Learning how to ride a bike is one of life’s major milestones. It’s something that all kids look forward to and all parents dread. Not only can it be a terrifying experience, but it’s one of the most exciting accomplishments your child will have in their young life. It’s important to remember what makes riding a bike work. While it seems nearly impossible to balance our bodies on two tubes wrapped in rubber, people do it every day. So what makes this work? Balance. Miniscule shifts in body weight and mini-movements of the handle bars. You can’t exactly explain that to your child. They look at bike riding like it’s magic.
The old fashioned way of teaching a child to ride a bike that involved running alongside them, holding on to the seat, and breaking your back can be effective. However, it takes away from their ability to learn how to balance the bike on their own. Training wheels do the same thing. There’s no reason for them to learn to balance if there’s something holding them up. Consider using the Scoot-Coast-Pedal technique to teach your children how to ride and you will save time and back aches.
First, remove the pedals from the bike. They will just get in the way. Show you child how to mount the bike by throwing their leg over it and sitting on the seat. If their feet won’t reach the ground, you will need to lower the seat. Don’t simply throw them on and go back in the house, but give them some space to figure it out on their own. Have them sit on the bike seat with their feet on the ground to get a feel for it. When they’re comfortable, tell them to use their feet to scoot themselves forward. It’s okay if they wobble. Make sure they keep their feet out and use them to catch themselves when they start to fall.
At first, their coasting distance will be very short before they have to put their feet down to catch themselves. However, over time and with practice, they will learn to balance themselves and will be able to coast longer. This will enable them to learn by trial and error rather than trying to remember instructions. Scoot, coast, stop. They should do this until they’re able to coast for long distances. It may take a week or two.
Once they’re able to coast for a long distance, such as all the way down the driveway, try putting the pedals on. You might want to stabilize them a bit while they’re getting the hang of pedaling. Explain to them how to stop and slow down. Lightly hold on to either the back of their seat or tie a towel loosely around your child to hold them from behind. Let them start off going short distances. They can stop themselves with their feet at first, if they need to. By this point they will have the basics of balancing down from the scooting stage and will be able to pedal along in no time.
Teaching your child to ride a bike doesn’t have to be a frustrating experience for you or your kids. They will have more fun scooting and coasting than they will with you running alongside them while they awkwardly pedal and fear falling. However, even with this method, falls will happen. Be ready to pick them up, kiss their booboos, and get them back in the saddle. Before you know it, your child will be zooming around all by themselves.
Derek Lawson enjoys writing about parenting and outdoor sports at www.boatinsurance.org.