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Remember how exciting it was when you first learned to ride a bike on your own? Well, now here you are, about to help your child experience that feeling for themselves.
Between the ages of four and six years old is the ideal time to teach a child how to ride a bike. Children tend to be more cautious if you don’t expose them to riding a bike before the age of six but with these steps, it’ll be fun and thrilling experience for everyone involved.
With any adventure, there are likely to be a few bumps and scrapes along the way. The most important thing for cycling is to get the right helmet for your child. It should be level, with a 1-2 inch gap between their eyebrows and the helmet. The straps and fixings should be firm but not too tight.
Look for a quiet, traffic-free area like a cycle path, a stretch of smooth tarmac, an area with short grass or somewhere with a slight downward slope to help your child get started. Once they’re more confident, an area with gentle hills is a great place for them to practice picking up speed, gliding and balancing.
You can temporarily turn your child’s bike into a balance bike by removing the pedals. It’s not an essential step but can help. When they’re seated, make sure your child’s feet are flat on the ground with a slight bend to the knee. This will help them push off the ground to gain momentum and stop and start independently.
Once you’ve got your child all set up, help them use their feet to walk forward on the bike. They might wobble a bit at first, so make sure you’re beside them to support them. When they’re comfortable walking slowly on their bike, get them to try running first and then, eventually, gliding and balancing on the bike.
Straight lines sorted? Encourage your child to try steering in different directions to understand how their bike reacts when they move their handlebars. Once your child is confident balancing, gliding and changing direction (some children will pick this up in 10 minutes while others will need a lot longer), you can put the pedals back on.
After you’ve reinstated the pedals, make sure your child can still start and stop their bike with their feet on the floor. Raise the seat height so they can still touch the floor with flat feet but without a bent knee. Then, have your child run on the bike again with their feet behind the pedals and using their brakes to control their speed. This is usually easier going down a slight slope.
Double-check that you’ve replaced the pedals correctly and then your child is good to go. The trick is for them to gain enough momentum by running with the bike before putting their feet on the pedals. It’s helpful for you to hold your child rather than the bike when they’re getting started. When they’re ready, encourage them to look up at where they want to go, get their bike moving and pedal!
Walk with them still holding on in case they wobble over. Hold on from behind and not with the handlebar so that your child can move the bike freely and control the steering. When you feel they’re ready to cycle on their own, slowly release your hold. But make sure you stay close by in case they need a bit of help stopping.
As always with children, it’s best not to try when they’re hungry, tired or having a grumpy day – that’s no one’s idea of fun. Try to include some games in your practice sessions to keep them entertained, and if things aren’t quite clicking and your child is getting frustrated, perhaps come back to it all another day when they’re full of enthusiasm again.
Learning how to ride a bike is one of those childhood milestones that we all remember. Hopefully, this advice will help you create lasting memories for your child now that it’s their turn to get cycling!