How to Teach a Child to Ride a Bike: Video, Photos, and Instructions
Teaching a Child to Ride a Bike
Learning to ride a bike is one of the most significant physical hurdles of childhood. Bike riding is the quintessential childhood activity and although it's easy once you learn, the process of learning can be difficult. Skinned knees, bruised elbows, a few tears, all accompany the art of learning to ride a bike. How can parents teach their children to ride a bike in the most painless manner? Let's find out!
Lila, our daughter in the above video, is our third child learning to ride a bike. We have gone through a few methods of teaching and I think this is the best and easiest way to teach a kid to ride a bike.
It's important to have all of the proper equipment before learning to ride a bike.
- Of course, a Bike! If your bike comes with training wheels, remove them.
- The bike seat should be lowered so your child can easily touch the ground and stop themselves. Once they become more confident, you can raise the seat to the appropriate level.
- A proper helmet. Your child should never ride their bike without a helmet
- Closed-toed shoes - no stubbed toes, please!
- Long sleeved shirt and pants to avoid scraping if they fall.
Steps to Learning to Ride a Bike
- The most important thing to remember when teaching your child to ride a bike is to offer A LOT of encouragement. This is probably the most difficult physical feat your child has attempted since learning to walk. They will most likely fall and hurt themselves a little bit. A positive attitude by the parents can make the whole process a lot easier.
- Training wheels. All of our children started riding their bikes with training wheels. Lila started with training wheels at two. She also had a run bike, like a skoot, that taught her balance. She wanted to ride with her sisters but wasn't physically mature enough to ride without training wheels at first, so the training wheels were a necessity. In some ways this caused poor habits; she would lean to the side to make contact with the ground. If your child is older, at least three, I would attempt to have them learn to ride without training wheels.
- Lower the seat so your child can easily touch the ground. This helps them with confidence so that if they do start to fall, they can put a foot down. Since most of the time they will be going fairly slowly, this can help them avoid a lot of falling off of the bike.
- If you don't have a run bike or skoot, a two wheeled bike without pedals, have your child just practice riding down the street without training wheels by pushing with their feet and gliding. They don't even need to put their feet on the pedals, just push and glide. This gives them the feeling of balancing while feeling safe because they can easily put their feet down. The seat should be low for them to be able to do this. You may need to temporarily remove the pedals to do this.
- Find a safe, flat street or parking lot to practice. If the street has a slight decline, that might be helpful. Make sure there aren't any large obstacles that could be hazardous. We live in a cul-de-sac, so it's the perfect location to learn to ride a bike. Our first daughter was taught at the park. We attempted to teach her on grass to avoid having her hurt when she fell. I think this made it even harder for her to learn.
- Align the wheels so that they are perpendicular to the ground. Have your child put their foot on the pedal that is in near the front wheel and their second foot on the ground to push off.
- Start of by holding them either under their arms or on the back seat and have your child begin to pedal. Encourage them to pedal quickly, it's difficult to balance if you're going to slow. This is the hardest step for parents. It takes endurance and it's hard on the back! Practicing for only a few minutes a day is good for the child and the parent!
- Encourage them to look in front of them and to keep pedaling. They should be holding the handlebars and evenly as possible.
- As their balance begins to form, you can run behind them with arms on either side like in the video. As they lose balance, gently touch them on either side to help them regain.
- At first just attempt going straight. Once your child has mastered going straight, teach them to turn. Start with wide turns where they slightly lean in to the turn.
Try a Gyrobike product: The Gyrowheel
The Gyrowheel is a stabilizing wheel that replaces the front wheel of a 12 or 16 inch kids bike. The wheel balances the bike on its own; you can actually push the bike down the street without anyone on it and it will balance until it loses speed. It's a great way for kids who are having a lot of trouble balancing, especially kids who are older and are embarrassed to use training wheels. Although it's expensive, about $115 for the 12 inch wheel and $155 for the 16 inch wheel, if you have multiple kids that will learn, it may be worth the price. Since the wheel wasn't available for our older girls, we taught them the old fashioned way.