Teaching your child to ride a bike can be both an exciting and frustrating experience. As a parent and a therapist who works with children in physical therapy, I can tell you that every child learns differently. What may seem simple to you or another child may not be easy for your child. Having said that, it is important to have some expectations.
- It may take time for your child to learn how to ride a bike. Be patient and don’t try to force the process.
- Children will fall and that is ok. If they have the proper safety equipment they will be ok. Always wear a helmet! Your reaction to the fall will set the tone, being over-reactive can cause unnecessary fear in your child.
- This should be a fun experience for you and your child. If you are feeling frustrated, chances are they are too. Take a break and come back with excitement.
Getting the right bike is so important. My dad used to tell me to “ use the right tool for the right job”. Learning to ride a bike requires the right fit. There are a lot of different types of bikes:
- Big wheel – an easy beginner bike for all ages
- Balance bike—a bike with no pedals and usually no brakes, so that kids can concentrate on learning balance and steering
- Bicycle with training wheels
- Bicycle without training wheels – the best bike for confident, skilled riders
When you are looking for the right size, an easy way to gauge the appropriate size is to have them stand with the bike between their legs and feet planted on the ground. Many parents make the mistake of getting a bike that is too big thinking their child will grow into it. A large bike will make it much harder to balance and steer, often causing frustration for your child.
Now it is time to ride the bike. One idea to help your child learn is to start on grass. Riding on the grass will offer enough resistance through the pedals and provide proprioceptive feedback. The idea of being on the grass also gives children a feeling of safety if they should fall. If you don’t have a grassy area you can go to, try and find an area that is level and free of obstacles. Start with short distances, riding from one point to the next, then stopping. As your child gets better, increase the distance until they are feeling confident.