Balance bikes provide a safer and more intuitive way for children to learn how to ride, but not all children are able to master it at the same pace. Balance bikes operate on the principals of walking and running, two activities which comes natural to children and provides them with a great way to learn how to balance without the distraction of pedals. Since balance bikes don’t have chains or pedals it is also a safer way for children to learn as there are less parts on the bike that can harm them.
Step 1 – Bike Selection
The first step for teaching your child how to ride a bike is selecting one that is appropriate for them. When your child is sitting on their balance bike, they must be able to place both their feet flat on the ground while their knees are slightly bent. If this is not the case adjust the saddle of the bike accordingly and the handlebars as well if possible.
Patience is a virtue when it comes to teaching your child how to ride and it is important that you don’t try to rush them into anything. Let the child learn at his or her own pace and don’t force them to do anything that they are not comfortable with as this will have a negative impact on their confidence.
Remember, the point of riding a bike is to have fun and your child will not enjoy it if they are under any pressure from you. Some kids jump on the saddle and get the hang of things straight away while others first test the waters by walking their bike and pushing it along. If you push the child too hard they will only end up rebelling against it which will make it much harder to teach them. If your child is scared or intimidated by their balance bike it might be a good idea to show them some videos of other kids in action to get them excited about riding.
Step 2 – Location
It is also important to choose a proper area for your child to learn how to ride. Ideally their surroundings should be large and open, without any dangers or obstacles to distract them. If you are fortunate enough to have a large garden this is ideal, but parks or playgrounds are also good substitutes. Because balance bikes often have softer tires you can also let kids start out inside the house to build up their confidence, provided you have enough space available. Riding on grass or other soft surfaces isn’t always the best choice as kids will find it easier to learn how to ride on harder surfaces.
Step 3 – Safety
No matter where your kids ride, it is important to exercise the right safety precautions. Make sure that your child wear a helmet at all times when riding and that it is the proper size. The helmet should also be worn properly, with the forehead protected and the straps fastened securely. A sturdy pair of shoes is also a must as your child will be using their feet to start and stop. Don’t let them ride with bar feat or wearing sandals, especially if they gain confidence and start riding faster as this can cause injuries when they try to stop.
Initially your child will have to learn how to keep their balance when using the bike and although this process is much easier than when using a pedal bike it can still take a while. As your child becomes more secure in their abilities they will start to lift their feet off the ground for longer or even place them on the foot pegs if the model of balance bike they are using has this feature.
Keeping an eye on kids while they are learning to ride is important, but try to refrain from stabilizing the bike. It is a natural parental instinct to try and protect your child from harm, but if you are going to grab the balance bike every time it looks like it is going to lean over your child is never going to learn how to balance. After all, there is no point in providing a child with something that doesn’t have training wheels if you are just going to keep intervening.
Children who grow used to you stabilizing their bike every time it leans sidewise will struggle to learn how to balance on their own, so you will be doing more harm than good. You can help the child feel more secure by walking close to them or placing your hand on their shirt. If you must support them, do so from under their arms and not the saddle or handle bar to ensure that they still get a feel for the bike.
Step 4 – Support
Finally, when it comes to teaching your child it is very important to provide them with plenty of encouragement. Praise them when they accomplish something like gliding for a short distance or putting their feet on the foot pegs and comfort them if they struggle with something. If your child falls just remain calm and patient, so that they don’t get discouraged.
The more your child practice they better they will get at riding and you can even incorporate games in the process to make it more fun for them (and for you!) Challenge your child to drive between cones or to ride over marked spots to teach them to look where they are going instead of looking down at the bike. You can even use chalk lines to mark where the child has put down their feet between scoots and then challenge them to beat their previous records and thus encourage coasting.
Above all the process of teaching your child how to ride their bike should be fun and if you follow these guidelines they will master the skill in no time.