Learning how to ride a bike is a big moment in a child’s life. It’s a terrific challenge that can boost confidence and strengthen your parent-child bond. While you may have been taught to ride a bike as a kid, no one taught you how to teach a child how to ride. That’s why Crème de la Crème has put together this list of tips and tricks to help you effectively teach your kiddo how to ride a bike and get rid of those training wheels for good.
Find a Safe Place to Practice
Image via Flickr by gmahender Licensed CC BY 2.0
Take your child and their bike to a traffic-less, hard-surface space, like an empty parking lot or driveway. A little decline can help your child during the later phases of practice. In addition, make sure your child wears a correctly sized helmet.
Consider Not Using Training Wheels
Your child gets used to riding with training wheels, which, in some cases, can make it more challenging to re-learn how to ride without their help. If your child seems ready and eager to ride a bike, you might consider starting with a balance bike, which is a pedal-less bike that gets kids used to balancing on two wheels in a few stages.
There are many transitional tools — like training bikes that have seat handles parents can grip to help kids balance while gliding or pedaling — you can use to wean kids off of training wheels. It’s up to you and what your child is comfortable with, but not using training wheels may be more effective for your child.
Turn Their Bike Into a Temporary Balance Bike
While you can purchase a pedal-less balance bike to help your child learn the basics, you can also quickly transform their actual bike into a balance bike. All you have to do is remove the pedals and lower the seat so that your child’s feet can reach the ground and lay flat.
Turning their current bike into a temporary balance bike can be a more cost-effective option, not to mention it can alleviate additional nerves your child may feel if they have to go from a balance bike to a “real” bike. If you have training wheels on this same bike, this can be even better for keeping your child as comfortable as possible through the learning process.
Start Slow With Tip-Toeing and Scooting
In balance-bike mode, have your child sit on the bike with their feet flat on the ground. Have them walk the bike in slow, short strides to get used to holding the handlebars steady. As they get more comfortable, increase their strides, which increases their speed. Use the decline to help them gain a bit of momentum and a feeling of gliding with their feet off the ground.
Have your child master doing small strides, large, running-like strides, and a bit of gliding in a straight line. Walk alongside them when they start, and then stay a pace or two behind them to give them support as they get more confident.
Introduce Steering and Turning
Once your child has mastered gliding in a straight line, let them find a medium speed with which they can practice steering. Start with slight turns so they snake along their path. Then, have them practice turning around to come back, all while gliding. If your child is having a hard time balancing, start by holding their shoulders and using gentle pressure to help them steer and turn safely.
Make It a Game
As your child learns the basics in balance-bike mode, make the experience fun by using a few simple games:
- Create an obstacle course using toys or cones, allowing them to learn how to steer.
- Set up “gliding zones” by drawing chalk lines on the ground, and have your child alternate between taking steps and gliding with their feet off the ground as they hit each mark.
- Pretend the “gliding zones” are lava to spark their imagination while practicing.
You can use these games early in the process and as they learn to pedal and ride their bike for real.
Build Pedal Awareness
Once your child has mastered balanced gliding, put the pedals back on the bike or grab their pedaled bike. Raise the seat back up, just enough that they can touch the ground with flat feet and no bend in their knees. Note that as they become stronger riders, you can raise the seat so that only their toes touch the ground.
Start getting them used to the pedals by holding the bike with them sitting on it. Have them put their feet on the ground and then on the pedals. Make sure the pedals are at an angle where their feet can easily catch them. As they practice taking their feet off the ground, have them look straight ahead, perhaps focusing on your shirt or head.
Take it a step further by letting them push forward on the pedals a few paces. That way, they can practice pedaling from a stopped position. You can have them start with one foot on a pedal and use the other foot to push off the ground like they would on a scooter. Or, they can use the long stride technique they did in balance-bike mode.
Test the Brakes
Once your child is used to pedaling a bit, stick close to them as they test braking. Have them ride slowly, and show them how each brake operates. Have them practice pedaling, slow braking to a stop, and getting off the bike. Have them get back on the bike, and repeat.
Avoid Grabbing the Bike
If you ever need to help guide them or keep them balanced, put your hands gently on their shoulders and guide them with a little pressure. Grabbing their handlebars could cause them to lose balance.
Be Patient at Every Step
Remember to stay calm and patient at every stage. Some kids can master fundamental riding skills in minutes and be riding on their own in a few hours. Other kids take a few days, weeks, or months to master it.
At Crème de la Crème, we provide a mixed-subject, whole-child curriculum that improves a variety of important developmental skills and promotes a love of learning. Contact your nearest school today to learn more about how our daycare, preschool, and before- and after-school programs can help your children thrive.