Learning to ride a bike is a big moment in most kids’ lives. They will long remember the big moment they were able to take off on their own, without any training wheels or mom holding on to the bike, and fly down the sidewalk. Or, pedal down the sidewalk, if you will. If your kids are starting to get to big for their tricycles, and they have expressed interest in a two-wheeler, it might just be time to teach your kids how to ride a bike.
When Should You Teach A Kid To Ride A Bike?
When should you teach your kid to ride a bike? The answer to this question is going to be different for every family. You want to make sure your kid is physically and mentally ready to learn – that they have enough coordination and balance, and that they are strong enough to pedal. And, most of all, that they are excited about learning to ride.
Learning how to ride a bike can be scary, so don’t push them into it early if they aren’t ready. Some families wait until kids are around five years old to teach them how to ride a bike, but kids as old as three can learn if they are ready to try. It does seem like it’s harder to teach kids to ride after they are six, because they are more aware of the possibility of falling.
How To Teach A Kid To Ride A Bike
Find a large, flat space to teach your kid how to ride a bike. Try to avoid the street, even in your neighborhood, so you don’t have to worry about cars. An empty parking lot or large field are both great options.
First Step: Get a bike that fits your kid. Make sure they can stand over the top bar with both feet on the ground. It’s tempting to buy a bike that is a little big, so your kid can grow into it (they grow SO FAST), but this isn’t going to set them up for success. If the bike isn’t a good fit, it’s going to be harder for your kid to control it, and they are more likely to fall.
Second Step: Get a helmet and set safety rules. Every time your kid gets on a bicycle, they need to wear a helmet. Explain this important safety rule before they even get to try sitting on their new bike.
When you pick out a helmet, find one that sits snuggly on the head – you should only be able to slip one or two fingers between the strap and their chin. The helmet should sit across the middle of your kid’s forehead, one inch or less above the eyebrows. If it sits too high on the forehead, or rocks back and forth, try adjusting the straps, or get a different size.
Third Step: Choose between training wheels and gliding. The old school method of learning how to ride a bike is to start with training wheels to build confidence, and then taking them off to learn how to balance and really ride.
A new option is gliding. You take the pedals off an ordinary bike and lower the seat so your kid can sit with both feet on the ground. Teach them to push off with their feet and glide on the bike. Once they can safely balance for a few seconds, you can add the pedals back on to focus on pedaling while balancing.
Choose the method that you think will work best for your child.
Fourth Step: Before you pedal, you have to learn how to stop. Once your kid has mastered balance, they need to learn how to stop. I know, that feels backwards, because they are trying to learn how to go. But it’s much safer to learn stopping before they take off fast. Have your kid practice pushing the pedals backwards and putting their feed down to stop.
Fifth Step: Now it’s time to pedal! Try to resist holding the handlebars while your child is learning how to ride. Doing this can make it harder to balance. Instead, rest your hand on the back of your kid’s neck, then get him to start pedaling. Remind your kid to look up and ahead, not at the ground, which will help him steer straight.
Sixth Step: Take a turn. Once your kid has a handle on balancing, stopping, and pedaling, they are ready to really start steering and turning. Have them start with wide turns, and figure eights. You can set up some cones for them to navigate around to make it more fun.
Some kids learn how to ride fairly well in an afternoon. Most take a few days or even a couple of weeks. Don’t rush it. If you see your kid (or you) getting frustrated, take a break and pick the lesson back up the next day. This isn’t a race. They will learn how to ride.
And once they do? You are ready for your family to ride bikes, together, off into the sunset!
Jessica — Mom of Sophie & Jake