With all this extra time at home at the moment (thanks COVID!) there has never been a better opportunity to get outside and teach your child to ride a bike. It takes patience and plenty of practice! North Shore Mum Felicity Frankish shares her top tips.
COVID seems to be the perfect excuse for our family to get outdoors and learn to ride. Last year during lockdown, I taught my then 4-year-old daughter to ride without her training wheels. It wasn’t easy! There was a lot of frustration, a few crashes, and a mum who had no idea what she was doing.
I was ready to call it quits (save us all!), but instead, stayed up late one night – as us mums do – and Googled my heart out. I took some of the tips and put them into action. Lo and behold in 30 minutes the next day, Cassie was off!
With another lockdown upon us, I decided to use the same tactics on my second daughter Vivi. At 3-and-a-half years old, I knew she was ready to take the plunge. And just a week later, she was off! So, here are my top 5 tips when it comes to teaching your child to ride.
1. Get a decent bike
This is probably the most important tip of them all. While it can be tempting to go for value for money – after all, they do grow so fast! You want a good quality bike.
When I first started teaching Vivi, we just had an eBay bike. It seemed to do the job! Until we took off the training wheels. The wheels were really poor quality and kept going flat (making it so hard for her to ride), and the seat kept tipping forward when she sat.
As soon as we invested in a quality bike, she was off and riding the next day! What a difference.
Of course, the good quality bikes can cost up to $300, which is a lot! We went onto Facebook marketplace and grabbed a bargain. Just make sure you do your research on the brand they are selling to see what you’re getting. And you should always go and check out the bike with your child to make sure it actually fits them.
You want the seat to be nice and low – if anything too low – so their feet can comfortably touch the ground. It’s all about building their confidence and letting them know they’re in control!
2. Find somewhere flat
You want a nice flat surface to teach your child to ride.
Avoid the grass, which is full of bumps, and look for a quiet street, quiet car park or empty netball courts. We also found riding up and down a cricket pitch was nice and flat, or heading to some tennis courts.
3. Make sure your child’s comfortable
It’s a big deal riding without training wheels for the first time! You don’t want your child to be afraid.
Reassure them that you won’t let go of them (because you won’t!), and even offer a little bribery for encouragement. Vivi loves chocolate, so I promised her a little after her ride if she gave it a go.
When you hold your child, pop your arms under their arms as a support. This is one of the best ways you can hold them while teaching. You can loosen your grip as they get more comfortable.
By having your arms in this position, your child is feeling the effects of their balancing. As they wobble, they lean more on one of your arms than the other. Gently guide them back up to straight and then loosen that grip again (but don’t let go!). They will learn just how it feels, without feeling the slightest bit worried.
The important thing is that you don’t hold the bike. If you’re holding the bike, then you’re controlling the bike and your child isn’t learning what it feels like to balance and hold themselves up!
4. Go down some hills!
That’s it, find a nice hill to learn the art of balance.
Once again, put your arms under your child’s arms, and tell them to put their feet on the pedals, but not to actually pedal. Alternatively, they can leave them hanging by the side of the bike.
Race down the hill with you running alongside them (it’s great exercise). Keep your grip nice and loose to encourage your child to balance on their own – with your support.
It’s one of the best ways to get your child used to balancing!
Neither of my girls took to a balance bike, so the concept of balance was completely new to them. Luckily they picked it up pretty quickly!
5. Practice, practice, practice
Vivi probably fell once the entire time she learned to ride. And the process took less than a week, with us going out each day for about 20 minutes.
I just keep loosening that grip until I knew she was comfortable.
I then gave her a push (with her permission) and let go, running beside her so she wasn’t worried. And she was off!