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Balance Bikes - Teaching Toddlers & Preschoolers to Ride Safely

Updated on July 24, 2014

How my daughter learned to ride a bike by age 2

Take a close look at the toddler in the photo and her bike. See anything unusual? The bike has no pedals, and there are no training wheels in sight. What's even more amazing is seeing that same toddler zooming around on a two wheeled bike faster than any kid with training wheels.

We got our daughter a balance bike at age 21 months, and it was pretty cool to see her learn how to balance. It didn't come overnight, but rather she followed a progression of walking while straddling it to getting comfortable enough to zoom around. She's had tons of fun with her bike ever since.

So what IS a balance bike? Balance bikes (also called pre-bikes, glide bikes, running bikes, push bikes, walking bikes or pedal-free bikes) can help children as young as 18 months learn steering and balance -- the toughest skills to develop when learning to ride a bike. Conversely, tricycles and training wheels teach locomotion (pedaling), a simple skill that can be learned in less than an hour. Instead of a child pedaling a trike or regular bike with training wheels and learning a false dependence on the extra wheels which can be hard to break, balance bikes intrinsically teach a child to balance while they're having a great time zipping down the sidewalk. With glide bikes, children learn how to ride a bike and develop a joyful confidence while they're developing their motor skills.

And....now that my daughter is 5 1/2 and finally wanting to ride a standard bicycle, I'll tell you about how her stride bike has helped immensely with the usually harrowing process of riding without training wheels.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbrubeck/4612915416/ via a Creative Commons license.

How a Toddler Starts to Ride a Balance Bike - My 21 month-old daughter's first ride on a balance bike demonstrates how most kids first react to their new glide

Most children will straddle a push bike at first, holding onto the handlebars. They'll walk with the crossbar between their legs, kind of like riding a hobby horse. Depending on the child's age and adventurousness, they'll do that for awhile, or quickly figure out that they can sit on the seat and walk. It's fun to catch your toddler starting to trust the seat to hold their weight so they can go a little faster. My husband's keeping an extra-close watch on our little girl since she didn't have a helmet on. (we got one the next day)

22-Month Old on a Glide Bike - In this video, my daughter's had the balance bike for a month, and has the confidence run while sitting on the seat. As you can t

After kids figure out that they can sit on the seat and walk, the next step is starting to run while sitting on the bike. Many also figure out, to their delight, that a pre-bike will go over most any type of surface; grass, curbs, gravel, etc. that a tricycle or bike with training wheels can't handle. As their confidence starts to grow, they'll start going faster and steer more effectively. By this time, my little girl was pretty addicted to her bike and asked to ride it almost daily.

A Parent's Review of the Strider PreBike

When my daughter got her Strider balance bike at 21 months old, she immediately grabbed the handlebars, threw her leg over (as best a toddler can do), and started walking with it. She was so excited to have a 'real bike' and soon learned that she could sit on the seat and walk -- and then run. Within a month, she could go pretty fast while sitting and running....woo hoo! Huge smiles of enjoyment! Gaining the skill to put her feet up and glide took another month or so, but when she did, the result was a huge burst of confidence. She wanted to ride her bike everywhere. With training wheels, it took me until 3rd grade to ride a bike, and now that my daughter is 2 1/2, I know she could ride a properly-sized pedal bike with no problem. This is the best toy purchase we could have made. It's one of her favorite things to play with.

photo credit: BunnyFabulous

What's Best for Little Riders? - Do toddlers need to be riding bikes? Is there any real benefit to balance bikes? What do you think?

What do you think about toddlers riding balance bikes?

Steel/Aluminum Frame Balance Bikes - Metal frame bikes tend to be a bit lighter and some brands have varying types of footrests for when kids lift up their feet

Strider ST-2 PREbike Balance Running Bike (Blue)
Strider ST-2 PREbike Balance Running Bike (Blue)

My husband and I did a lot of research when my parents asked which balance bike they could get our daughter for Christmas, and this model was the hands-down winner. There's so much to love about this bike in my opinion. It's got the lowest seat-height adjustment available in a balance bike, which was perfect for our petite daughter, yet the seat and handlebars can adjust for kids up to 5 years old. How's that for a toy that lasts? The construction is very durable and lives up to what small kids can dish out. Now that our li'l girlie has ridden it for a year and a half over all kinds of terrain, it's still looking great. It's really light..just over 7 pounds. You may not think that's a big deal until your child decides that he or she has had enough of riding and you're 6 blocks from home. The tires look like they're inflatable, but they're actually a spongy but very durable plastic. They give a good ride, but there's no maintenance. Gotta love the footrest; it gives a comfortable and natural place for a child to put their feet while gliding, and the seat is much more ergonomically designed than most of the other balance bikes.

While we got the blue one (our daughter's favorite color), the Strider also comes in orange, green, yellow, red and pink.

 

Purchase a Strider bike directly from StriderSports.com and get 10% off list price.

As an added bonus, enter coupon code STRIDER1FLWI01

at checkout to get free shipping -- an additional savings of $12 or more

Wooden Balance Bikes - Wooden glide bikes are more eco-friendly, and most have spoke-less wheels which keep little feet and shoelaces from getting caught by acc

Here's another great alternative to a metal bike.

Smart Gear Wooden Classic Smart Balance Kids Bike
Smart Gear Wooden Classic Smart Balance Kids Bike

The smart gear training bike is a mixture of most of the best qualities of wooden balance bikes. While it's heavier than the metal frame bikes, it has a great carrying handle for when kids get tired of riding...much easier for mom and dad to pick it up. Like most wooden bikes, it has a limited steering range which helps prevent jackknifing, and it has a rear fender to keep debris from 'rooster-tailing' on your child's back. The tires have a knobby tread for better traction on uneven surfaces...carpet, grass or gravel for example. The lowest seat height is 13 inches, which is taller than some other bikes, and it has a sturdy build. With its price point, this wooden bike is much more affordable than the top-of-the-line Like A Bike, which runs over $300.

If I had to choose a wooden balance bike for my daughter, this one would be it. The Smart Gear also comes in a girls' model and has a pink version too.

 

Toddler and Preschooler Sized Bike Helmets - Whichever bike you choose, keep your child's head protected.

While there are bike helmets with different characters on them, for safety, I tend to prefer well-known and dependable brands like Giro and Bell that make quality helmets for all ages. There are tons of fun patterns for boys and girls alike!

Advantages of a Balance Bike / Run Bike - Strider bike inventor and dad Ryan McFarland shows how this balance bike helps kids have a safer, more enjoyable exper

I really wish these would have been around when I was a kid. I had more than my share of wipeouts on my tricycle.

Which Running Bike Rules the Sidewalk? - Which one of these would you get (or have you gotten) for your child?

If there's another bike you like but you don't see here, please add it to the list.

Lots of Fun with Running Bikes - Watch a number of kids show their stuff on their balance bikes just speeding along, on family walks, on family bike rides, at t

How does this help a child transition to a regular pedal bike?

Many parents have asked me this, and now I'm seeing it firsthand as my 5 year old is learning to ride a regular bike

It took my daughter awhile to become interested in riding a pedal bike, but now that she's excited about it, we're finally seeing all the time she spent on her Strider bike pay off. For our first session on the pedal bike, all we really had to coach her on was constant pedaling to get going and looking forward so she didn't just look down at her feet out of curiosity.

15 minutes later, she was riding down the sidewalk for around 2-3 house lengths. She already knew how to balance, so it was just a matter of adding the pedaling motion. The other benefit to having ridden a running bike is that she had the natural inclination to put her feet down if she was about to fall to catch herself.

Granted, we still have to teach her foot braking, but at least that's not one more new thing on top of the process of riding itself. I'll keep you posted as she keeps learning, and I'll add a photo when I feel more comfortable with her progress. Right now I still want my hands free to help.

Feedback About Balance Bikes - How was this website helpful? What do you think about balance bikes? Anything else you'd like to see included?

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    • Just4Luck profile image

      Justin 

      5 years ago from Slovenija

      It seems balance bikes are better solution than training wheels.

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 

      5 years ago from Liverpool, England

      I really like the way you've done this - the info with the personal touch: Blessed for quality.

    • Kaellyn profile image

      Kaellyn 

      5 years ago

      I never learned how to ride a bike because I could never balance on one (inner ear issues). I don't know if this would have helped, but it might have!

    • profile image

      fionaagee42 

      5 years ago

      I am going to give this a thought. Thanks :)

    • profile image

      Benjamynn 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this great information. Happy holiday :)

    • profile image

      dellgirl 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this helpful information on Balance Bikes That Help Toddlers Learn to Ride Without Training Wheels, itâs very thorough and so well done! I learned something new.

      Congratulations on making Popular Pages - Featured Lenses.

    • fifta profile image

      fifta 

      5 years ago

      I am currently looking for a first bike for my 2 year old son. Your lens is really informative and helpful. Thank you.

    • Rymom28 profile image

      Rymom28 

      5 years ago

      I was just wondering what kind of bike to get for my toddler. Big wheels worry me and he seems too big for a tricycle. Great product review and help here, your lens has been blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I'm doing the charity thing talked about there: https://hubpages.com/politics/Charity-Idea-Adopt-a... and I'm really considering getting one of those bikes for one of the kids my family was assigned. Thanks for this well composed lens. Love all the bike suggestions. Gunna use it for real. :)

    • casquid profile image

      casquid 

      5 years ago

      This was a great find for me today, the twin-grandsons have tricycles with special foot pedals. They never use the pedals. This Christmas, Grandma will be getting something new and fun into their lives. Thanks!

      Angel Blessed! Keep writing!!

    • GeorgeRayes profile image

      GeorgeRayes 

      5 years ago

      Very detailed article. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      greenpharmacist 

      5 years ago

      Great review! It will be my next gift for my little kid.

    • safereview profile image

      Bob 

      5 years ago from Kansas City

      Awesome article... well done!

    • Judith Nazarewicz profile image

      Judith Nazarewicz 

      5 years ago from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

      Great review on balance bikes! Thanks so much!

    • profile image

      dream1983 

      5 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for sharing!

    • SquidooMBA profile image

      SquidooMBA 

      5 years ago

      Great lens and a great review of balance bikes!

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 

      5 years ago

      Never heard of them before - learn something new - awesome!

    • profile image

      seosmm 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting lens!

    • profile image

      cleanyoucar 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing the info!

    • jadapotata profile image

      jadapotata 

      5 years ago

      Great lens!

    • aviwolfson profile image

      Avi Wolfson 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great lens, thanks!

    • tobydavis profile image

      tobydavis 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting lens - I didn't know about these - do they come with models, where you can attach the pedals at some point? (..or take into an official dealer and have a professional do it).

      I think that would be an interesting addition to the product : that way the child could continue to use their bike, but try it with pedals.

      I'd be really interested in hearing how the transition is from Balance Bike to Pedal Bike. ...in any case, anything that helps Children get out and about and loving cycling, is a fantastic thing!

      Fab lens - and I loved all the personal touches - really makes it stand out from other 'product orientated lenses'. Lovely!

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      6 years ago

      They seem like the perfect first bike. Great info!

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 

      6 years ago

      Well, that was interesting.. from the perspective of someone who did not learn to ride a bike until age thirteen. Good point about peddling being the quick skill to pick up.

      I watched the toddler in the video. At first I couldn't picture how it could be ridden, but the video cleared it up.

    • hotnewsandviews profile image

      hotnewsandviews 

      6 years ago

      This is very perfect cycle for the kids riding. I bought that few days ago for my son. It is very helpful for riding, without training.

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 

      7 years ago

      When my grandson wanted an "orange bike" (wrote a lens about it!), I did not know about the strider bikes. Of course, he was too old to begin on one of these bikes -- being 4 -- but now I wish he had had one as a toddler.

      You have created a really good source for information about this excellent beginning bike.

    • Eighteen18 profile image

      Eighteen18 

      7 years ago

      My son had one and it was fab. His was a tiger

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 

      7 years ago

      It makes the perfect first bicycle.

    • SquidooMBA profile image

      SquidooMBA 

      7 years ago

      This is a great lens. I first saw a balance bike about two years ago and could hardly believe how well the little girl was doing on it. Thanks for making this lens!

    • profile image

      GrowWear 

      7 years ago

      Really good idea. Some children do get frightened for one reason or another and can't get past it for the longest while.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      Very nicely done lens.

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