Teaching your child to ride a bicycle for the first time can be challenging for many of us, however with perseverance it can be one of life’s nourishing moments of happiness as a proud parent!
- Make it fun!
Ride to the park or in your local school playground. A relatively flat open space is ideal. You can use markers or painted lines to add challenges or targets to reach or ride around. Remember to set the ground rules at the very beginning to avoid conflict later. ALWAYS wear a helmet when cycling and a long sleeve t-shirt, long pants and gloves are advised.
2. Little steps
Rome wasn’t built in a day so remember to keep it simple and focus on one factor at a time. It could take many rides, weeks or months until they do it. Stay patient! They WILL do, once they are ready.
3. Avoid “running before you can walk” with stabilisers
Just like when your child learnt to walk they have to understand how to balance first. Using a bike with stabilisers can provide short term success as your child can cycle longer distances at higher speeds. However once they can pedal many children struggle how to learn to control (lean, steer, brake) their bike whilst pedalling. Which is why we recommend you to AVOID stabilisers!
Balance bikes fill this gap and have changed learning how to ride forever! They have no pedals so are great for establishing movement patterns such as pushing off when starting from one foot and putting your feet down when you want to stop (or to avoid falling). Your child will learn how to steer and how much to lean just to roll forward on two wheels.
If you choose to start your child off with a balance bike, skills often taken for granted when cycling such as controlling their speed on different grades, pushing harder to accelerate or climbing uphill are learnt as your child has fun riding!
With older or taller children learning to balance you can remove the pedals and lower the saddle height until they can touch their toes to the floor to create bigger balance bike.
4. Safely crashing!
Impossible you might say! Research shows that early verbal warnings or instructions such as “Ride slowly down this steep hill” can help avoid crashes. Also by practicing how to fall, it can reduce the severity of many incidents of injury in sport, not just cycling. Young children love physical play so practice army rolls in the garden, climbing up and down steps so that when things do go wrong your child can use their learned movement patterns to roll out of trouble and avoid injury. (Kindly demonstrated by my son in the photo above).
5. Lead by example
Like most walks of life, there is always someone we look up to. Be that person! By showing rather than telling you can make the most of a fun activity for you to share together instead of constantly reminding.
So wear your helmet and demonstrate the behaviour you want to see from your children. Remember, it is easier said than done!
6. Build confidence and manage risk with play
If you choose to start your child off with a balance bike, they will learn how to steer and how much to lean just to move forward on two wheels. Skills often taken for granted such as controlling their speed on different grades, pushing harder to accelerate or climb uphill are essential to riding confidently with or without pedals.
Allow your child to explore what’s possible on their bike, remembering step number two. Boundaries must be pushed at times in order to progress however do not be afraid to step in and stop when you feel it’s unsafe! You can even get friends involved as children will learn from each other and it’s great to see peers riding around together at any age.
7. Keep making it fun!
We mention this twice because as adults we regularly forget! Let your child lead the way and they might surprise you with an astonishing idea or just burst out with infectious laughs and giggles.
With this guidance you can help your child to experience the wonderful feeling of freedom, being able to ride independently, where ever they choose to travel. The journey begins here..