If you are just in the process of getting your child his/her first balance bike bike, a bicycle helmet is an absolute must have. Proper fitting kids bike helmets reduce the risk of head trauma from falls by as much as 85% and the risk of severe brain injuries by close to 90%. Children who don’t wear bicycle helmets (or wear ill-fitting ones) are twice as likely to sustain head injuries. Also keep in mind that the best way to convince your child to wear his helmet, is to wear one yourself. Almost all kids who don’t wear their helmets have parents who don’t either.
There may be many arguments against wearing a helmet, but statistics don’t lie, if you want what is best for your kid, you will ensure that he is protected at all times. However, it is imperative that you know what to look for when picking a helmet, as an ill-fitting one will just lull you into a false sense of security, while it doesn’t actually offer much protection.
Fit and Sizing of Kids Bike Helmets
For a kid’s bicycle helmet to work correctly, it should fit properly. If it is not comfortable enough, your child won’t want to wear it in the first place, and even if he does wear it, the helmet won’t absorb and distribute shock properly. Many kids’ helmets have a universal fit ring that is adjustable to fit the kid’s head, and others come with sizing pads to secure it better. But don’t go and buy a larger helmet thinking that the child grows into it. If you buy a helmet online, you need to take a measurement of your child’s head to ensure that you at least have a rough indication of what size you will need.
Take the measurement just above the ears, at the largest part of the head. The smallest setting on the helmet should not be larger than your child’s head, as a helmet that is too big simply won’t give the needed protection. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller to measure the helmet for you, or look the hat size up online. If you buy a kiddies bicycle helmet at a brick-and-mortar store, take your child with to ensure a proper fit:
- The helmet should fit flush against the head from all sides.
- It should not move over an inch in any direction when pushed or pulled
- When buckled, it should be impossible to pull the helmet off.
- The helmet should cover the forehead, leaving about one or two fingers above the eyebrows.
- When the chin strap is tightened, the left buckle should be under the chin, with no more than two fingers fitting under the strap.
The more expensive kids bike helmets are not necessarily safer than cheaper helmets, they usually just have better ventilation or other features. All helmets have to comply with basic safety standards, but be on the lookout for those with the Snell B90 standards from the United States, as these standards are stricter. Also keep in mind that bicycle helmets are not suitable for skateboard and skating use. Kids bicycle helmets are meant to only protect the head from one crash, using a lighter foam which compresses during impact.
After a major accident, you will need a new helmet, whereas skateboarding helmets are designed to handle multiple crashes. Although skateboarding helmets can handle multiple hits without compressing, don’t go buying one of those for cycling now thinking that you will save money. This type of foam can only handle shorter falls, making it unsuitable for bicycles. If you do want a helmet that can be used for different sports, don’t believe the advertisements, but go for a helmet that carries Snell N-94 multi-purpose seal.
Kids Bike Helmet Features
Childrens’ bicycle helmets come with several features that act together protect the head. It is important for a parent to know which features are the most important and which you can go without.
- Shell – Made of a strong, lightweight plastic that acts as the first barrier in case of a knock against the head. The plastic should be able to slide on the ground without catching on anything. Many modern-day helmets come with large vents to relief a sweaty head, but they also mean that a smaller part of the head is protected. Try to opt for a helmet that doesn’t go too overboard with the vents.
- Foam – The inner part of the helmet is lined with a very shock absorbent foam. Kid’s bike helmets have a thicker padding than that of adults, as their heads are softer and more vulnerable.
- Straps – The straps and fastener on your child’s helmet should be strong and stable. Don’t buy a model that unbuckles too easily, as it might also unbuckle during a fall, defeating the purpose of the helmet. Wider straps are more comfortable.
Additional Tips When Buying a Kids Bike Helmet
- Have your child pick out his/her own helmet. There are many helmets on the market that are made to be appealing to boys and girls, with designs including superheroes, cartoon characters, camouflage, dolls, princesses and even sparkles. If a child really loves his helmet, he would be proud to wear it and you eliminate the battle of getting it on every time before a bike ride.
- Check for snags. Any fancy features such as an aerodynamic or square shape or even vents can catch onto things when the child takes a fall, something that you want to avoid at all cost. A basic, smooth, rounded model will work best.
- Check for stickers that carry the safety standards, including the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and Snell marks. This will ensure this helmet design has been properly tested to ensure safe use.
- Check the weight. Toddlers don’t have very strong neck muscles, so they can’t wear a heavy helmet. Rather than a bigger, heavier helmet that may fit, buy a special toddler-design for young children.
- Don’t buy the “aero” shape if you are going to transport a child on a child seat on your bike. This design forces the child’s head downward, which is a bad, unnatural position and puts strain on the neck.
Buying the right helmet for your kid is just as important as buying the right bike. In the end, it is the child’s safety that is at stake. When shopping for kids bike helmets, the higher priced ones with the extra features are not always better. You need to look at the helmet’s seals of safety, size, comfort and a design that your kid will be proud to wear.