Encouraging your toddler’s independence and inspiring them to discover and explore new ways to move is a true privilege as a parent. We can’t think of a more fun way to do this than teaching your toddler to ride a bike.
Not only does learning to ride a bike foster a sense of adventure, but it also promotes a healthy lifestyle, is kind to the planet and better for our congested roads. Plus, the sooner you get your child into the habit of cycling, the more confident and safe they will be.
Here’s how to teach a toddler to ride a bike, with a selection of the best toddler bikes to try.
Forget The Training Wheels
Did you know that children can learn to ride a bike as soon as they can walk, or even stand on their own? Six-time Olympic champion cyclist Sir Chris Hoy says the secret is to never use training wheels.
This is because training wheels stop your child from learning how to balance.
Training wheels are a perfectly good choice for older, bigger children. But if your toddler is learning to ride a bike pretty much as soon as they’ve learnt to toddle, why not set them off on the right track from the get-go?
You’re not holding your toddler back. Training wheels can give a false sense of security, encouraging over-leaning. This means your child believes they can cycle as fast they want, turn the handlebars sharply and stay upright – but over even slightly bumpy ground, they won’t.
If they learn to ride with training wheels, you’ll just have to teach them to balance later on – let them learn this fundamental skill from the very beginning.
Lose The Pedals
Learning to balance and pedal is a lot for your little one to take on. The best way for your toddler to learn to ride a bike is two wheels with no pedals.
Empower your little one to learn to balance first. Then, when they progress to a bike with pedals, they’ll be able to ride it intuitively.
Find The Balance
Balance bikes aren’t super-fast and they’re fun. Plus, they teach your child to steer by positioning their body in the correct way and leaning.
This encourages your toddler to instinctively use movement and weight to maneuver their bike, rather than relying on the handlebars.
Break It Down
It can be quite frustrating trying to work out how to teach a toddler to ride a bike. Break it down into different elements so your little one progresses at their own pace.
Practice one thing at a time, with no pressure. The aim is to have fun as well as learn to ride a bike independently as soon as possible.
Start off with a Skip Hop Zoo Ride On. A ride-on is perfect for really little toddlers to build motor skills, balance and coordination. Three wheels and easy-to-grip handles mean that once your toddler’s got the hang of using both feet to push forward, they’ll move on to alternating feet.
Try Three Wheels
Once your toddler’s found their flow with their ride-on, it could be time to try out a tricycle. A trike can build the confidence needed to ride a bike, but mom or dad can lend a guiding hand at first.
The Doona Liki Trike grows with your child. The parent and push modes come in handy when they’re really little. Lockable steering means you can push via the parent pole but they can’t steer, making for more harmonious rides.
Move on to tricycle and bike modes to build the confidence and skills your little one needs to ride a bike, initially with your support. The Liki is also super-compact, making it a breeze to fold and stow in the car, train or plane.
Time To Balance
Once your toddler’s confident with walking and running, let them start playing with a balance bike. Pick a light-weight model, because you will inevitably end up carrying it home from the park after a toddler tantrum.
Location is important. A soft, grassy area will be more challenging to pedal on than a smooth, tarmac surface. Find somewhere open and away from traffic. A slight slope will help your toddler pick up some momentum and learn how the bike responds to their body movements.
Let your little one get used to their new bike. Encourage them to walk alongside it and have fun ringing the bell (make sure it’s a super-cool Micro Kickboard Micro Bell).
Next, see how they feel with letting the saddle take their weight. They could then push off and coast along.
As their confidence increases, so will their tendency to lift both feet in the air down slight slopes. Soon they’ll be going as fast as they can – without falling off! Work on looking ahead, slowing down and stopping.
Before you know it, it’ll be time to teach them to ride a bike with pedals – and you’ll have skipped the whole training wheels stage.