Young parents often ask me about the merits of the new pedal-less, balance bikes and my first response is always, “if only they existed when I was teaching my sons to ride a 2-wheeler”! The trick to learning to ride is gaining balance and, believe it or not, the worst ways to teach your kids to ride independently is to buy them a tricycle or training wheels. Why? Because tricycles and training wheels teach kids how NOT to balance. They become so dependent on these supports that they become terrified of riding free.
For those of you who have never seen or heard of balance bikes, here’s a brief description:
• There are no pedals on these bikes.
• They are low to the ground so the child can place their feet firmly on the pavement.
• The child starts by pushing themselves along with their feet. Of course, the child learns that if they lift their feet, they will glide nicely along. Whenever they feel as if they are beginning to wobble, they simply plant their feet back down.
The concept of balance bikes is incredibly simple (why didn’t I invent them?) and they are a blessing for parents trying to teach their kids to ride. I remember the sore backs from running along beside my son’s bike, holding on to the bike seat. And I will never forget the crying fits and meltdowns because of my sons’ frustration when they fell. But today’s parents can avoid this aggravation and skip to the fun stage of riding together as a family.
There are several different models of pedal-less bikes on the market today: Balance Bikes, Strider Bikes, Skuut. An even cheaper option is to remove the pedals completely from a child’s bike until they’ve mastered balance. But please make sure the bikes are not too tall for your child or you’ll only frustrate them. Kids need to be able to put both feet completely on the ground in order to feel secure. You’ll undermine the learning experience if your child still feels wobbly because they can only touch the ground with their toes.
You will be surprised by how quickly your child masters riding a 2-wheeler if you try the above. I’ve heard of some kids who learned to balance and ride independently within a week or two of trying a pedal-less bike. But please be patient because every child learns at his/her own pace.
One more thing: it is imperative your child wears a safety helmet while riding any kind of bike or scooter! Children’s skulls are soft and it doesn’t take much to cause a serious head injury if their head hits the ground. “Play it Safe” by insisting on the following simple rule: NO HELMET = NO BIKE RIDING!
Guest post by Karyn Climans