Ready to Ride: Choosing a Bike for Your Preschooler


Image via Flickr/Richo.Fan

A huge rite of passage as a parent is teaching your child how to ride a bike. I always envisioned that the process of teaching my son Xander to ride a bike would be relatively easily. The first bike my husband and I purchased for his third birthday was a red L.L. Bean tricycle with a shiny red bell and streamers on the handle bars. When we gave Xander his bike, he was over-the-moon excited. Since his birthday is in February, it was much too cold to take him outside to practice. We have plenty of room to maneuver a tricycle in the kitchen and basement, however. The day we gave him the bike, we helped him put on his helmet and climb onto the tricycle seat. As soon as he sat on the seat, we realized that his short little legs could not reach the pedals.  

My heart fell as he quickly became frustrated that he couldn't get anywhere very fast just by pushing with his feet.  

Needless to say the tricycle sat in the garage unused for the rest of the winter, with hopes that Xander would grow into it by the spring.

{ MORE:   Go Ride A Bike }

When spring arrived, Xander was indeed able to reach the pedals, yet he had no desire to learn how to pedal the tricycle.  He would much rather have us push him. After many backache inducing trips to the neighborhood playground, my husband and I decided to explore other bike options. We took a trip to our local bike shop, and they taught us about fitting him for the right bike based on his size.  

bike riding
Image via Mindi Stavish

Tips for Finding the Right Bike Equipment for Your Child

1.  Forget about the old “buy a bike that your child can grow into” advice.  A bike that is too large for your child's height will cause frustration and may even discourage them from wanting to learn how to ride it.  

2.  Your child should be able to stand over the top tube of the bike with both feet planted on the ground. If he or she can barely touch the ground while standing, the bike is too large.  

3.  Don't forget to purchase a bike helmet. A properly fitted helmet should sit level across the middle of the forehead.   

Once you have the proper equipment, you can begin to teach your child how to feel comfortable on a bike. There are two different methods to teach your child to ride: with and without training wheels. Most bike enthusiasts recommend that your child become comfortable sitting and balancing on a bike with training wheels first, before teaching them to ride without them. Since that is the case, here are the steps to teaching a child to ride with training wheels:

How to Teach Your Child How to Pedal A Bike (With Training Wheels)

 1.  Before your child even gets on the bike, teach them what it feels like to pedal. Sit them in a chair facing you, then hold their feet and move them as if they were pedaling. Once they get the hang of the motion, have them do it by themselves.  

2.  Help them mount the bike by standing next to them and demonstrating which leg to throw over the back wheel of the bike. Once their leg is over, have them stand over the center bar. Place your hand under the seat behind them or on the bike, whichever feels more comfortable.    

3.  Instruct your child to place one foot on a pedal and push up with their leg to sit on the seat. (You may have to help them get on the seat the first time.) Once on the seat, instruct them to place the other foot on the pedal. 

4.  Before you help your child move the bike, tell them, “It's time to start pedaling.” Remind them to move their feet like they did when they were sitting down. As they try to move the pedals, slowly push the bike forward so they can grasp the idea that when they move their feet, the bike moves. This step may take minutes, days, or weeks; some children have a harder time coordinating pedaling than others. If your child struggles to figure out how to pedal, keep working on it on and off the bike.  

5.  Once your child feels comfortable on the bike, feel free to let go of the bike and watch them go! Then feel your heart thumping as you realize you just taught your child how to propel themselves on a moving object that they are likely to fall off.  Ah, parenting!

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Ready to Ride: Choosing a Bike for Your Preschooler

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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