Teaching your child how to ride a bike will give them a lifelong skill and is fulfilling for a parent having to help their child. For the child, nothing can surpass the feeling of freedom when they ride their bike in a park or play area.
Outlined in this article are a number of steps/approaches that when taken will help to quickly teach a child how to ride a bike. Caution should be taken bearing in mind that every child will learn how to ride at their own pace.
Determine If Child is ready to Ride
The best time to start teaching your child how to ride a bike is when they have had good physical and mental development. There’s no perfect age but you will want the child to have good coordination before they start learning how to ride a bike. A balance bike is a good compromise if the child lacks enough strength in their legs to pedal or is very young.
Additionally, wait until the right time if the child shows no interest in learning how to ride a bike. They have to be interested in learning how to ride for the child to sit on the saddle and take their first steps. Most children from age 5 and over will be eager to start riding a bike.
Have a Well-Fitted Bike
Ensure that the child has a well-fitted bike for safety and ease of learning. A larger bike that you hope your child will grow into will be difficult to handle and control. The child should be able to plant their foot on the ground which also helps to array fears of falling off the bike.
With the right bike size, the child should reach the handlebars and have a firm grip without leaning forward excessively. If the bike has handbrakes, the child should be able to comfortably reach them.
The child should always wear a proper bike helmet when riding their bike. A bike helmet will protect the head from serious injury. Teach them how to wear it properly.
A well-fitting helmet should sit level across the forehead at about 1” above the eyebrows. It should not move from side to side by anything more than 1”. The strap should be adjusted to fit such that it forms a V-shape from under each ear. After buckling the strap, it should fit snugly allowing for a space that can fit a finger or two but not rocking back and forth when riding.
Other safety gear includes riding gloves, elbow and shin guards, knee pads, and closed-toe riding shoes. Remember that shoelaces should be tucked away from the pedals. Avoid loose pants but tell the child to wear long socks or long pants that protect the ankles from being scraped by the pedals and crank arms.
The Learning Process
The first step places emphasis on finding balance on two wheels. If the bike had training wheels, remove them so that your child now learns to balance. NetParents recommends that you remove the pedals and lower the seat to have their feet flat on the ground and help them learn balance. The bike tires should be properly inflated to the recommended tire pressure to ensure the bike rolls smoothly.
- Practice getting on and off the bike several times so that the child is comfortable. Allow the child to pick up the bike and lean it to one side for ease of getting on. Teach them how to scoot and glide on a pedal-less bike. Allow the child to sit on the bike, hold the handlebars, and walk back and forth the practice area. There are two ways to learn how to scoot which should be tried and help the child feel comfortable. The bouncy house/moonwalk encourages the child to take long steps one foot at a time similar to what happens when walking in a bouncy house. The second way to learn to scoot is through hops that involve pushing off using both feet at the same time.
- After your child becomes comfortable scooting, teach them to glide by encouraging them to hold up their feet off the ground. It is only possible to lift their feet by remaining seated on the bike. Use the hot lava or timed glide methods to encourage them to lift their feet and glide over a longer distance.
- Encourage the child to keep their heads up and look forward. Looking up rather than looking down at their feet or pedals helps to stay upright essential to learning balance and control. Hold up your fingers and let them shout the number to keep them focused ahead.
- Teach steering and turning by starting with easy and looping turns. You can make this lesson an enjoyable game by setting up an easy obstacle course or playing follow the leader. Always take it slow to prevent accidental falls and risk of injury.
- Pedal Awareness: It’s time now to put back the pedals and teach the child pedal awareness. Hold the handlebars facing your child seated on the bike and let them lift their feet and find the pedals while maintaining eye contact. The child should learn how to lift their feet and find the pedals without having to look down. Looking down at their feet will make them turn the handlebars and lose balance.
- Braking and Stopping: Start by allowing the child to have a feel of how much pressure is required for the brakes to work. The child can walk alongside the bike holding onto the handlebars and two fingers on the handbrakes. Instruct them to press the brakes to slow the bike as they walk along and eventually stop the bike. Coaster brakes can be tried while you hold the bike and then gently to help them learn without wobbling.
- Teach how to start from a stopped position using pedals. To start, the child must feel balanced when seated with one foot on the ground since it is harder to balance when pedaling begins. With the foot on the pedal raised to 1 or 2 o’clock, the child should then press down hard to gain forward momentum. Another option is to start scooting with one foot on the pedal in the down position. Once they have gained momentum, they can find the second pedal to get going. Desist from holding the bike as your child starts to pedal to help them learn to balance and ride on their own.
In conclusion, exercise a lot of patience as the child learns and improves their skills. Always be on the lookout for signs that you should stop and allow your child to rest or take a break. Keep it fun and enjoyable; always reinforcing success to build confidence and enhance learning.