Both of our older kids learned to ride a bike at a young age. Our daughter was four and our son was three. It has been hands down one of the most fun things they have learned. Family walks around the neighborhood have been transformed with those two on the move. I’m sure our younger two will also follow their siblings and learn at a young age, as well.
Tip #1: Use a combo of tricycle and balance bike.
The tricycle helps them learn how pedals operate in relation to moving and navigating the bike. The balance bike gets them comfortable learning how to balance their bodies on the bike by slowly learning to lift their feet up. The combo of both types of bikes helped our kids to have some of the freedom of being able to ride on their own with the tricycle and the excitement of the balance bike leading them to a big kid bike with the combo of balancing and pedals. We never introduced training wheels because of those strategies. Similarly to how some parents choose not to introduce pull-ups to their kids when potty training, and it worked seamlessly.
Tip #2: Take the balance bike on family walks.
When they go down small hills they begin to learn that if they lift their feet up they will glide down the hill. Instead of just resting their body weight on the bike and walking it down. You see their face light up as they are riding down the hill. Things are beginning to click and connect. We call this the turning point to being able to ride a regular bike. The excitement will give them motivation to keep learning even when they get back home. They also begin to learn the concept of braking with their feet, and if they fall on the balance bike they learn to catch themselves with their legs, instead of falling all the way down.
Tip #3: Practice makes perfect.
Let them get as comfortable as they can gliding around on their balance bikes in the drive way and backyard before you introduce the big goal of a regular bike. We encouraged them to ride around the backyard whenever we were outside playing and hanging out. In no time they were comfortable enough to begin putting both feet up in the air as they rode around and were thrilled to show us their “tricks.”And just like in potty training, the excitement of graduating to the next thing builds. In this case it was learning how to put the two concepts of bike riding together on a regular kid bicycle.
Tip #4: Hacking the balance bike.
On one hand it sounds like we are suggesting you buy three bikes to help your kids learn how to ride. And while you can, you can also just take pedals off the bike they will eventually be riding. It creates your own balance bike. This eliminates having to buy a separate balance bikes. A few of our friends chose to do this with their kids, and I think it is so smart!
Tip #5: Introducing the big kid bicycle.
Don’t go all in too fast. Start with a little time on it a day, with you holding it and doing the balancing for them. All while reminding them that they already know how to balance and peddle. Now they just need to put the two together. We did some practicing in the morning and some when their dad got home. We let our kids know that they most likely will fall down, a lot, but that every time they did, they were that much closer to getting the hang of it. They always hopped right back up because they believed they could do it! They begin to pull all the things they have mastered together and before you know it you’re crying happy tears and cheering them on!
The parallels are unending between bike riding and potty training. A lot of the principles apply here as they did in potty training. Being consistent and encouraging is key, rather than focusing on the frustration of learning a new skill. Some parents choose to wait longer to potty train so that it goes quicker and their kids catch on faster. And some parents want to wait until they can teach them on a big kid bike and they catch on faster.
Either way is great! We used these tips and tricks to get our kids riding faster because we believe it adds such a fun experience into their childhood. It also helps that it occupies them for hours riding around. Win-win all around!