Learning to ride a bike is an important part of your child’s early development. Not only does it instil a zeal for staying active, but it strengthens their stabiliser muscles, improves their balance and develops their coordination.
Back when we were kids, our parents taught us how to ride a bike by screwing on a pair of rickety, wobbly stabilisers (AKA training wheels), but times change and the ways of learning change with them.
Nowadays, balance bikes are the most popular way of learning.
This begs the question – which is the best way to teach your child how to ride a bike? Should you take a trip down memory lane and teach them using stabilisers? Or should you get with the times and teach them on a balance bike?
ToyStar gives you the lowdown.
Balance is the core skill your child needs to ride a bike. If they don’t know how to balance, they’ll spend more time scraping dirt off their knees than seated on the saddle.
Stabilisers may seem like a good way for your child to develop their balance, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Although they acclimatise your child to pedalling and braking, they also lull them into a false sense of security. They get so used to riding with stabilisers, they have no idea how to maintain their balance when they’re taken off.
Rather than focusing on pedalling and braking, a balance bike focuses solely on balancing. A low-lying seat allows your child to place their feet on the floor and safely scoot the bike along.
As the bike wobbles from side to side, it triggers the stabiliser muscles in their legs. This makes it a far more effective way to improve their balance.
Steering is another skill your child needs to ride a bike. If they don’t know how to steer, they’ll find tackling corners tougher than an elephant’s toenail.
Because stabilisers stick out from the sides of a bike, they restrict the natural lean of the bike and make it difficult to manoeuvre. If your child turns too sharply, there’s a high chance they’ll stack the bike and topple over.
Cue grazed knees and tears aplenty.
Balance bikes allow your child to steer in a more safe and controlled way. There are no parts sticking out to restrict their movement and their feet are there to stop them falling over if they turn too sharply.
Parks are the most popular place to teach children how to ride a bike, but they’re full of different surfaces, including tarmac, grass and gravel.
Although stabilisers move smoothly on solid ground, the small plastic wheels are useless on rough terrain. They can easily get stuck in soggy grass or gravel, and easily stack if they hit a bump or divot.
As a parent, you have to be on red alert at all times in case your child topples over. This takes away an element of fun and freedom.
Balance bikes don’t have such problems. Their tyres are capable of tackling a wide range of terrains and your child is in full control if things get bumpy.
Although you have to keep a close eye on them, you can give them a bit more distance, which helps to build their confidence and self-esteem.
Learning to ride on a balance bike helps your child transition to a pedal bike by building their confidence bit by bit.
Once they’ve learned to walk the bike along, they can take the next step and master the “run, run, glide” technique.
This is where the real fun begins!
All they have to do is run on their balance bike, lift their feet off the floor, and then let it glide along. As they learn to maintain control and balance whilst gliding on two wheels, they can start to travel further and glide at greater speed.
Before you know it, they’ll be good and ready for their very first pedal bike.