Teaching your kid to ride a bike, the right way

The summer has arrived and I’m seeing a lot of parents teach their children to ride a bike in my visits to Victoria Park. And it’s painful, as most of them are doing it utterly wrong. Learning to ride a bike is safe, fun and easy when done the right way, as opposed to the episodes of frustrated crying I’m having to witness.

Here’s how to do it the Right Way:

* You need a bike where you can adjust the saddle to go so low, your child can have both his feet on the ground simultaneously, knees bent.
* Do not purchase stabilizers, and if the bike already has one or more, take it off. Stabilizers make it harder for your child from learning actual balance.
* Remove the pedals from the bike, which turns it into a kick bike.
* STEP 1 for your child: learn to kick yourself forward using his/her feet without falling over. When he/she is good enough to glide forward for 5+ meters without touching ground, the balance is 90% there for biking. It’s probably a good idea to spend a couple days at this level, before progressing on.
* STEP 2: Put the pedals back on. Do not raise the saddle – you kid still needs to be able to put both feet on ground comfortably. Help the kid get started with the pedaling by pre-positioning the pedal of the stronger foot to be in the optimal position (just push down!), possibly gently pushing from the back to get up to speed (remember, he can balance on the kick bike). Your kid now needs to learn to get to speed and STOP on her own. Doing this bit on the lawn might be a good idea.

How long does this take? My daughter, age 3, learned the kickbiking to perfection within two days of practice (and didn’t need much encouragement as it was so much fun), and the pedalling step took about 10 minutes, after I told her she can’t ride on asphalt before she can start and stop by herself.

So what I’m advocating as a Bad Idea is:

* Using balancing wheels – they teach your child something other than balancing on the bike!
* Aiming to save money by getting a large bike, so you don’t have to get another one the next year.

So I’d have one more list here, here’s three additional tips:

* Remember to give a boatload of praise for your kid for trying to learn. Being praised for trying works much better than being praised for success.
* Get a good helmet. Of all biking helmets for kids, the best ones I’ve seen by far, are manufactured by Bell.
* If you can afford it, I recommend getting a learner bike and the real bike from Puky. The bikes are very high quality, and the saddle is adjustable to lowest height for each wheel size, that I’ve seen on bikes from any manufacturer.

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