There, I also discuss why the first kids’ bike should be a balance bike. I dive into why a balance bike is the absolute best way to teach a child to ride a bicycle. I also discuss why training wheels are counterproductive for young children and do not prepare your child for pedal bikes at all.
Learning to ride a bicycle is almost like a rite of passage for children and their parents alike. We look forward to it with a sense of excitement and trepidation. But also a lot of stress.
But did you know that it doesn’t have to be stressful? Even toddlers as young as 18 months old are able to ride a balance bike! Let me show you how to teach a kid to ride a bike with no tears and no training wheels 🙂
What is the best method to teach a child to ride a bike?
Did you know that there are many things you can do even before you purchase or show your child their bicycle? Follow these tips to prepare your toddler or young child before you present them with a bike to ensure the learning process is as smooth as possible.
What you can do BEFORE you start:
1. Build up the excitement.
Fun should be the emphasis here! Before you get the bike, talk to your child about it. Either have them pick out the color, or perhaps the helmet. Tell them about the fun places you will go on the bike and what you will do there.
2. Prepare them.
It might help to tell your child that while learning to ride might seem tough at first, with some practice they will surely master it in no time.
3. Remove distractions.
Clear out all the other riding toys form their view (old tricycle, cars, etc.), so they are not swayed into picking an easier option that is already familiar.
4. Safety is first.
Always ensure your bike is correctly fitted for your child and they can sit on it with both feet flat on the ground to start with. Raise the seat so they can put their feet flat while they sit on the seat. Don’t forget about the helmet either. The most widely available bike helmets are by Gyro which we purchased for our youngest when he was just about a year.
If you’re looking for something more striking and fun, our oldest has this one from Nutcase. I love this brand because they come in a variety of funky and fun designs. These also come with a magnetic clasp that makes it very easy for the child to fasten the helmet.
5. Pick the right time.
If your child is not willing to try one day, don’t push it too much. The more you push, the more likely they will rebel at least at this age and stage. Just keep telling them how great it will be when they are finally prepared to give it a go.
6. Choose a motivator.
This is where I am not above bribery. I have used food rewards to teach both of my children. M&Ms, Skittles, and Smarties have worked great for us.
7. Break it down.
Start with baby steps. For instance, at first, just ask them to pick up the bike and stand over it. Then ask to make a couple of steps towards you. Gradually increase the distance traveled and occasionally provide larger rewards for extra effort.
At some point, I usually just “forget” my treats and by this point, your child will not need the extra motivation. This method really works. There is science to back it up, but I won’t bore you with it here.
What to do AFTER you purchase a balance bike:
Now that you have found and purchased the right balance bike (read this post to find out how), your child is ready to learn to ride a bike. I find it helpful to break up the process into several components: pushing off, balancing, and turning.
Find a safe spot like a large empty parking lot for bike riding. A wide and low traffic road or sidewalk will work as well. Encourage your child to stand over the bike and just let them figure it out. The tips below will help you navigate the process.
1. Help where needed.
One of our children really wanted me to hold the bike just a tiny bit by the back of the seat so he could get used to moving his feet without fear of falling.
2. Start from standing.
For little toddlers, the toughest part sometimes is getting the confidence to pick up a bicycle (you might need to help) and just get one leg over the frame. Here is our 2-year-old toddler as he was learning to walk with his Ridgeback Scoot balance bike.
3. Encourage walking.
Don’t pressure your children to sit on the bike right away. More than likely they will just stand over it and walk with it. That’s exactly what you want. The idea is to get them to learn to move their feet with the bike in order to get it going at first.
Once your child can easily walk the bike, you can encourage them to sit on the tip of the seat. You can do it by offering rewards when they walk with it while sitting (please make sure the seat is at the correct height for them to sit and firmly plant their feet on the ground).
4. Try a hill.
Once your child can move their feet with the bike and will sit occasionally, you can also find a small hill and encourage them to coast a bit more. this will teach your child to balance while on the bike seat.
5. Leave turns for last.
Turns can be rather difficult for a small toddler learning to maneuver a bicycle. I find it best to leave them until your child learns to comfortably ride straight. Once your child can ride a balance bike straight, they can start learning to balance and steer.
6. Listen to your child.
If your child made good progress but lost interest, let them move on for the day or that time. They will go back to try the next time you’re out. If you push too hard, you can accidentally take the fun out of the process which will give you the opposite effect than what you’re looking for.
7. Pick fun destinations.
Once you have a better rider, you can start picking destinations that are close. It can be a playground, a friend’s house, an ice cream shop, or any place they can pick out or do something fun. The destination and a treat at the end can build up a lot of excitement and provide for more practice time.
The more opportunities for working on their new skills you can provide, the faster your child will get the hang of biking. Eventually, the fun of just riding will take over and your kiddo will go off riding their bike like it’s second nature.