Inside: Tips for teaching your kid to ride a bike.
“Don’t worry. It’s as easy as riding a bike!”
I wonder if whoever started this saying has ever tried teaching their kid how to ride a bike? I doubt it, because if they had they wouldn’t be saying how easy it is!
I guess in the context of picking it back up after not riding for a while it’s easy. Your brain must store how to do it somewhere in your subconscious memories though.
Because actually teaching someone else to ride a bike is a whole different story. Until you try, you don’t realize how hard it is to put each step of the process into something a child can understand.
Maybe it’s because we’ve had 4 broken bones between 2 kids in less than 3 years. Or maybe it’s because I’m the worst bike riding instructor on the planet.
Nevertheless, we didn’t give up.
That’s probably only due to my husband and the fact that we have complete opposite parenting styles. I’m one of those moms that says, “Ok, you don’t have to.” I hate to see them squirm! Luckily my husband didn’t allow them to give up that easily.
We definitely both needed to be there though. I’m afraid he would try a little too hard to toughen them up if they crashed and started crying.
So this all started during quarantine when we were sheltering in place. Remember when everyone was talking about the random projects they were starting because we were all stuck at home?
While other people were busy baking bread and organizing their junk drawers, we were desperate to prove to each other that we weren’t going to let our kids sit around and play video games all day.
So we made teaching our 6 and 8 year olds how to ride their bikes our project.
It took a little longer for my 6 year old, but that’s ok. He is only 6. He was way more easily persuaded to stick with it when treats were on the line.
I think he only picked it up as fast as he did because he wanted to catch up to his brother. It didn’t hurt that his brother quickly became the expert on bike riding once he figured it out and was constantly shouting tips at him.
If you have struggled with teaching your child to ride a bike, here are a few things we learned along the way that might help:
10 TIPS FOR TEACHING YOUR KID TO RIDE A BIKE
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT SIZE BIKE
We started my 8 year old out with a bike that our neighbors gave us. After the first day we realized that it was way too big for him. He couldn’t put his feet down to stop and he didn’t know how to use the breaks yet. Once we went back to the smaller bike we already had for him that we thought was too small, he did much better.
You can find out what size bike is best here.
2. BE PATIENT
You can’t rush teaching your kid to ride a bike. They may not feel comfortable enough for you to let go of them for the first few days.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try letting go at all in the beginning, but you don’t want to push them too far at first. You really want them to build up their confidence.
Some kids will take longer than others to learn. My son was 8 and I didn’t think he’d ever figure it out, but once we started practicing consistently, it only took a few weeks.
3. WORK ON BALANCING
There are different ways you can do this. Our oldest son was turning his bike back and forth at first trying to balance himself. For some reason he thought that was what he was supposed to do.
I told him to imagine there was a tall pole going through his body and to try keeping it as straight as he could. I said, “Imagine the pole is going through your bike seat, up your back and through your helmet. You want it to go out of your helmet and then be able to reach the sky.”
This seemed to help a little, but once we went to our neighborhood school parking lot and started practicing on the center line of the road, it really helped him to have something visual to focus on. Remember, boys are visual learners!
With my youngest son, we took the pedals off his bike so he could learn to balance. My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested this, but it actually worked like magic. He was able to use his bike like a balance bike and build up the confidence he needed to push the bike forward with his feet.
He rode like this for a few months actually. We kept asking him if he was ready to put the pedals back on, and he’d say no. But eventually he was ready. The first time we put the them on, he took off!
The cool thing is, you don’t need to spend money on a balance bike. You can just use the bike that they’ll be riding once they learn!
4. BE PERSISTENT
This is definitely something we struggled with. We live on a really busy street with a steep driveway. So we had to pack everything up in the car and drive somewhere just so our kids can ride their bikes.
We made the mistake of letting months, sometimes years go by in between our practice sessions. If you can practice for a few days back to back, your child will figure it out much faster than ours did. Fall is a great time to get outside with your kids.
You could go after dinner instead of watching tv. Even if you go out to practice two days in a row, it makes a big difference. Then you can build on the progress you made the day before.
5. USE LOTS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Again, your child needs to feel confident before they will be able to ride a bike on their own. The more positive reinforcement you give them, the more confident they will feel.
Make sure you’re pointing out every little step of progress they’re making. Tell your child how brave they’re being and that they’re doing a good job. Point out how hard it is, but that they’re figuring it out.
You may feel like you’re being ridiculously over the top at first, but you’ll be surprised how much it will help!
6. FIND A QUIET STREET OR PARKING LOT WITH A SLIGHT HILL
We practiced a lot at my mom’s house because the road we live on is super busy. Her street was perfect because it was a dead end. We also practiced in the school parking lot, because no one was ever there.
Having a little bit of a hill, helps kids build up enough momentum to go once they start to balance. Too much of a hill can be dangerous until they know how to break though!
7. BRING LOTS OF SNACKS AND BAND-AIDS
Ok, my 6 year old was ready to stop after every few minutes. It helped when we went to the gas station on the way there and got special drinks to give him a treat after he practiced.
We also went out for ice cream afterwards a few times. This helped a lot in the beginning when he really didn’t want to try to learn.
Band-aids are essential, because unfortunately accidents are bound to happen. If you can, dress your child in long pants and long sleeves to help protect their knees and elbows.
8. DON’T FORGET THE HELMET
This may seem obvious to some people, but it’s not something you want to forget! If you teach your kids when they’re learning to ride their bikes that helmets are a must, they will be more likely to use them when they’re old enough to go ride their bike on their own.
9. USE EMPATHY
This goes along with being patient. Make sure you’re considering how learning a bike might feel to your child. Even though it can be one of the most fun activities for them to do once they learn, it can also be really scary at first.
There are times when you go too fast and it can feel like you’re out of control. I feel that way even now when I ride down steep hills.
Imagine being a child who doesn’t know how to stop yet and thinking you have no control. Once you learn how to use your breaks, this can be one of the best parts about bike riding. But when you’re still learning, it’s hard to see it that way.
Modeling empathy as a parent helps your child learn how to be considerate of others feelings too. So that’s an added bonus!
10. HAVE FUN
The well known outdoor supply store REI suggests that having fun, is the most important step when teaching your kid to ride their bike. I couldn’t agree more.
If you and your child aren’t having fun, what’s the point? If you find yourself dreading those practice runs, maybe you need to take a break and come back to it in a few weeks when everyone is ready. I promise that once your child does figure it out, it will be so much fun for everyone!
What strategies helped you teach your kid how to ride a bike? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
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