Gone are the days when most kids spent their days in active play outside. Computers, smartphones, television shows and video games have taken over as the dominant source of stimulation and interest for kids. This leads to sedentary lifestyles which in turn can lead to childhood obesity and to a lifetime of health risks and problems.
Cycling is a truly invigorating and liberating experience, enjoyed by people of all ages and from all walks of life. Whether you’re cycling to work, to school, to the shops or just for fun, the humble bicycle is an easy way to get more active. For kids, riding a bike is a lot of fun and great exercise.
Learning to ride a 2 wheeled bike without training wheels is an important milestone. Children usually learn around 4 to 6 years old, but some learn as young as 3 and others may take a little longer. The age for every child differs, developmental skills can be an influence as can the availability of a bike.
I remember trying to teach my own son to ride his 2 wheeled bike the summer he was 5 and due to start school in the Autumn. He was very comfortable on his tricycle and his bike with training wheels or stabilisers but not the 2 wheeled one. He was cautious and not comfortable at this stage. I wasn’t really sure the best method to do this as I remembered learning the old -fashioned way with my dad holding onto the back of the bike saddle, eventually letting go and running along beside me! My son started school and his friends at this time were now quite comfortably cycling their “big boy bikes”. As parents we began to worry he wasn’t ever going to progress. Just before Christmas we went along to a parent-teacher meeting and our son’s teacher asked us if we had any concerns about his development, so we mentioned our concern for his reluctance to learn to ride his bike without stabilisers. As a lady with plenty of experience of children through her job and personally, she reassured us not to worry and said he would learn when he was ready. She was right! By the time we had our next parent teacher evening our son was quite happily riding his 2 wheeled bike along with his friends and as an adult still enjoys cycling today.
Bicyles for Kids
As mentioned above bikes serve a lot of functions from developmental tool to toy, to transport for children and adults alike. Which bike you pick is down to personal preference. Tricycles are good for 1 to 3 year olds. Balance bikes – a bike with no pedals and no brakes, are great for kids to concentrate on learning balance and steering. These are also called running bikes and a good bike to progress onto from the tricycle. Another option is a bike with training wheels, and finally the 2 wheeled bike. Whether you chose a running bike or a bike with stabilisers is purely your choice as parent/carer.
Learning to ride a bike
As mentioned above things have moved on from the way I was taught. Depending on the type of bike your child has here are some tips :
- Use a balance bike bike instead of one with stabilisers
- Take the pedals off the bike and lower the seat, to make it like a balance bike
- Raise the stabilisers a little at a time
- Make sure you set the correct saddle height i.e feet just touching the ground
- Ideally teach them somewhere quiet on a flat tarmac surface. Avoid grass as although a soft landing is tempting they will have to push quite hard on a small bike to make it go
- Hold onto the child not the bike, by doing this they will learn how the bike reacts when leaning
- Let it be a fun thing. If it becomes too frustrating , it may mean they are not ready to progress. Alternatively try a different method, one method may not necessarily work for all kids.
Finally and most importantly: safety. Encourage your child to wear bright clothes and reflective clothing if riding at night. Teach your child to wear a helmet properly and be sure to wear one yourself to set an example. Ensure they label their helmet and bike with a waterproof vinyl label with their name and a telephone number so they don’t lose it. Too often kids take their helmets off when out and about , e.g at the park to go and play and forget where they put it. Teach them to attach it to their handlebars but in the event they haven’t at least you will have a chance of having it returned. The same applies to the bike.