Learning how to ride a bike is a very important step for many children, and is often an experience and skill they will remember and use for the rest of their lives. However, it can be difficult for parents to know the best way to teach their child how to ride a bike for the first time while making it an enjoyable and safe.
When teaching a kid to ride a bicycle, consider their age and learning ability before deciding which bike they should use. And talk to kids about riding safely, wearing a helmet, the parts of a bike, and how bicycles work. Running alongside is optional.
Even with these basic instructions, parents can still seek more guidance on how to best help their children learn to ride a bike. Read on to learn about what ages kids can start learning, some training bike options, and other helpful tips for teaching kids to ride a bike without training wheels.
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Related: Essential Gear for Bike Riding
When to Put a Child on a Bike for the First Time
Some children are obviously too young to ride a bike, but there’s really no set age that a child must reach to begin learning how to ride a bike. It’s best decided on a case-to-case basis. However, most children are generally between the ages of 2 and 8 when they start learning to ride a bike, typically beginning with a bike that has training wheels attached. For kids that are five or older, it’s more common to practice on a regular two-wheeled bike without training wheels.
Many different training bikes exist to help children grow comfortable before they kick off on their own. Tricycles are bikes that have three wheels allowing younger children to practice pedaling and steering without the difficulty of balancing or the danger of falling. Training bikes without pedals are also available for younger children. These bikes are designed for toddlers so they are lower to the ground and a bit slower than traditional bicycles. Small children can use their feet to run training bikes up to speed before lifting up their feet to practice steering.
One of the most well-known options for younger children to practice bike riding is to use a bike that has training wheels installed on it. These are bikes of various sizes that have one small wheel attached on either side of the back tire to keep it upright at all times. As children grow comfortable steering, braking, pedaling, and moving at faster speeds, these wheels can be adjusted to provide less stability. They can be loosed to allow the bike to tilt from one side to the other, forcing children to balance the bike on their own, while also preventing it from falling over and injuring the child.
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How to Start Teaching a Child to Ride
When a child is eager and ready to learn to ride a two-wheeled bike, there are a few important things to remember:
- Choose a safe location with an open, paved space that doesn’t have cars passing nearby, such as a park.
- Teach them about location safety — staying on sidewalks and away from cars and busy roads.
- Talk to them about bicycle safety too, and why they should always wear a helmet (and ensure they always have access to one!).
- Bring any other protective gear that you feel is necessary, like kneepads.
Be encouraging and excited while teaching the child to ride a bike. It’s okay to let them know that riding a bike will be difficult, take practice, and they’ll probably fall down sometimes. Remind them that this is why they have helmets and other protective gear. Tell them that you believe in them and you know they can do it.
Whether or not they have a training bike of some kind, be sure to discuss each part of the bike with them and how everything works before they start riding. Show them the pedals and talk about how pedals will help them move faster or slower if the bike has pedal brakes as opposed to hand brakes. You can demonstrate pedaling and braking on the bike using your hands.
Point out the chain and how it connects to the wheels. Talk about how the handlebars let them choose the direction they want to go, and that they are in complete control of the bike. Likely the most important part is to show the child where the breaks are and how to use them. Be sure that all parts of the bike are fully functional.
Now it’s time for the child to get on the bike! It’s a good idea to stand beside them and keep the bike from falling over while the child gets used to the feeling of sitting on the bike and balancing. Help them use the pedals and handlebars to control where they are going and their speed. Help them to pedal fast enough to keep the bike upright on their own. Practice using the breaks. Be supportive when they fall and show them that you are proud of them for being brave and trying something new. Encourage them to get back on and try again.
As the child grows more comfortable, give the bike less and less support with your hands and slowly hand over the control. When they are ready, you can let go of the bike and celebrate with them when they are riding on their own! You can continue running alongside them without supporting the bike, or stop and watch them as long as there is nothing they could run into in front of them and they seem to be doing well. Be sure to congratulate them and let them keep riding while they enjoy practicing and getting the hang of it more and more.
Make Biking Safe and Fun
Bring up how well your child did later on in the day, week, and month so that they stay excited and want to keep practicing riding their bike. Encourage them to tell their friends and family members what they learned too! Kids love hearing praise from others, especially from their parents, friends, and adults that they look up to.
When they are riding comfortably, be sure to discuss how to be a safe bike rider. Talk about any rules you may have about how far they are allowed to ride, when they are allowed to use their bike, if they can ride alone, or if you would like them to ask you before going on a bike ride. Remind them how important helmets are and make sure that they understand why they should always wear them.
Take your family to new places with your bikes. Try out new parks, neighborhoods, parking lots, and biking trails. Make it something fun that you can do while spending time together. If you don’t already have a bike of your own, we encourage you to get one and enjoy this quality time with your child!
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