Bicycling is a useful life skill, and teaching a child to ride opens the door to a lifetime of exercise and fun. It is also a great opportunity to teach your child how we can all make a difference and help keep our air cleaner.
Learning to ride a bike can be an important milestone in child development. Maggie Preismeyer, education coordinator for BikeWalkKC, says “cycling can help teach children independence and responsibility.” She sees many children learning to ride as early as age four or five.
Prepare a child to ride a bike with these five steps:
- Find a safe environment. A grassy hill with a shallow slope and plenty of open space is ideal. The hill should be flat enough for the child to stop using only his or her feet, but steep enough to let the bike roll on its own. Grass will pad any falls and help build confidence.
- Adjust the bike. A lower seat gives children a wider stance, making them feel more secure for the next step. If you can, remove the pedals. This turns the bike into a strider bike which kids as young as 18
months can begin to ride. Also remove any training wheels, which may not be effective in helping children learn balance.
- Practice coasting. With a bicycle helmet is securely fastened, let the child coast down from the top of the hill. By picking up his feet on the ride down, he will learn to balance the bike.
- Practice turning. After your child has mastered coasting, set up some small obstacles and encourage him to maneuver around them. If learning on a bike with brakes on the handlebars, the child can begin practicing stops.
- Readjust the bike. When your child begins to look ahead rather than at the bike, maneuver well and wear a big smile, he is ready for cycling. Reattach the pedals and raise the seat. If the bicycle has kickback brakes, begin practicing stops.
Learning to ride a bike is just the first step. Be sure to discuss traffic rules and safety with your child before riding on the street, and always wear a helmet! BikeWalkKC offers a number of programs designed to teach safety skills to new riders or for those returning riders who need a refresher course. And don’t forget to tell your child that riding a bike goes a long way toward keeping our air clean.