Many children now learn to ride on a balance bike, which teaches them the principles of balance and steering before they graduate to a pedal bike. There are a huge number of bikes of many different styles, models and colours that are designed for children as young as 18 months – but how do you actually get your child going on their balance bike?
You may well have spent hours researching the best balance bike, decided on a wooden, steel or aluminium bike and then selected your favourite model and colour. But what do you do if your child takes little or no interest in actually learning to use the bike?
This can be quite a common problem as many bikes are designed for very young children – and as any parent will testify it can be more than difficult getting children of 2 or 3 years of age to go along with your wishes!
Learning to ride a balance bike
Learning to ride a balance bike is a gradual process, much like learning to ride a proper bike. Some children will take to it straight away, and will be enjoying their new found freedom within an hour or so of mounting the saddle for the first time. Others may be a bit more reluctant to join the world of two wheels, so you may need to employ some gentle encouragement and use some of the tips below to get them going.
One of the most important aspects when choosing a balance bike is the saddle height. The child needs to be able to sit on the bike with the saddle at it's lowest height with their feet flat on the floor, so they can sit in comfort with their knees slightly bent.
Read our balance bike saddle height guide for details on how to measure your child correctly.
Once they are comfortable on the bike, they just need to start moving the bike along with their feet while staying in the saddle. Make sure they get plenty of practise and they will soon gain in confidence enough to lift their feet.
Use a flat area for their first attempt – the local park or playground is perfect – but make sure they have some protection for arms, knees and heads in case they take a tumble!
The magical moment of balancing comes when the child lifts their feet off the floor. They don’t need to concentrate on pedalling or braking, and although they are bound to be shaky at first they can easily put their feet on the ground so the risk of falling off is much lower than a normal pedal bike.
If your child is quite reluctant to use their bike, then a good idea is to go for walks with them and to take the balance bike with you, with the child riding or just pushing the bike. You may have to carry the bike along with you, but if you persevere and offer encouragement, then hopefully they will soon realise that they can ride the bike and scoot along as fast (or faster!) than you can walk.
Try to make the walk part of your daily routine – take the bike to the shops or to the park with you (as long as it is safe of course), and maybe go to an area where you have seen other children riding balance bikes (or normal bikes!)
Let your child take their time, make sure they have all of the right equipment (helmets etc), have plenty of patience and your child will soon be whizzing off into the distance!