and, it would be even better if they were his peers.
How to Teach Child to Ride Bike with Training Wheels?
After the child has mastered riding a tricycle confidently and his muscles have gotten strong enough, you can switch to a bicycle with training wheels.
This option is an intermediate stage for those who are afraid to immediately put the child on a regular two-wheeled bicycle. I should say that this way of learning is the safest one, but, at the same time, the slowest too.
With the help of suspension training wheels, it will be easier for your child to learn to maintain balance. However, the child may encounter problems in terms of becoming dependent on this “safety” and develop the fear of riding without it.
Your task is to adjust the height of the training wheels as your child’s riding skills improve:
- Do not keep the training wheels on the same level with the rear wheel. In this case, the brakes become almost useless, and the wheel of the bike, if accidentally caught in a small hole, will run idly. The training wheels should be located slightly above the ground, without touching it. Make sure that the bike has a slight lean to the left and to the right.
- In the process of learning, when the child can manage the steering more or less confidently, makes turns and brakes, as well as maintains balance pretty well, start adjusting the training wheels, gradually.
- There is no need for you to tell your child about this adjustment, as he may get frightened or doubt his newly acquired skills.
- The moment the wheels stop touching the ground completely, on both sides, even upon leaning, point out to your child that he can ride without “safety”, and remove the wheels.
How to Teach Child to Ride Bike Without Training Wheels?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the transition from a bike with training wheels to an ordinary bicycle should occur smoothly and gradually: the child gets used to maintaining balance, learns the basics of steering and masters the skills required for riding. The height of the training wheels gets adjusted little by little, and at one point they get into their highest position, which means that they cannot affect riding anymore.
Teaching to Ride a Bicycle: Rules of Safety
Unlike tricycles and bicycles with training wheels that are relatively safe, regular bicycles, if you don’t follow safety rules, can cause injuries.
So, before reading step-by-step instructions on how to ride a bike, carefully study safety rules!
Provide Your Little One with a Complete Set of Protective Gear
Let him wear a regular or a special helmet, similar to those of the professional cyclists, and a set of knee and elbow pads for his arms and legs.
While choosing the protective gear, rely on more solid characteristics rather than its appearance and color. Measure the circumference of the child’s head before buying a helmet in order to fit it properly; also check whether it is adjustable or not, whether it comes with a visor, has good air permeability, and, finally, how light and convenient it is for the child.
Do not forget the knee pads and the elbow pads. They must also fit the child and should be made of light, quality material.
Sometimes they recommended wearing gloves with cut-out fingertips: to protect the palms and the hands.
Get Comfortable Shoes for Riding a Bike
The sole should be wide enough to provide a good “grip” with the pedals; also check whether the shoes hug the foot of the child properly. Riding a bicycle barefoot or in sandals is unacceptable because if the foot slips off, the child will hurt his toes.
Selecting a Bike: Take it Seriously
It is very important to choose a bike of a suitable size and weight. If the kid cannot reach the ground with his feet, he will be afraid of riding a bike; therefore, the model and the size of the bike must fully correspond to the age of your child. We have described earlier the ways of choosing a bicycle for a child. After you purchase the bicycle, do not forget to adjust the seat height and the handlebar to match your child’s height.
Tell Your Child about the Dangers on the Road
If you want to teach your child to ride a two-wheeled bicycle without using training wheels, a step-by-step method will be your best option: thanks to this method, the child will learn to keep balance quickly and easily and master all other necessary skills .
Mastering the Ability to Put the Foot Out
Lean the bike in one direction and then in the other: this way the child will be able to put his foot on the ground from the leaning side of the bike. The kid must understand that by putting his foot down and leaning on it he will prevent the bike from falling down.
Learning to Keep Balance
Offer the child to place his feet on the pedals, and when the bike starts falling, remind him to put his foot down on the ground on the leaning side of the bike. Hold him and help him, if necessary.
Quite often, children brake by placing their feet on the ground or jumping off the seat. It is extremely dangerous. Show the child how to use the brakes. After mastering this skill, repeat the exercise with putting the foot down on the ground. The child must realize that putting the foot down is possible only after the bike has completely stopped rolling.
Roll the Bike and Ask the Child to Brake
When the child brakes, you need to let go of the bike. Once again, we emphasize that it is necessary to ensure that the child rests his foot on the ground immediately after braking.
Hold the child by the shoulders while he learns to pedal.
The Child Rides on His Own, but with Your Support
Keep pushing him slightly and catch him when he is braking.
The Child Rides on Gis Own, without Support
If you see that the child feels confident enough with the bike, let him ride on his own; you can stick around, but only as a safeguard.
Riding in the Right Place, Properly
Teaching a child to ride a two-wheeled bike involves a constant presence of an adult who ensures the child’s safety. And here are some basic rules:
- It is recommended to stay on the side of the bike or run behind it, slightly holding the child by his shoulders. It is not necessary to hold the saddle of the bicycle, because not your child, but you will start affecting the leaning of the bicycle. For the same reason, you should not hold on to the handlebar, because it is you who will be steering, not your child.
- Do not control the direction of travel and do not tell the child which way he should be traveling. The child must have the right to choose in order to feel comfortable and ride with pleasure.
- For training choose spacious yards or open terrain without cars, dogs or a large number of people; there should be enough space for maneuvering and the minimum amount of moving obstacles.
- Keep in mind: it is more difficult to ride on the grass or a bumpy land with pits, so it’s preferable to choose a normal, paved surface. Slopes or mountainous areas at the beginning of learning are not suitable for riding a bike either.
The Skills that the Child Should Acquire
Let’s highlight the basic skills that a child needs to acquire in order to feel truly confident on a bicycle.
Overcoming Fear of Failure and Falling
Do not force the child to ride or teach him against his will. It will be useless.
- The best motivation for a child is having a role model: only by looking at the dearest mom and dad who can ride a bicycle easily and gracefully, the child can understand how much fun it can be, which means that he will want to learn how to ride the same way.
- Be prepared: your child may be afraid. It is perfectly normal, especially if you are afraid too, or worried, treating every failure and falls as a huge tragedy.
- Do not criticize or scold the child, do not compare him with other children – let him make his own mistakes and gain some experience.
- Reasonable care, your presence, and protection will help your child to feel safe. Support and encourage him, let the child know that you believe in him and are proud of his success.
Holding the Handlebar and Keeping Balance
Holding the handlebar is usually the first skill to acquire. While riding his first tricycle, the child realizes that the bike will travel in the direction of the turn of the handlebar.
Some pros recommend to start with letting the child roll the bike holding it by the saddle, in order to master this skill. The bike will sway to one side and then to the other until it starts falling down to the side at some point.
In order to level it and not let it fall down, the child intuitively starts turning the bike by leaning it in the opposite direction. This way he develops the ability to maintain balance.
Pedaling and Braking
At the very beginning of training, you should place the child’s feet on the pedals and show him how to spin them.
On a two-wheeled bicycle you can teach your child to feel it:
- Train your child to keep balance without moving off, by lifting feet off the ground and keeping them in the air.
- Teach your child to ride a bike by simply pushing his feet off the ground and leaning on them without using pedals. This exercise is to be done on a balance bike.
- Do not forget about braking properly. The kid should be aware of the fact that he is able to stop once he starts pedaling in reverse – since bikes mostly have a foot brake; practice this skill with the child and make sure that after braking he immediately puts his foot on the ground.
Balance Bike: a Lifesaver
The second method involves using a balance bike that facilitates and accelerates the learning process. This bike is equipped with a handlebar, a seat, two wheels, but it does not have pedals, so the child has to push off the ground in order to ride it.
With the help of a balance bike, children learn the basics of controlling a bike very quickly and they develop a sense of balance and learn to steer. When you transition to a more serious bicycle, without training wheels, you only have to teach the child to pedal.
Learning to ride a bicycle is not a complicated process, but be prepared: it will take time and effort. Be patient and do not rush the child. Remember that you, too, did not master it overnight. Try to help your child overcome any fears, failures, so that riding a bicycle could become his favorite activity in the future, which is so beneficial and brings a lot of impressions and positive emotions.