Teaching your child how to ride a bike is a bit of a right of passage for any parent.
Family movies are full of romantic scenes where parents persevere and visit the same park or street time after time before eventually letting go of the saddle. The next scene is emotional, poignant and full to the brim with pride because riding a bike is such a huge milestone in the life of any child.
My son is five years of age and we are just about ready to begin teaching him how to ride a bike. Every article or resource that I have come across emphasises the importance of keeping the whole experience as fun as possible.
Every child has a different way and rate of learning and it can be easy to become frustrated. Patience and keeping positive is really important.
It is also worth mentioning that a lot of people teach their children how to ride a bike between the ages of three and six but that does not mean you have missed the opportunity if your child is older than that.
Choosing the right bike is very important. It should be appropriate for your child’s height and age rather than a bike that they will grow in to or have for a longer period of time. Choosing a bike that is too big or too small may delay the learning process.
It is also of paramount importance that your child wears a helmet that is a proper fit. Most toy shops or bike/outdoor shops will have staff members that are happy to help you purchase and fit the helmet correctly.
What your children wear when they are learning how to ride a bike is important too. Ensure that their laces are properly tied and if at all possible clothe them in garments that cover their elbows and knees to help if they fall. You can also pick up knee and elbow guards if you feel more comfortable with those.
When choosing a location, try to find somewhere that has a flat or smooth surface. Many people opt for an empty basketball court or something similar if that is available to them.
Balance is the most important skill that is being learned as you teach your child how to ride a bike. This is why starting with a balance bike is a good idea rather than a bike with stabilisers. When stabilisers or training wheels are present the child is not exposed to the idea of balance and they simply focus on moving the bike via the pedals.
Encouraging your child to simply coast along on the bike by touching their feet off the ground is a good idea. You can remove the pedals for this phase. From here you can suggest lifting their legs for a certain number of seconds at a time and building it up from there.
When the child shows confidence coasting along with their legs lifted you can introduce the idea of direction and steering. A simple loop or wide corner is a good place to start. This is usually the point where parents can get frustrated, but remember that there are so many different skills being used at the same time when we ride a bike so this is pretty huge for your child.
When your child shows confidence coasting and turning the bike you can think about putting the pedals back on. Having the seat nice and low will give your child more confidence as they will be able to drop their feet to the ground if they are panicking.
If you hold the bike and ask your child to sit on it, close their eyes and find the pedals with their feet, this is a great place to start. You can then move on to them placing one foot on a pedal and one on the ground so that they can stabilise the bike themselves.
From here, your child can apply pressure to that one pedal and feel the way it moves the bike forward. Your child will then hopefully develop a curiosity to place both legs on the pedal while you help stabilise the bike or the child with your hand.
You can hold the back of the saddle or place a hand on their shoulder as they toy with the idea of balancing using both pedals.
From here, you can move on to turning the bike and practising stopping the bike. Cones or little check-points are a really fun way to do this.
Then, you can think about making the saddle a bit higher and practising this new-found skill that you’ve helped your baby learn.