There is surprisingly passionate debate about the Right Way to teach your child to ride a bike. If you remember learning how to ride, chances are you also remember getting a few bumps and bruises. (Am I the only one who crashed into a lamp post?) A few scrapes are practically unavoidable, which brings us to step one:
Start with a Helmet
You know how little kids love playing dress-up? Use that to your advantage. A helmet is still Really Cool to little kids. Your child may even want to wear a helmet when he is not actually riding the bike. Even if your child is simply riding a trike or a push bike, have him wear a helmet. That way, a helmet will just become an expected part of cycling rather than something you have to nag him to do later on. You can help by always wearing a helmet while biking yourself—your child is sure to notice.
Find a Place to Practice
You’ll need a large flat area, such as an empty parking lot away from traffic or a field with short grass (a slight downward grade can be useful in a field.)
Try Different Bikes
Depending on your child’s age, motivation, and comfort level, she will have her own preferences regarding a bike. The youngest riders do well with a trike or a balance bike (a pedal-less bike where their feet can touch the ground—this allows them to gain a sense of balance before they learn to pedal). If you can, spend a few weekends with borrowed bikes to see what your child prefers.
Decide How To Teach
Now, the tricky part: which teaching method do you use? With one method, you can use a bike with training wheels, which teaches your child about pedaling before balance. With a training wheel bike, you can raise up the wheels over time so that they still provide some stability, but begin to show your child about balance.
When you remove the training wheels, you may still be compelled to use the second method: holding your child’s shoulders and running alongside while she learns to bike. Make sure she knows how to brake first and never let go unless she says it’s okay.
An alternative to these two methods involves the use of a balance bike (or any bike where her feet can touch the ground easily—you can simply remove the pedals). This helps her gain a sense of balance, and can be a good choice for kids who have already learned to pedal on a trike.
Chances are, you may end up using a combination of these three methods. Regardless of your choice, your child will soon be cruising happily along and waiting for you to catch up!
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