How to Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike
As soon as the motor skills are mature and the child develops the desire to practice, nothing stands in the way of the first few meters on the bike. We have tips on how to learn to ride a bike very easily.
Biking has a very special appeal for many children. Because whoever can pedal is one of the big ones, is faster on the road and just cool. It is therefore no wonder that many children would rather get on the saddle and jettison today than tomorrow. But when is your child really ready to ride a bike and how do you best teach them?
The right time to get on your bike
Of course, there is no fixed age at which a child must be able to ride a bicycle. As in all other areas, it is also the case here that every child has their own individual pace of development. However, it can be observed that children have been getting on their bikes and riding off earlier and earlier in recent years. Some ambitious little cyclists can ride independently at kindergarten age. The motor skills and body awareness of the child are decisive for the success of learning to ride a bicycle. Since many children nowadays ride the balance bike from one or two years old, they learn to keep their balance early and to control a bike. This lays the foundation for later cycling and the transition to cycling with pedals is much easier.
Of course, there are also children who are only interested in riding a bicycle later or who are so far skilled. That is of course also ok. At the latest when school starts, most children can whiz around by bike.
Ride the balance bike as a preliminary exercise on the bike
A good preparation for learning to ride a bike is to ride a balance bike or scooter, as both train your sense of balance, responsiveness and body control. Small children from the age of one, who are already running, can start with a four-wheel. Then a slightly larger balance bike with only two wheels trains your child’s sense of balance.
As soon as your child is safely balancing, they have good motor skills for cycling. Now the only thing missing is the expressed wish to learn to ride a bicycle. Then there is nothing standing in the way of the first practice rounds by bike and your child has the right motivation to overcome small falls and failures more easily without immediately losing the pleasure of cycling.
The right bike for your child
Success in learning to ride a bike depends largely on the right equipment. It’s not just about the right size bike for your child, the right accessories such as a helmet and a bicycle bell can also increase the enjoyment of cycling. You have to pay attention to the following points when buying a bike:
The smallest children’s bikes start at 12 inches. This means that daycare children with a height of around 95 cm or more can already ride. Your child must stand safely on the floor with his feet, otherwise the bike is too big. The saying popular among parents, “You are still growing” makes sense for clothing, but not for bicycles.
Older and taller children can get on with a bike of size 16 to 18 inches while elementary school students can drive with 18 to 20 inches. The lighter the bike is, the easier it is for your child to hold. But that does not mean that children cannot learn to ride a bike on something that is heavier and therefore more robust. You can get advice on the optimal bike size and model from a specialist.
Be sure to try the bike with the child before buying – not every model fits every child.
Our tip: The first children’s bike in particular will often fall to the ground and be otherwise heavily used. And due to its small size and the rapid growth of your children at this age, it can only be driven for a very short time. Here it is worth thinking about buying a used children’s bike.
Saddle and handlebar
The saddle on the bike should be adjusted so that the child easily touches the ground with both feet when sitting – but not only with the tips of his toes! The handlebar height must also be adjusted so that your child sits comfortably and as upright as possible.
It is important to have a closed chain guard so that no clothing gets tangled and your child falls. In addition, the handles should be secure and padded. A curved handlebar should offer sufficient impact protection and should also be padded. Of course, the brakes also have to work. Most bikes for beginners are equipped with a coaster brake. This is particularly important for very young cyclists, as daycare children often lack the strength in their hands to pull the hand brakes tight enough. In addition, children with a coaster brake can usually react faster.
Bicycle helmet and protection
A helmet is mandatory! You should not let anyone convince you otherwise. No bike, no helmet! Let your child choose the helmet – of course one that, according to the specialist, also fits properly – this promotes the willingness to actually wear the head protection. If you want to be on the safe side, equip your child with additional protective clothing, such as elbow and knee pads for children. This kind of additional protection, especially for anxious children, can give mentally more security for the adventure of learning to ride a bike.
Kid Training wheels - yes or no?
In the past it was common to learn to ride a bike with training wheels. Most of our parents probably did their first laps with training wheels. Today experts advise against the use of training wheels.
Especially for children who are already safely on the balance bike, riding with training wheels would be a step backwards. Because they can already keep the balance while driving. Training wheels do not make it easier to learn to ride a bicycle, they complicate it. They convey the wrong driving experience and relieve your child of balancing while driving. In the worst case, your child will forget the already learned balanced driving. In addition, training wheels give your child the wrong feeling that they cannot fall over, regardless of whether they are riding or standing. If the training wheels are then removed again, your child must (again) relearn the feeling for the bike and own body.
Training wheels are a completely unnecessary and counterproductive intermediate step to learn to cycle.
If your child still has too much difficulty in keeping their balance, let them ride around for a while with their balance bike or bike with the pedals removed. This trains your balance and your child will soon be ready to try again with pedals.
The best place to learn how to ride a bike
Of course we all know that our children should not learn to ride a bike next to or on a busy street, right? For the sake of completeness, here’s another hint where you can best practice with your kids:
In general, any larger area with as few bumps, inclines, obstacles and traffic as possible is ideal for the first attempts at riding a bicycle.
Parks are a great practice area. However, you should choose a quiet day or time of day, because other cyclists, dogs and joggers can get in the way of your little cyclists dangerously (or vice versa).
Of course, only after the shop closes, when there are no more parked cars on it and no customers arrive or leave.
Your own yard
If you are lucky and own a sufficiently large yard or a level garden area, you can teach your offspring how to ride a bike.
Even quiet agricultural or forest paths without significant traffic are perfect as a practice area.
Meadow or lawn
On soft, grassy ground, it doesn’t hurt so much when falling. However, the uneven surface can cause more falls than usual.
Zoo or wildlife and animal parks
If carrying a children’s bike is allowed, there are also zoos and animal parks for practice rounds, especially if your child can ride a bit.
Tips for the Parents
Learning to ride a bike is not that easy, but teaching riding a bike also has its pitfalls. And as we know from our school days, a good teacher is often crucial for learning progress. Of course, this also applies to us parents when we teach our children to ride a bike. We have the following tips for the most relaxed exercise rounds for parents and children:
Always try to stay calm and relaxed. Avoided by expressed expectations (“At the weekend we will show grandma how well you can do that!”) or negative comparisons (“Marie can do that too, and she is much smaller than you!”) to build up pressure. If your kids are fed up with cycling, take a break or keep practicing on another day. If you are relaxed, your child is relaxed and then at some point the bike will work all by itself.
Give the right assistance
At the beginning you can give your child assistance with holding the shoulders or on the back. However, you should keep your hands off the saddle or handlebar so that your child has to balance on its own. When you help, always stay in the forward facing area of your child so that it does not turn around to see you. Your child should always look ahead while cycling.
Pushing motivates your child to pedal. If you do start pushing, let your child know before otherwise there is a risk of falling!
Falling also has to be learned
Don’t panic about falls! As a rule, novice drivers are rather slow on the road and have only a small fall height, so that little can happen with a helmet and protective clothing. Falling also needs to be practiced. Most of the time it is rather the fright that will make your child cry. When the tears have dried, it can go on.
Practice, practice, practice
As soon as the first few meters are made independently and safely, you can practice cornering and driving on other surfaces such as a meadow or cobblestone. Starting and braking are also particularly important issues. The latter in particular should be mastered safely in order to be able to stop quickly and precisely in dangerous situations and at later road crossings. The best way to incorporate cycling into everyday life is as much as possible, because only practice makes perfect.
Attention in traffic
Your child should only go on the road, or on public sidewalks, when they are safely on the bike. That means it must suddenly be able to brake and evade. Up to the age of eight, children have to and should drive on the sidewalk for safety reasons and are not yet allowed on the street.
It is also very important in road traffic to equip your bike safely: reflectors, lights, functional brakes, a bell and tires that are always inflated. And finally, we remind you again of the bicycle helmet, because it saves lives in an emergency and protects against serious injuries.