How To Teach Your Child To Ride A Bicycle: Are Balance Bicycles Better Than Training Wheels?
Most of us learned to ride a bicycle by starting with training wheels. This was the go-to way to learn for many years. However, in recent years, the value of balance training is becoming more popular. It seems that focusing on balance, without training wheels and pedals, leads to much faster learning to ride than starting with training wheels!
How To Teach Your Child To Ride A Bicycle: Teaching an Older Child vs. Younger Child
Teaching your child to ride a bike — no matter their age — means thinking on their level and understanding their cognitive and physical ability. Older children generally may pick it up more quickly than younger children, but younger children can also be successful when they stick with it.
How to teach a kid to ride a bike? Let them set their own pace. Three-year-olds may just not be interested yet, and that is alright. The key is reducing barriers by providing children with an environment and the gear to learn without pushing them into it.
How To Teach Your Child To Ride A Bicycle: Key Things You Will Need
Having the proper gear makes learning to ride a bike easier and safer. Here’s everything you need to help your new Rider pedal into success.
A Balance Bicycle
Sizing is the main factor when purchasing a bicycle. For learning balance, your child needs a lower seat when they’re first learning and a higher seat when they’ve learned to balance and pedal easily. It's best to err on the smaller size if your child falls between sizes when they are still learning.
For local parents, you can easily find an affordable used balance bike on Carousell since your child will only be using it for a short time.
Safety is of the utmost importance. Make sure your child has the right-sized helmet and adjust it to fit securely.
Just like adults, children should wear snug-fitting, close-toed shoes while riding. Once they start pedaling, make sure any laces are securely tied and not dragging long enough to catch in the pedals or gears.
For ultra-light but yet supportive footwear, check out our range of children shoes:
Almost every new child will take a tumble off their bicycle at some point, and scratches and scrapes leave some kids nervous about getting back on the horse.
Make sure to equip your child with the right protective gear so that they can make their early cycling journey as painless as possible.
How To Teach Your Child To Ride A Bicycle: Where to Practice
Find a flat, paved area with plenty of obstacle-free space for your child to practice riding. Parks with level, paved sidewalks, basketball courts, empty parking lots (just be careful about occasional traffic!), or even your void deck would make ideal locations.
How To Teach Your Child To Ride A Bicycle: Learning to Balance
Balance is the first step when learning to ride a bike for the first time. Before a child can learn to pedal and steer, they need to be able to keep their bike confidently upright and stable. Here’s how to help your child learn to balance that bicycle
Step 1: Take a Seat
Have your child sit on the seat of the bike and push their feet down flat on the ground, keeping all of their weight on the seat. They should be able to sit comfortably with their knees bent and both feet planted flat on the ground. To move forward, have them duck-walk (walk while sitting down) keeping all their weight on the saddle and pushing the bike forward with their feet on the ground.
Step 2: Look Ahead
Now that they’re comfortably seated and familiar with the feel of their new bike, tell your child to look straight ahead to where they want to go. New riders may be inclined to drop their gaze down to the front wheel. So gently remind them to “keep your head up” and “look ahead.” As with many other sports and activities, we end up in the direction we are looking, so having a goal of where to go is helpful.
Step 3: Practise Braking
Explain what the brakes do and have your child practice pulling on the brake levers several times to get a feel for them without moving. You may consider playing Red Light/Green Light with your child walking their bicycle and pulling the brake levers to stop when you say “red light.”
Step 4: Feet Up and Glide
Encourage your child to start balancing. Ask them to pick their feet up and let the bike glide forward as long as possible. This will be a short distance at first, but once they can glide about 10 meters or more without putting their feet down, they’re ready to learn to pedal!
How To Teach Your Child To Ride A Bicycle: Learning to Pedal
If you’ve been using a balance bicycle up to this point, it’s time to upgrade to a bicycle with pedals!
Step 1: Take a Seat
Adjust the bicycle's seat height slightly higher than it was while they were using it as a balance bike so your soon-to-be pedaler can have both feet flat on the ground with their legs straight. Once they’re confident with pedaling, starting, and stopping, you can raise the seat in small increments until they’re up on the balls of their feet while sitting on the seat.
Step 2: Review
Review balance and use of hand brakes, playing a little game of “Red Light, Green Light” to get the feel of coasting and stopping at this new height. Remind them to keep their head up and look ahead at where they’re going — not down at their handlebars! — to stay balanced.
Step 3: Give Them a Push
Once your child is ready to ride, give them a gentle push with their feet on the pedals and have them start pedaling. They’re doing it — they’re riding a bike! (And give yourself a pat on the back, too.)
Remember to keep cheering on your Rider! Encouragement is everything: even if they fall, they’ll know you have their back.
*Note that sometimes they would like you to hold on to the bicycle for some added security. You can opt to gentle hold on the back of the seat to give that extra balance, while still allowing your child full control of his/her ride. Jogging around bent over might not be fun, but it'll give your child that added boost of confidence to take things in full stride!
Step 4: Do It Themselves
Once they’re pedaling confidently, have your child learn to start and stop by themselves. Teach them how to position their bike pedals in the “power pedal position” that lines up the crank arm and pedal parallel with the frame down tube. Have them propel off the ground with one foot while pushing down on the pedal with the other to kick it off and start pedaling. Make sure your cyclist knows how to use brakes to stop and slow down, as they’ll be going much faster now than ever before.
Hit a roadblock? No worries. Remind your child (and yourself!) to take a deep breath. Take a snack break, reset, and then try again.
Disclaimer: Most of this article's information and text were obtained from Doug's blog post on Woom Bikes here and edited for local context. Woom sells amazing children bikes that are lightweight and well marked for instructions, making teaching your child on a Woom bike a joy!