Raising kids is full of iconic moments: their first steps, first words, first day of school. Of all your kid’s firsts, first bike ride might be the hardest for parents. Learning to ride a bike is tough (speaking from personal experience), but teaching your kid to ride a bike adds a whole extra layer on top. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! We’ve come up with a few handy pointers to help you teach your kid to learn to ride a bike. Oh, and we’ve also got the all-new My First Balance-to-Pedal Bike that’s specifically designed to help kids to learn to ride a bike too!
Pick the Right Bike for Your Kid
This seems straightforward, but there are so many training bikes for kids out there that shopping for one can be overwhelming (or expensive). That’s one of the reasons we developed the My First Balance-to-Pedal Bike. We firmly believe that learning to ride a balance bicycle (as opposed to with traditional training wheels) is both easier for kids and takes less time for everyone involved. We highly recommend the My First Balance-to-Pedal Bike for any first time riders (or parents teaching first time riders).
Keep Things Positive
Learning to ride a bike can be stressful for your kid (and you too), so it’s important that you try to stay positive and encouraging. The last thing you want to do is make your kid feel skittish about riding a bike because it’s too hard or feels like something they should naturally be able to do but can’t.
Get Safety Gear that Actually Fits
Wearing a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, etcetera might be a little strange at first for your kid, but it’s certainly better than the alternative (an endless series of skinned knees). That doesn’t mean you should buy just any safety gear for your kid though. Getting safety gear that fits them right (no passing down Dad’s old helmet from when he was a kid) and isn’t too bulky makes it much easier for kids to learn to ride a bike.
This one is easy: pick a wide open, flat, paved space to have your kid practice riding their balance bike. The less issues the terrain presents, the more your kid can focus on the task at hand. Though practicing on grass may seem tempting, grass is actually harder to ride on than pavement since it’s so slick. Try to go back to the same pace every time you practice to help build your kid’s confidence as well.
Start Training When They’re Young
Full disclosure: different kids grasp how to ride a bike at different ages. There’s no set age at which your kid is guaranteed to learn to ride a bike. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try experimenting with a balance bike earlier. The My First Balance-to-Pedal Bike is designed for kids as young as 2 years old to start getting comfortable with a bike and practicing their balance. Not all kids will necessarily be tall, confident, or coordinated enough to start riding a balance bike at 2 years old, but starting younger does allow kids time to build their confidence and experiment with riding. It’s always a good idea to have kids practice getting on and off the balance bike a few times, too.
Start By Having Your Kid Glide While the Bike is in Balance Mode
If you got the My First Balance-to-Pedal Bike, start by putting the bike in Balance Mode (with the pedals folded in). Adjust the seat down so that your kid can sit with their knees slightly bent and both feet on the ground. Have them get comfortable walking while seated on the balance bike with their hands on the handlebars (this might be awkward, but it helps them get used to the position and feeling of moving on a bike). Once they’ve gotten used to walking on their balance bike, try having them glide between steps where both feet are off the ground for a brief period of time.
See How Far they Can Glide
Once they’re able to glide for about 15 feet between steps, they’re ready to take things to the next step. Have your kid get a little momentum going and then see how far they can glide without touching the ground. This is a good way to test their balance before adding in the extra element of pedaling. You can also try having them glide down a slight incline if they struggle getting momentum while maintaining their balance. Another tip for helping kids maintain their balance is to have them focus on something in the distance to glide towards rather than focusing on what’s immediately in front of them. Many kids feel confident gliding around 3 years old, but there’s no set age at which kids will master this skill.
Now that they’re comfortable gliding more that 15 feet, fold out the pedals on your My First Balance-to-Pedal Bike and have them practice gliding. Once they’ve pushed off, have them put their feet up on the pedals without pedaling, so they can get used to the new positioning. Try not to focus on how much they glide and instead make sure they’re feeling comfortable with their feet on the pedals. If they’ve mastered gliding, have them practice making wide turns while gliding to get the hang of steering a bicycle as well. This is also a great time to introduce them to how their bike’s brakes work.
Give Pedaling a Whirl
Once they’re feeling confident and comfortable riding with the pedals on and their feet on the pedals, they’re ready to try pedaling while riding. Have them push off, glide, and put their feet up just as before, but this time prompt them to start pedaling once they’ve gotten their balance. It might take a few tries (pedaling tends to mess with your balance a little), but kids are often so close to riding by themselves that they’re excited to try pedaling at this point.
If They’re Having Trouble Pedaling, Don’t Worry About Going Back to Gliding to Build Confidence
While a traditional, training wheels design bike offers a stark choice for kids (training wheels or no training wheels), the My First Balance-to-Pedal Bike transitions easily back and forth between Balance Mode and Pedal Mode. So, if your kid doesn’t have a good first experience while trying to pedal, you can easily transition the bike back into Balance Mode with minimal tools. Building your kid’s balance (and confidence) is an important part of teaching them to ride a pedal bike.
Some Common Issues at This Stage
Some kids have a hard time grasping the motions of pedaling at first. If that’s the case, try showing your kid how to pedal by riding your own bike around. Or (if you’re feeling particularly strong) try picking up the back wheel and letting them balance and pedal without moving. This can make it easier for kids to master the motions while not worrying about where they’re going.
Practice Having them Start on Their Own
Once your kid has mastered pedaling and balancing, practice starting from a full stop with them. Initially, you might want to stand behind them and support them while they find their balance. It’s generally best to avoid holding the handlebars or seat for them, as that will actually make it harder for them to ride independently (and force you into an awkward, hunched position).
Once your kid is able to successfully start riding from a full stop, let them ride and see what they can do on their own. Make sure you keep practicing, stopping, starting, turning, and doing a variety of different activities with them now that they’d riding free. Mastering a bicycle takes effort, but your kids are sure to love their newfound freedom.
Are you ready to get out there and teach your kids how to ride a bike? We can’t wait to see how it goes! Make sure to snap a picture of your kid’s first successful ride, and don’t forget to tag us (@OfficialLittleTikes on Instagram, @LittleTikes everywhere else on social media)!
For 50 years Little Tikes has been a parent-trusted brand making kids toys that last. Looking for more great active play ideas? Check out www.LittleTikes.com for all our latest play tips & tricks!