Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

The Joy of Two Wheels: Teaching Your Child to Ride a Bike

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of freedom and accomplishment that comes with learning to ride a bike. As a parent, teaching your child to ride can be a rewarding bonding experience. 

To set them up for success, it’s important to choose the right bike size, starting with balance bikes and working up to an 18 inch bike for children when they are around six to nine years old. 

This guide includes all of the steps from purchasing your child’s first bike through to teaching them how to ride safely and with confidence.

Building Confidence with a Balance Bike

A balance bike is an excellent way to introduce your child to the concept of balancing on two wheels. According to Bicycle Guider, children who start with a balance bike are more likely to learn to ride a pedal bike without training wheels at a younger age. Balance bikes have no pedals, allowing kids to focus solely on balancing and steering, making it an ideal first step towards independent cycling.

These bikes are designed to help young children develop their motor skills, coordination, and spatial awareness. By using their feet to push off and control their speed, kids gain a better understanding of how to maintain balance while in motion. This hands-on approach allows children to build confidence and progress at their own pace.

To help your child make the most of their balance bike experience, choose a flat, traffic-free area for practice. Encourage them to start by walking the bike, gradually transitioning to a running motion as they become more comfortable. Once they’ve gained enough speed, prompt them to lift their legs and glide, focusing on maintaining balance and control.

As your child becomes more proficient at gliding, you can introduce gentle slopes and turns to further develop their skills. Remember to be patient and offer plenty of encouragement, as every child learns at their own pace.

In summary, balance bikes provide a fun and engaging way for children to learn the essential skills needed for cycling. By starting with a balance bike, your child will likely transition to a pedal bike more seamlessly, setting the foundation for a lifelong love of cycling.

Transitioning to a Pedal Bike

Once your child has mastered the balance bike, it’s time to transition to a pedal bike. 

According to Two Wheeling Tots, an 18 inch bike is typically suitable for kids with an inseam of 18-22 inches (45-56 cm) and a height of 3’7″-4’0″ (109-122 cm). Be sure to measure your child’s inseam and height accurately to ensure a comfortable and safe fit.

When teaching your child to ride a bike, choosing the right one is crucial for their safety, comfort, and success. There are several factors to consider when selecting the perfect bike for your child, ensuring they have the best possible experience as they learn this essential skill.

  • Size: A bike that is too big or small can be difficult to control and may discourage your child from learning.
  • Weight: A lightweight bike is easier for children to manoeuvre, giving them a better sense of control and confidence. Look for bikes with aluminium frames, which are lighter than steel ones.
  • Brakes: Choose a bike with age-appropriate brakes. Coaster brakes (activated by pedalling backward) are suitable for younger children, while hand brakes are more suitable for older kids who have developed better hand strength and coordination.
  • Geometry: The bike’s geometry should promote an upright riding position, allowing your child to maintain better balance and control. Additionally, a low standover height will make it easier for them to get on and off the bike.
  • Adjustability: As your child grows, having a bike with an adjustable seat and handlebars ensures they can continue using it comfortably. This adaptability also allows you to fine-tune the fit for optimal comfort and safety.
  • Price: While it’s essential to invest in a quality bike, there are affordable options available that offer excellent value without compromising on safety or performance.

Teaching Your Child The Basics

When you have the right bike, it is time to start learning the fundamentals of cycling before hitting the open road. To get started with, you should:

  • Lower the seat: Adjust the seat so that your child can sit comfortably with both feet flat on the ground.
  • Practice coasting: Have your child practice coasting on the pedal bike with their feet off the ground. This helps them get used to the feeling of balancing on a larger bike.
  • Introduce pedalling: Show your child how to place their feet on the pedals and push down to generate forward momentum. Encourage them to keep their weight centred over the bike while pedalling.
  • Practice stopping: Teach your child to use the brakes to stop the bike safely. Make sure they understand the importance of stopping gradually rather than abruptly to avoid accidents.

Preparing for the Big Day

Once you have the perfect bike and have mastered the fundamentals, it’s time to prepare for the big day where you hit the road. Here are some essential steps to follow:

  • Make sure your child has a helmet that fits properly. A well-fitted helmet should sit level on the head and not rock back and forth. The chin strap should be snug but not too tight.
  • Choose a flat, traffic-free area for practice, such as a quiet park or empty parking lot.
  • Dress your child in comfortable clothes and closed-toe shoes.
  • Bring along water and snacks to keep your child energised and hydrated during the learning process.

Learning to Steer and Navigate

As your child becomes more comfortable with pedalling and stopping, it’s time to teach them to steer and navigate. This is a crucial step in helping your child develop the necessary skills to ride safely and confidently. Begin by practising riding in a straight line, ensuring that they maintain balance and control while keeping their eyes focused ahead. Next, introduce wide turns, teaching your child to lean slightly into the turn while maintaining a steady speed. Gradually progress to navigating around obstacles, such as cones or small objects, to help improve their manoeuvrability and spatial awareness.

Throughout this learning process, be patient and offer consistent encouragement. Remember that every child learns at their own pace, and some may require more time and practice to master these skills. Celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, and provide constructive feedback to help them overcome any challenges. By fostering a supportive and positive environment, you will instil confidence in your child and empower them to become skilled and responsible cyclists.

Celebrating Success and Encouraging Continued Learning

Learning to ride a bike is a significant milestone for children. According to a study by the Australian Sports Commission, cycling ranks as one of the top 10 activities participated in by Australian children, demonstrating the importance of bike riding as an essential skill for them to learn. 

Many Australians have fond memories of learning to ride a bike, and it continues to be a cherished childhood experience passed down through generations. Celebrate your child’s success with praise and encouragement, and continue to support their growth as a cyclist by introducing new challenges and adventures.