When teaching your child to ride a bike, there’s a great deal you’ll need to think about. It’s not a matter of just plonking them onto the saddle and then leaving them to work out the rest! There’s inevitably going to be a lot of trial and error involved, and you’ll need to provide both a great deal of patience and encouragement.
Learning to ride a bike is an important rite of passage for any young child and helping them to learn can also be hugely satisfying for you as a parent. Each child is different, of course, but as a general rule they should be ready to learn at around four to six years of age. Of course, getting to grips with riding a bike is about their mental maturity as well as physical capacity, so make sure you take this into account as well.
To help you through this challenging but genuinely rewarding process, we’ve compiled some of our top tips for helping little ones in their efforts to learn how to ride a bike.
1. Choose a bike that’s of an appropriate size. Selecting the right size bike for your child is very important. It’s not a good idea to buy a bike that your child will eventually ‘grow into’; this can in fact hamper their ability to learn how to ride. Their feet should touch the ground while they’re positioned on the saddle with their legs straightened. For more info, check out the Tweeks Cycles guide to kids’ bike sizes.
2. Make sure you teach them in a suitable area. Learning to ride a bike for the first time is difficult, and it requires plenty of space! Choose a flat and smooth area to teach them in, whether it’s a wide tarmac path or a flat and well-trimmed field. Soft grass can be difficult to pedal on, so might be less suitable. Avoid inclines and hills.
3. Coordination and balance are crucial. When starting to teach your little one how to ride their bike, the first thing you need to do is help them get their coordination and balance right. Pedalling comes after that. In fact, removing pedals altogether to begin with can help your child concentrate on balancing. Balance bikes are a great way to get kids used to the idea of riding a bike, so that they’ve got plenty of confidence when the time comes to upgrade to a ‘real bike’!
4. Learn to let go! As a concerned parent, it’s always tempting to keep a firm grip on your child’s bike as they try to learn, but you have to be prepared to give them some freedom. Let go gradually, but make sure you’re still in a position to catch your child if they look like they might fall off. Keep your hands under their armpits rather than holding onto the handlebars yourself.
5. Be careful not to pile on too much pressure. You might think you’re just being encouraging, but don’t try to push your little one too hard when they’re trying to get to grips with riding a bike. Be sure to give your child the freedom to learn at a pace that’s comfortable for them. Above all, keep it fun – the worst thing you could do is make it feel like a chore.
6. Get the right protective gear. It’s only sensible to prepared for those bumps and scrapes that so often come with learning to ride a bike. Most obviously, you’ll need to choose a suitable bike helmet. This should fit snugly, without any wobbling, and there should be around two finger widths’ worth of space between the brim of the helmet and your child’s eyebrows. Gloves, and elbow and knee pads, can also provide valuable protection in the event of a fall.
Teaching your kid to ride a bike comes with its fair share of obstacles. But it can be lots of fun for the both of you as well if you approach it in the right spirit, and it’s also a great opportunity to spend some quality time together. Most of all, be prepared to persevere! Learning to ride a bike for the first time isn’t easy, but by showing patience and offering consistent encouragement, you can make it much more enjoyable for your child.