Teaching your child to ride a bike can be stressful. Parents hate to see their children get hurt, and learning how to ride a bike can involve a fair share of scrapes, bumps and bruises. Some parents put off teaching their child to ride a bike because they want to avoid this angst and pain.
Instead it is better to teach your child to ride a bike when they are younger.
At a young age your child travels slower on a bike and subsequently has less violent crashes and collisions. Falling is a part of learning how to ride a bike and bigger older kids take bigger falls when trying to learn.
Teach Children Young
Young kids travel a lot slower on a bike and that makes it much easier to teach them how to ride. Parents of young children can easily walk or jog alongside them or behind them while helping them learn. Being able to jog with your child allows you to hold the backseat or handlebars to help them navigate around. Older kids move so fast on a bike that parents have to basically run with them, which makes it unlikely you could intervene in an accident and pull the kid to safety.
Walking or jogging alongside your youngster as they learn to ride gives them incredible peace of mind. Children that are apprehensive to ride on their own or are intimidated by the prospects of crashing feel much more comfortable when their parent is by their side. Parents can start with a heavy hand on the bicycle and then over time can slowly loosen their grip and influence on the bike, leaving just the child pedaling along on their own.
My five year old daughter recently mastered bike riding, and unlike my other kids she was a bit timid to ride out on her own. We started the process on a bike with 16 inch wheels, which was the best bike for a five year old and gave her the ability to put her feet solidly on the ground whenever coming to a stop. At the start, we rode around with her on the bike and my left hand on the handlebar and right hand on the back of the seat or on her left shoulder.
Hold Them Up
My daughter weighs about 45 pounds, so by holding the handlebar and her left shoulder I can pretty easily control her path and progress. Kids should ideally dress in pants and a long sleeve shirt when learning to ride a bike to help avoid scrapes on knees and elbows. My daughter had enough slack in her shirt that I could grab that up at the shoulder and hold the fabric there without bothering her.
As my daughter pedals my job is mostly to just keep her going straight and to encourage her to pedal hard. I like to help her try and understand that the bike will go straight if she pedals hard but otherwise it will fall off to the left or the right. Early on, parents will have to put in a lot of work keeping the handlebar straight for their child but they should work to loosen that grip and instead just hold the child a bit by the shoulder to guide them.
Teach How To Ride A Bike
Parents should relax and look forward to teaching their child how to ride a bike. It is a fun, memorable experience and an early ‘big’ accomplishment for your little one. Put a helmet on your child and remember proper bike safety. Here are the key steps to teaching them how to ride.
- Introduce the bike: Start your child moving on the bike with you supporting the handlebars and also their seat or shoulder.
- Get them steering: Acclimate your child to the pedaling and steering motion. Over time work to loosen your grip on the handlebar and then ultimately remove it completely to leave your child in charge of steering. Leave your other hand on their shoulder or the bike seat to help steady them as they ride.
- Get them pedaling: As children familiarize themselves with pedaling start to move your hand off of the bike seat and instead let it hover over their shoulder or on their back. This puts you close enough to steady them but also places them in charge of their own locomotion.
- Run alongside: At the beginning you can give your child confidence and be ready to swoop in to save them by running alongside. Children won’t be moving that fast at this introductory stage of biking, so jogging alongside lets you grab the handlebars or bike seat as necessary to keep them steady. As children hit the brakes their parents should help hold them and let their feet get to the ground.
- Turns and Stopping / Starting: Now that children are starting to move comfortably on their bikes begin to introduce turning to them. The biggest risk is oversteering and letting the wheel jack knife back onto them to send the bike and child crashing to the ground. Counsel against oversteer and emphasize how little turning of the wheel is necessary to move around corners.
- Practice: The next thing for your child is to practice a lot every day at riding. Now that they are on the learning curve they should quickly advance in skills and comfortability riding. Ideally try to find a local track where the child can ride around in circles uninterrupted and without worrying about traffic. Repetition is the best way for them to advance their skills.
Stopping and starting are crucial bike skills that often give little children problems. Help them work on starting by getting their pedals in a proper position and then boosting them with a push. For stopping drills encourage them to work on braking with the goal of being stopped by a certain point.
Oftentimes parents and children fail in this process because they have unmatched expectations. Some kids might expect to just hop on the bike and be ready to ride off without practice. Similarly some parents might unrealistically expect their children to master bike riding immediately. Neither of those things will happen. Learning how to ride a bike takes some time. It is an unfamiliar process for kids. They are a little more acclimated to instant gratification. It is important for parents to start the bike riding process by leveling expectations and helping them understand that they will have to work hard for their goal and that before they succeed there will be some failure. Perseverance is a crucial life skill and parents can start teaching it to children with bike riding lessons.
Some parents swear by the ability of a scoot bike to aid the learning process. It is true that scoot bikes are awesome at teaching balance and for a lot of kids it makes learning how to ride a bike easy. The scoot bike or balance bike is best imagined as a bicycle that is missing pedals and cranks. This gives riders the ability to work on the core mechanics of steering and staying upright without complicating the process by pedaling. Scoot bikes are positioned low enough to the ground that children can use their own feet to steady themselves.
Scoot bikes are not a necessary step in the learning process but a lot of parents find that it makes it easier for their child to learn how to ride a bike.
While a scoot bike works on teaching balance the training wheels permit a child to safely learn the pedaling motion. Training wheels attach to the rear wheel of your child’s bike and give it a wide stance to keep it from falling over. Ultimately the value of training wheels is disputable and probably parents are better off not using them. While they can make the bike fun for kids, it is likely that a child able to ride around on training wheels is ready to learn how to ride without them. Training wheels are a crutch and parents should be careful about when to rely on them.
Conclusion: Teach Child To Ride A Bike
Parents put off teaching their children how to ride a bike because they are scared about the risks and responsibilities. Instead it is better to teach children how to ride as young as possible. The smaller kids travel slower (making it easier for you to run alongside teaching them) and they weigh less (making it easier for you to catch them as they fall). It is important for parents and children to go into the process with a good attitude and proper expectations. Ultimately, by working together at it and by spending time together to get it done your child will learn how to ride a bike. As a parent be sure to enjoy the process and do whatever you can to support them through it.