The thought of your child riding a bike for the first time can be as nerve-racking for you as for them.
While riding a bike is a great life-skill, it is only natural that some children will be more eager to take on the challenge than others. As there is no set age that children should be cycling by, it is okay to go slow and teach your children at their own pace.
How to know if your child is ready?
The age that children start to ride bikes varies but is generally between three and 10. If your child expresses a strong desire on their own, this is a good indication that they are ready for it. It also means that they will have a greater level of enthusiasm for the task at hand and will not be as easily deterred if they have difficulties.
Children who are more reserved and cautious might not be as eager to learn and will start a little later. Getting them enthused simply requires a little more encouragement than is necessary for their adventurous peers.
Getting them started
While most of us grew up learning to ride bikes with stabilizers, experts today recommend using balance bikes instead. The thinking is that stabilizers create bad habits and give children a false sense of security, which means they get a shock when the stabilizers are taken off. If they learn to balance themselves on a balance bike, they will find it easier to adjust to their first bike with pedals.
The first cycle
The first attempt should be in a safe environment, far away from busy roads. It is unlikely that your child will be able to go very far on their first go, so it is better to start them off with short nudges instead of a constant push. Make sure your child keeps their eyes straight ahead. You should walk backwards in front of your budding cyclist and encourage them.
While we never want to see our children hurt, small falls are likely to happen when learning to ride a bike. Avoid any serious injuries by keeping them under constant supervision, practicing in a quiet area and dressing them in the appropriate protective gear, such as a helmet and shoulder and knee pads.
If you have a babysitter or nanny who is teaching your child to ride a bike, make sure they know the correct safety precautions.
Choosing the right bike
When it’s time for your child to go out on their first pedal bike, choosing the right size is one of the most important factors. The size of the bicycle should be chosen so that your child can safely ascend and descend and touch the ground with their feet while sitting.
Choose a bicycle with an adjustable saddle and handlebar so that your child can continue to enjoy their first bike for a long time – and so you don’t have the added cost of a new bike after a growth spurt!
Your child’s bike must have a chain guard that prevents clothes from getting caught in the bicycle chain. It should also have a suitable coaster brake and a child-friendly rim brake that your child’s hands can easily manage. To facilitate safe cycling the tires should be about 47mm (1.75 inches) wide.
And don’t forget to have fun! Once your child gets some practice it will be – as they say – like riding a bike!