Bike riding is one of those skills that is always age-appropriate. However, you may need to teach children to wear a helmet first. If they have no experience wearing one this may take time to get used to. Try pairing with some reinforcement and systematically increasing the amount of time they wear it.  

To Use or Not Use Training Wheels?

Training wheels make it more difficult to pedal and don’t give the child the opportunity to learn the most difficult part of bike riding, how to balance. You may want to have the child try out a bike with training wheels to see if they like the activity, but in the end I recommend not using them.

 

How do I teach bike riding?

To teach children to get going, have them put both feet on the pedals and stand up while holding onto the handle bars. This helps them get momentum. Then after pedaling around with each foot they should have enough momentum to sit down and keep pedaling.

Try to only hold the back of their seat so you aren’t a salient part of bike riding and can fade yourself as they gain the skill. If you find they need extra support then have your other hand on the handle bar in between their hands. This hand is the hand you want to fade first. As you feel them get more balance try lifting your hand from the bars until you no longer need to support them by holding there. Then do the same with the hand on their seat. Continue to shadow if needed so they do not fall. If they start to lose balance, try to quickly prompt their foot to step onto the ground. 

The most important piece is to pause the child from riding if they engage in any behavior that is incompatible with bike riding, like closing their eyes, stopping the pedals, or letting go of the handlebars. This teaches them that those are not appropriate behaviors during this activity. 

Most adult bikes have handle brakes, so try to teach bike riding with this type. Pedal brakes are fine too, but once they get older you may have to do explicit teaching using the different brakes. If you can teach using the handle brakes from the beginning, you will save yourself and the child from further bike riding instruction in the future.

 

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