How to Teach Your Child How to Ride a Bike in 11 Easy Steps – Post + Video
Teaching your child how to ride their bike is one of the biggest and most pivotal moments in their life. During this milestone they get a taste of their unfurling agency, independence, and freedom – in a very e x p a n s i v e way.
Do you remember the first time you felt the boundless wind in your hair, and how it felt to to be flying across the earth?!
Yeah so do I!
Because of that in our family its an extremely important skill to teach our children.
When I first started researching the most age appropriate time to introduce *bike riding* a few years ago, I was surprised to find that the answers on the recommended *age* varied significantly among pediatricians, moms, and google. Some kids were on their “mini” bikes (not tricycles sisters in case you’re wondering..) zooming away at the age of 3, (many of the children looked like they were 2!); on the other hand – some children on the playground…were nearing the *tween* age of 10/12..and also learning how to ride.
Huge difference right?!
So staying true to my *intuitive* momma ways.. I decided to give up my “research” and instead go based off of my son’s natural readiness signals a couple of years ago when teaching him how to ride his bike. (This has been my staple so far in almost er’thing!). There was some trial and error with him being the first child.. but overall the method rang true with our learning approach and values, and so – we decided to do the same process this time around with our 6 1/2 year old daughter who had a stint of training last, and resumed again this year.
Since Spring and Fall are two of the most ideal times to teach your children how to Ride their Bike, I thought it would be helpful to share with you how we taught her over Memorial Day Weekend, and *show* exactly how peaceful and blissful it really was to teach her. I hope today’s tips inspire you and you have a similar happy experience!
However, before we get to that – I want to go over some *logistical* things that I think are muy importante to have in place before you head outside to teach your child. Speaking from my dual teaching experience alongside my hubs!
Avoid the scorching heat or winter months by all means necessary, unless you plan on practicing indoors. If after reading this post and seeing today’s video – you think to yourself.. yea I think they’re ready..to try this I would wade into the pool of training like this weekend.
Learning how to ride a bike requires at least an hr or 2 of instruction or practice on the first day from what we’ve noticed. The risk of heat stroke or sunburn, are unnecessary burdens to add to your child by waiting until it gets hotter or its less likely to rain. So my honest rec is if you have to choose between the rain or the sun — go out and practice after the rain stops during the spring!
In our daughter’s case she learned in one session after attempting it the year before, however with our son – we had two sessions lasting about an hour and a half each. Not having to deal with humidity or unbearable heat helped a great deal I honestly believe.
Once the child learns how to ride – its important to get enough practice a few consecutive days in a row. So that means planning to train on a weekend, or ideally a *long* one. If you homeschool, heading to the park on an off-peak day would be the best. When you’re learning how to ride and falling down every which way – it helps to not have an audience of kids OR runners passing by every 5 mins. My children also generally tend to do better in quiet environments vs. busier ones. So follow your child’s lead.
Another consideration if you prefer a quiet environment is – make sure to check the sports schedule of any local fields nearby before you go. Also scope out the park scene before you get out of the car to make sure there isnt a large party crowd near your planned biking area. We’ve had both scenarios happen in the past.
Another weather related point, is to avoid going after a rainy day (if you can). In our case we waited a day or two after a few days of rain, and there were still plenty of muddy puddles we had to scan and work around. Muddy kids and muddy bikes while training them are not a good combo! So try your best to plan around it. But a little bit of mud is better than scorching sun in my book any day!
Although you can teach your child to ride practically anywhere, I would avoid places like: street sidewalks, empty parking lots, and even home driveways.. The main concern here is the risk of not being able to stop in time should the need arise. They can also *tip* over something unexpectedly. As a rule of thumb, avoid any glaring places that could be a possible risk for injury if they were to lose unexpected control of their bikes..
For this very reason, I prefer nestled quiet parks exclusively for teaching children how to ride their bikes.
My ideal park is not heavily populated, away from main roads (or zero nearby), and has ample grassy, *gentle,* hills to practice on..
If there is a parking lot, I’m as far away as possible from parked cars (imagine child-ramming-into-a-car kind-of-prevention scenario).
Comfortable Clothing & Shoes
Avoid wearing jeans, sun dresses, skirts/skorts, or anything that’s brand spankin’ new, or that can be too restrictive when it comes to needing to move quickly (and by quickly.. I mean they will be needing to move VERY FAST as you’ll see in the video! ).
Loose fitting long sweatpants or gym gear, (cotton leggings are great for girls too), I have found are the best attire for this sort of situation. The goal is total comfort.
They also protect the child the most when they fall on the pavement or dirt while practicing.
Also, make sure your child is wearing comfortable, *older*/well worn, closed- toed sneakers vs. sandals or rain boots – that can easily f l y off, or get stuck on the bicycles’ parts.
Good Fitting Helmet & Bike Check
Safety first! Make sure your child is wearing a bike helmet that fits snuggly (my personal gauge is seeing that my pinky or pointer finger fits snuggly between my child’s helmet and head), and is also properly strapped in place close to the chin.
You wouldnt believe how many times my son has *innocently* forgotten to strap and *click* this chin helmet strap – in his enthusiam to ride his bike! This is a must check now for us before they can start riding. So with that said, although your child is *familiar* with wearing a helmet from riding their bikes WTWO (with training wheels on) – the added excitement can make them forgetful, so its important to double check that its on securely.
Next, check the bike to make sure the chain is in place, the tires are filled, and there arent any loose parts or screws. Although my hubs usually does this while we’re loading the bikes, I always check as we’re taking them out of the car. Sometimes when placing a bike into the trunk – the bike handles can become loose from wiggling the bike in place, OR from the simple pressure of closing the trunk.
Make sure to tighten anything that seems loose before you start (have an extra set of bike related tools in the trunk).
Next, although sizing guides may vary when it comes to bikes, I personally like to go based off of my child’s comfort and maneuverability when choosing a bike when we’re shopping for one. My daughter is currently using an 18/20″ aluminum Rallye bike she really enjoys from Toys R’ US.
Drink Water & Bring a First Aid Kit
Bring at least 8-16 ounces of cool water! Keep a gallon in the car to refill as necessary. We have a Park Ready First Aid Kit we bring with us to the park, particularly so when teaching a child how to ride a bike. Our Park First Aid Kit is stocked with things like: antiseptic wipes, band aids (regular sized and XL *knee* and *elbow* sized), antibiotic spray, gauzes, and bug spray – in case you’re practicing well into the afternoon when the mosquitos are out!
Stay tuned for next week’s blog post where I’ll be sharing with you the *contents* of our Park Play Day First Aid Kit! Subscribing to my email newsletter below to get the post right away.
Its very important to have realistic and positive expectations. We experienced this first hand when we had to adjust our expectations from teaching our son to our daughter. They both had different learning styles, emotional needs, and personalities which influenced them big.time. My son needed much more reassurance and practice across multiple days. Whereas my daughter was not as motivated and tired very easily in the beginning of last year when we attempted to train her. A year later, she was now motivated and tenacious in her desire to learn! The key here is making sure you have yours and dad’s expectations in check, and not passing on any frustrations to the child. Each child has their own learning rhythm and unique pace.
Although we didn’t worry too much about when they would learn, if you have older siblings in the mix its important to make sure that they don’t inadvertently shame or tease the child learning – for not meeting the milestone at the same time or pace as they did. Its also very important to reassure the child whose learning, that everyone learns at a different pace; similarly to how we learn to walk and talk differently.
Most children get motivated to lose their training wheels after they realize how much *quicker* they can go if they didnt have them. While others suddenly want to *keep up* with their friends or older siblings during an outdoor race…
However motivation first *stirs* up in your child, make sure to use it as a *springboard* to encourage them to try to learn and not give up. Strike while their motivation is high and the pan is hot as they say! Riding a bike can be a very scary skill to learn. From a child’s point of view – they’re learning how to move while being “suspended” upright in the air!
Doesn’t that sound daunting?! They’re defying gravity!
Show empathy and support about concepts in the way a child would see them. This is a great way to build their confidence and also strengthen your family bond. Show them that you get it and understand the challenge completely.
Falling on the pavement repeatedly also REALLy hurts so very very much! Make sure to take plenty of breaks and not lose sight of how painful those lil’ acrued bumps and bruises are. After the park, a warm epsom salt bath to ease achy muscles can do wonders to keep motivations high.
Another last aspect of motivation you want to get clear on is: you want to make sure their desire to learn is coming from *within* them, and not as a result of trying to please you or their friends/siblings. If this is the case, now is the time to talk about the importance of letting people inspire us but not pressure us into doing things we really dont want to do yet. (Assure them there is no rush!)
The desire to learn should really come from within their hearts. When that kind of desire finally does arrive.. very little will seem like an obstacle standing in the way of learning.
- Lower body muscle strength. Last year our daughter tired out very easily while pedaling; whereas this year she showed great endurance riding up and down hills before we removed her training wheels. This showed us that her muscle strength had improved signficantly in a year without any exercises or activities to address it btw! Sometimes waiting and seeing their development flourish will make the difference in their gross motor skills.
- Balance. This is for the most part related to the ear. Its important to take note if there are any other balance issues that could be impacting their bike riding skills, things like: vertigo or Menieres. If the child has trouble with other simple balancing activities or appears clumsy/lacking coordination, first try strengthening exercises or activities. Check out my Pinboard here for Gross Motor Strengthening activities If after several months you still dont see any improvement – I’d investigate further to rule out any ear related balance issues. Balance boards are a wonderful alternative to a balance beam if you’re looking for something different and fun.
- Hand and Eye Coordination. Our son had eye tracking issues that brought this to our radar when thinking about our daughter learning to ride this year. If there’s a delay in *reaction time* due to this, it could lead to clumsiness, or not *stopping* or *moving* in time. Playing catch with a ball or observing their reaction time on other objects like a scooter – can give you a good indication on how well this skill is developing. We’ve found in our home that mild video game playing has greatly helped with mild eye tracking issues. If you see anything out of the ordinary a developmental OD can help rule out anything that would need corrective lenses or specific exercises.
I hope you enjoyed today’s overview of things to consider when teaching your child to ride a bike. Now that you’re ready to teach your child how to ride, let’s go over the 11 Steps to Learn How to Ride in today’s video: https://youtu.be/ujpXwnSFqVU
Click here to download your Free Printable checklist >> 11StepstoRidingYourBike [*For personal Use only*], with all of the steps to take to the park with you!
If you found these tips helpful, please let me know in a comment below. I’d love to hear all about your experience teaching this fond and memorable childhood skill!
If you know someone who might need help teaching their child how to ride a bike – please share this post with them.