After the first week stuck at home, I realized this was the time to make some parenting priorities. I needed a distraction and goal – I could teach my kids some life skills that take time and I might put off in the future. I made a list and at the top…teach my son to ride a pedal bike.
Starting with a Balance Bike
He’s three, almost four and for many, I understand this might seem young. Around age 2.5, we got him a used budget-brand balance bike, but he couldn’t maneuver it. It was too heavy for him and too tall. When it fell over, it took him with it and he couldn’t get back up. After a few google searches and asking some bike-pro families, I followed through on recommendations to get him the Woom 1 – a super lightweight balance bike complete with a hand break. He was instantly better at the bike and enjoyed riding on it. So much so, that after a couple months, he coasted around with his feet tucked up and stopped with a hand break. In less than a year, he mastered it. It was my must have item for my active toddler.
Choosing the Right Pedal Bike
A few months ago, I got a hand-me-down pedal bike from a relative. It was cute and had training wheels. My kid tried it twice and gave up. Again, it was heavy, hard to pedal, and he had very little interest. So I figured, no worries, he’s only three- we have plenty of time to get him into it. Fast forward to the present and being stuck at home.
What a perfect time for teaching a kid to ride a bike!
Now, I realized was the time to do this. Remembering the difference it made going from budget to quality before, I went for it and got him the Woom 3 – a lightweight pedal bike with hand breaks and specially designed for kids. He was immediately excited by this pretty new bike and I figured it would take a few weeks for him to get used to the bigger size and take the risk to start pedaling, but with nothing much else to do, after our third one hour session on day 2 he was pedaling! If you’re ready to set this goal for your child, here are my recommendations on how to teach your kid to ride a bike.
6 Steps for Teaching a Kid to Ride a Bike:
1. Start with a balance bike
I’ve actually used three brands with my kids but the Woom 1 is by far the superior bike. You get what you pay for and it will train them to use a hand break- one less thing you have to teach later. My son rode on his for a year before we transitioned and could easily lift legs and coast.
2. Check out the features
Spend the first bike session letting your child examine the features of the bike – my son was super excited about the kick stand, reflectors, bell, and double hand breaks. Practice walk-riding around on a flat surface.
We found a gradual hill section on our street and he practiced coasting down. If he felt out of control, he’d stop with the hand break. I’d push him back up the hill and he’d try again. We took little breaks every few tries and discussed the fun part of the bikes or rested by the curb.
4. Coast with one foot on a pedal
When I was confident he could do it without falling, I ended up bribing my son with a youtube video to try coasting down the hill with just one foot on a pedal, reminding him he could break with the hand breaks or drag the other foot if he felt out of control.
5. Coast with both feet on the pedals.
When he tried to coast with both feet on the pedals – it all fell into place. The hand breaks are a huge relief because you don’t have to teach them how to break with the pedal break – This gives them the freedom to build speed without the fear of not being able to stop.
6. Keep practicing
Find a flat, safe neighborhood or empty parking lot to ride around in until they start to build confidence, and give it time.
Tips for Success:
- Don’t push – figuratively: When my son says he doesn’t want to ride, we don’t. We take a break, go for a walk, or grab a snack. Keep it fun and carefree.
- Get a Role Model: Have a friend, cousin, or child family member send a video showing that they pedal bike too! Once the stay-at-home precautions are over, get friends and family together. My son always takes more positive risks on his bike when other kids are around.
- Go Camping: After our stay-at-home time has passed, consider taking the bike on a family vacation. Family campgrounds are great places for kids to safely bike and see other kids biking too. Check out my recommendations.
- Don’t let them go back on the balance bike: After the first session on the pedal bike, my son immediately wanted to go back to the balance bike. My response was not until he’d “mastered” the pedal bike. This way, it’s not a crutch to go back to. Since starting to pedal though, he’s happily given up on this plea and graciously given the balance bike to his two year old sister who is pretty psyched she gets to start balancing!
- Get other’s advice: Check out regular contributor Molly’s suggestions. She’s a pediatric occupational therapist and knows her stuff!
I can’t guarantee that you will have the same experience I did. Every kid is different. I have learned that you get what you pay for and that it will be easier with a higher quality bike. This new independence of my child is bringing a bright spot to the dreariness at being stuck at home. One hidden gem has been that our usually busy street is car-less thanks to stay-at-home orders – a safe and perfect place to learn to ride. Pedal on.