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.