Bike Riding Milestone: Goodbye Training Wheels!
They say that once you learn how to ride a bicycle, you never really forget. But for a child who’s just learning, it may seem like a nearly impossible feat. This is one of those numerous instances when, as a parent, you must find that delicate balance between helping your child while determining just the right moment to let go.
With your guidance, and enough practice, they can conquer their fears and tackle this challenge, which will bring them a considerable amount of elation, independence, and self-confidence. However, the process can be frustrating for both of you.
The good news is that helping your little one learn to ride a bike without training wheels does not have to be meltdown territory. In fact, it can be an enjoyable bonding and memory-making experience for everyone involved when you take the right approach.
Are You Ready, Freddy?
Before giving it a go, it is a good idea to make sure your child is prepared to tackle this milestone. If they can balance on a scooter or ride a bike with training wheels quite steadily, they are probably ready to make the transition to a big kid bicycle. Another notable indication that your kiddo is ready to ride is that they are asking you to take off the training wheels. A child that is eager to try is much more likely to succeed than one who is anxious or scared.
Get Geared Up
Teaching your child to ride a bicycle includes showing them how to do so safely. Make sure you have chosen both a bike and a helmet that are the right size for them. Strap the helmet on properly along with any other safety equipment, such as gloves or kneepads. Make sure they are wearing close-toed shoes that are tied snugly, and if their shoelaces are long, tuck them into their shoes to keep them from becoming caught up in the pedals or gears. Long pants provide added protection from falls, but make sure they are not loose enough to become tangled. If they are, use a Velcro strap or even a rubber band to secure them snugly around their ankles.
Put on the Brakes
Before your child starts riding a bike, they need to know how to stop. Knowing that they are in control of the bicycle will help them feel more confident and less panicked about the learning process. Plus, not knowing how to use the brakes could bring on some unnecessary scrapes, bumps and bruises. Show them how to use the breaks, depending on whether the bike has handbrakes or pedal brakes. Hold the bike and walk alongside, in front of, or behind your child. When you say, “Brake!” they should engage the brakes. Do this over and over until it becomes second nature for them.
Pass on Peddling
Unless your child has been learning how to ride on a balance bike, which is a training bicycle without pedals, you can make the experience easier and more enjoyable by removing the pedals (temporarily) and lowering the bike seat. Doing so enables them to run or scoot along, powering the bicycle with their own leg power and learning how to balance without having to pay attention to the extra skill of pedaling.
As they become increasingly at ease, encourage them to lift their legs and coast as long as they can. Make it a fun game to see if they can beat their previous coasting time. When they feel comfortable coasting, put the pedals back on and raise the seat to the appropriate level.
Find a Soft Place to Land
For many kids, the scariest part of learning how to ride a bike is the idea of falling. Remove or at least lessen this fear by riding where tipping over or falling off is either less likely, or less likely to hurt. A paved area, such as an empty parking lot, enables them to ride quickly and smoothly, resulting in less likelihood of falling, but if they are insecure about this idea, you can go another route. A large yard or a level area in a grassy park could be just the spot.
Celebrate the Victories
It’s okay if your child does not master riding a bike on the first try. Some kids seem to be born with a knack for it, while others require more practice, coaching, and patience. Focus on the fun of being outdoors together and feeling the wind in your hair. Look for smaller – yet no less significant – successes, such as coasting for a really long time, conquering the brakes, or grasping the process of pedaling and steering at the same time.
Better yet, use this time to establish a new family tradition, such as a post-family-bike-ride popsicle. Just like riding a bike, there are some things that you and your kids will never forget.
Has your kiddo started learning how to ride the bike? Share your experience (and tips!) with us.