Learning How To Ride A Bike - OTFC
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Learning How To Ride A Bike

Learning How To Ride A Bike

We had a question a few weeks ago from a parent about the skills required for riding a bike, so I’ve had a go at putting together a few ideas!

Children can generally start learning how to ride a bike anywhere from 2-5 years old (although it’s never to late to learn in my book!). However, there is no real age that a parent must start teaching their child to ride. For starters, it’s important that the child is physically ready to learn and secondly, that they show an interest in wanting to ride a bike.

 

The two most common bikes for beginners tend to be the tricycles (for obvious stability, plus some of them come

with push-along handles at the back for children not yet strong or coordinated enough to pedal) or the balance bikes.

Balance bikes, for those of you who don’t know, are two wheeled bikes that don’t have pedals (the children essentially scoot along, pushing their feet off the ground). At OTFC, we use and endorse the locally made Skuut wooden balance bikes. They’re fantastic for improving children’s balance and coordination and some parents find that children can graduate from a balance bike to a big 2 wheeled pedal bike without needing training wheels.

Other than balance, there are gross motor skills and strengths that are required for riding a bike. Good postural strength is required so they can hold their bodies upright whilst sitting on the bike (see my blog on tummy time for ideas on how to improve postural strength). Likewise, good lower limb strength is needed to propel the pedals. As children move from bikes with foot brakes to hand breaks, they need to develop grip strength in order to be able to squeeze the hand breaks. Children require good coordination and motor planning skills, to be able to control the bike (including control of speed and direction). Social awareness and an understanding of road safety is required in order to safely use a bike in public.

Some final tips for teaching your child how to ride their bikes:

  • Make sure the height of the bike seat allows your child to touch both feet flat on the ground.
  • Always use a helmet, and make sure there are no untied shoelaces or loose clothing that may get caught on the bike.
  • Try practising on small downhill slopes, to help the bike gain momentum.
  • Break the steps of riding a bike down, and teach your child one skill at a time (eg. First learn how to stop the bike, then master balance, then pedalling and finally turning).

The motor story has a great article with ideas for teaching your child how to ride, as well as some reasons why riding is good for your child.

Last week I spoke about the perils of screen time and some suggestions to limit the amount of screen time your children get each day. Well, why not ride a bike?! Weekends provide a great opportunity for families to go for bike rides and there are plenty of bike tracks that are suitable for riders of all levels.

 

3 Comments
  • Heather
    Posted at 17:55h, 11 March Reply

    What advice would you offer to help a 9 year old (the size of 12 year old) that:
    a) shows no interest in, or motivation to, ride a bike
    b) is now too tall to fit on balance bikes or even a bicycle with trainer wheels

    He got his first bike when he was 2, it sat unused for 2 years.
    He got his second bike when he was 4, which also sat unused.
    He is making progress with a scooter, and recently acquired an electric scooter which he enjoys using on straight paths.

    Wish we’d known about SKUUTS when he was younger… brilliant idea!

    Best wishes
    Heather

    • otfc
      Posted at 02:26h, 15 March Reply

      Hi Heather, unfortunately there are no magic tricks (that I know of!) that will help a child to ride a bike. Sometimes, people just aren’t interested in learning how to ride a bike. You should take into consideration the importance of being able to ride his bike because unfortunately, if there is no motivation to learn then it will be an uphill battle for everyone involved, and would that really be worth it? Sometimes, children become interested in learning how to ride a bike because they see their friends and family enjoying it and want to join in.
      What is it about riding that you think your son finds difficult? Does he have poor motor planning (see my blog about praxis)? Is it a difficulty with balance, or fear of falling? Is it that he doesn’t have the strength to push the pedals or sit upright?
      You could remove the pedals on his bike to essentially make it a balance bike (making sure that the seat is low enough so his feet can be flat on the ground).
      Consider what motivates your son, to increase the incentive to ride. My 6 year old nephew recently chose to have his birthday party at a BMX bike track. They had games and prizes for fastest/slowest lap, best trick, best crash etc. It was a great incentive for him to practice riding his bike beforehand!
      Hope that helps!! –Kate.

  • Lee-Anne Fleming
    Posted at 04:57h, 08 October Reply

    Hi Dion and everyone,
    Great to see that you are promoting balance bikes for kids – they are so important in developing *balance*, which training wheels do not.
    All of our clients start to ride by using a balance bike. Ever the big ones! 9,15, 23 yrs old, we get them riding and funnily enough they start to like it!
    Keep up your fabulous work with kids
    Lee-Anne
    Ride-a-Bike Right

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