We got asked recently what age can my child learn to ride a bike and how do I teach them to pedal? This is a question we had asked ourselves before we bought our now eldest daughter her first bike.
We’d asked ourselves many questions before we decided to get our daughters first bike and researched endlessly to ensure we’d made the right decision. We then followed that process again when our son was ready to begin.
When your toddler is about 2 or 3 years old, they may be ready to try pedalling on a tricycle or a bike with training wheels.
We’ve detailed all our findings below and the topics we discuss are:
- What age is a good time so start?
- When to Move to a Balance Bike?
- Tricycle or Training Wheels?
- When Should You Move to Two Wheels Only?
- Our Recommendations
What age is a good time to start?
All kids develop differently, and all will be ready at different stages. This statement comes from experience. We’ve six wonderful children and all have learnt at different times.
We found that our kids need to be good confident walkers before they were ready. Confident is the key word here. Learning to ride a bike for the older age groups is all about confidence so you want this to be high throughout.
We found that at this stage introducing a ride on four-wheeler got them use to using their feet to make wheels move forward and built up the association between both at an early age.
From here we have several options we can take. Balance bike, training wheels or tricycle.
When to Move to a Balance Bike?
If you’ve followed the method of introducing a four wheeled option, the key sign to look out for is when your kid has grasped that association between their feet moving and going faster. When they start to move one foot after another to move even faster we personally recommend making the introduction.
A balance bike has no pedals, no brakes and are usually lower down than a normal bike. This means your child can start to use in everyday situations where possible to learn to balance with the frame. They will still be using the same foot motion they were in the four-wheeler, so this won’t be new to them.
Watch your kid grow in confidence each time they use the balance bike. That confidence is key as we said before. When you see them balancing more and over longer distances, it’s time to introduce pedals.
Tricycle or Training Wheels?
Both are good options to teach a kid to ride a bike and introduce the pedals. Neither option is better than the other as it really depends on personal preference or sometimes which you had as a kid can be a good way to go.
For us we have used both options. For one of my daughters, she just couldn’t grasp the balance bike and didn’t like to go on it, so we quickly removed, so as not to knock confidence and moved her to a tricycle. On the tricycle she had full balance and a feeling of safety which was key for her confidence not to be knocked but also still gave her that feeling of freedom as she was on a bike.
For our other daughters the transition from balance bike to a bike with training wheels was the route to take. The training wheels being attached meant they still required a certain element of balance and introduced the pedals as required. This option also meant that we could slowly adjust the training wheels and remove when ready.
Just to show how there really is no right or wrong though, for my son we did neither of the above. He took to riding a bike like a duck to water and after showing the confidence he did on a balance bike we didn’t put the training wheels on his bike and away he went. Confidence was key.
When to Move to Two Wheels Only?
We’ve all heard the stories from friends, family and so on about that kid that just got on the bike and away they went. My son proved it is possible, annoying if it’s not that way for you, right? Don’t despair, all of my other children took a little longer and some struggled at first. All kids are different so please remember at this stage to be patient and keep confidence high.
If you’ve followed the tricycle process and your kid is clearly mastered the pedal motion and moving faster, I would recommend when you buy the first bike to look to (even if only temporally), attach the training wheels.
If you’ve followed the process of training wheels already and your kid is showing clear signs of balance and pedalling then first I’d suggest slowly adjusting the training wheels higher and higher each time so almost forcing your kid to balance but keeping the safety net of the training wheels a little. I did this with my eldest daughter but didn’t tell her when I had adjusted so she knew none the wiser and her confidence grew. Eventually we got to the point that the only thing left to do was take them off.
When you are finally on just two wheels, there really isn’t a right way or wrong way to go from here, as hasn’t been throughout the whole journey so far. There are plenty of techniques you could try now.
It is OK to take a few steps back when needed. If you’ve moved from the tricycle to the training wheels and your kid isn’t taking to it, I know it can be frustrating but the confidence I talk about throughout is key for your child to learn to ride a bike. This is the same if you’ve adjusted the training wheels, simply revert back to the previous stage and try again another day.
Safety is the single biggest concern once your child is riding a bike of any kind. So, whether it be a tricycle, balance bike or bike with training wheels, teach your child to wear a helmet correctly early on and be sure to wear one yourself to set an example.
Be sure that the helmet is the correct size and fitted correctly. We’ve previously wrote a guide on this which goes through what size to get, what type of helmet to look for and how to fit correctly.
When learning please remember to keep your kid away from roads and teach them traffic awareness. Make sure your kid wears bright colors and reflective clothing when riding.