It was a plot in literally every family TV show from the ’80s and ’90s — a bumbling yet lovable dad tries to teach his kids how to ride a bike but ends up in a tricky situation. Who can forget the moment Michelle Tanner rode right into a bush during her first attempt? It’s hard to figure out how to teach kids to ride a bike without any tears or nerves. After all, falling down is part of the process (and part of growing up). Teaching a child to ride a bike can be especially tough if you feel as though your kid will associate any falls with bad memories of you. You’ll want to make sure you don’t break trust with your child. And, unfortunately, that’s very easy to do in a situation like this. The risk is worth the reward, though, because there are few things more fun than seeing your kiddo pedal down the sidewalk with wild abandon.
Sure, some professionals may be better at teaching your kid to ride a bike — but it truly is a parenting milestone. Think of it more like a bonding experience than something to fear. Show your kid that they shouldn’t be afraid of falling. (Still, you might want to invest in some kneepads and elbow pads along with a helmet for the first few tries. It may be the perfect way to ease their mind.) Keep reading for more helpful pointers for parents.
How to Teach Your Child to Ride a Bike
First, make sure that your bike properly aligns with your child. If they’re too big or too small for the bike, or if the wheels seem too thin, it may lead to disaster. Around 14 or 16 inches should be a solid place to start. You’ll also want to make sure that you practice in a safe space. An elementary school parking lot when school isn’t in session is a good bet. You can also find a neighborhood with a cul-de-sac, as they don’t get a lot of traffic.
A good, wide sidewalk also helps — especially if that sidewalk has grass on either side that might help support a hard landing. On the subject of taking spills, keep the area clear and clean in case they do happen. You don’t want to practice on a street that may contain hazards like broken glass or unpaved segments.
The Best Time to Teach Kids to Ride a Bike
Many people suggest readiness around the age of five — but it all depends on your child. Children should practice coordination ahead of time. Younger children may best learn the basics by riding a tricycle. While training wheels can be a vital tool, you don’t want to have your child depend on them for too long.
The earlier you introduce your child to a bike, the better. Children as young as four may be able to learn how to ride a bike if they’ve gotten a lot of practice and show a lot of interest. Training wheels shouldn’t remain on a child’s bike past the age of eight or nine.
Be Honest With Your Child
Honesty is everything. Don’t tell a kid that they won’t fall — they might feel like you lied to them. Instead, tell your child that it’s OK to fall, and that falling is part of the practice. Tell them you won’t be disappointed if they fall. And tell them that you don’t expect them to master it right away. They may feel like they’re embarrassing you if they don’t catch on immediately. Be a supportive parent and make the experience a fun one for both of you.
The Best Technique to Use
Keeping a hand on the back of their bike can be a good way for them to stay steady. As they’re pedaling, tell your child to focus on what’s ahead. With a clear line of vision, they can better keep their balance. Let them know when you’re letting go, and cheer them on. If they don’t know that you’re no longer right behind them, they may turn around to check and end up falling.
Always Be Positive
It may seem like a no-brainer, but remember that learning how to ride a bike is huge for a kid. Don’t discourage them or make them feel like they should have mastered the skill sooner. Treat it like the big deal it is! Offer up words of encouragement. And once your child masters the art of bike riding, celebrate it.
Check In With Them
Of course you want your child to learn how to ride a bike, but make sure it’s something they want to do. If your child isn’t interested in learning how to bike, don’t force them. You want your kid to be just as excited as you, and if they aren’t, it probably means they’re not ready yet. In the meantime, offer them other cool wheeled toys like a scooter, which is usually easier to navigate.
Make Sure Everything Fits
From the bike to the helmet to the knee pads— make sure everything is snug and snapped closed. Not only is this a safety tip, but it’ll also help your little one feel more secure. Explain to your child the importance of wearing a helmet and the benefits of knee pads. When kids feel protected and their bikes fit their bodies, they feel less awkward and timid. Apart from safety, putting your child in full bicycle safety gear can also help soothe their stress and ease anxiety about learning, which can help pedal your bike lesson along.
Get Rid of the Pedals
To help your kid get more comfortable with their bike, remove the pedals and let them walk/cruise with it. Make sure they’re sitting on the seat. After they’ve done this for a while, add the pedals back and see what they can do.
What is the best age to teach a child to ride a bike?
Between the age of four and five, kids have built up enough balance to hop, skip, and run. This is the best time to teach them and get started. Start with training wheels but depending on how advanced your kiddo is, feel free to give two-wheeling a try. Some kids even start biking without training wheels as early as three years old. It’s all about where they are with their balance.