How to Teach Your Kid to Ride a Bike
Update 5/6/06 -- My friend has invented a bike that makes it easy for a child to learn to ride a bike. It's called the PV Glider. He got his two-year old riding a bike in a month using this bike. Check out his website. This is the best example I've ever seen of fun kids toy that really teaches kids about steering and balance. Just go to www.pvglider.com to find out more.
4/4/05 -- The other day I was reading the Wall Street Journal Online and came across an article about outsourcing. However, this wasn't your run-of-the-mill outsourcing, or even a just-when-you-thought-you-heard-it-all-before arrangement like call centers taking your drive-through order at your local McDonald's. No, this was about outsourcing parenting.
Here is an excerpt from that article, if the link has expired:
"In the New York suburbs, an entrepreneur has built a flourishing business by taking over one of the most timeless parental rituals of all: For $60 an hour he teaches kids to ride a bike."
If this doesn't tell you that something is wrong in our society, then nothing will. When we're too busy to find a few hours to teach our kids to ride a bike (or at least show them how) we should seriously be asking ourselves what the point of it all is. I mean, we all know how. It's not like teaching them something you can't do yourself, like playing the violin when you don't know how.
The day after I read this, I took my nearly 4yr old son outside to play, and out-of-the-blue he tells me he wants to ride his bike without the training wheels. (I don't push him - it's up to him when he's ready.) And he did it. And it was one of the greatest days of my life. I ran in to get my wife and grab the video camera so I could capture it on video.
Here's a clip from that video:
So now I'm going to tell you how I did it, with the hope that can do the same. It only takes a few hours total, including doing a search on google or yahoo so you can find this page.
Step 1: Don't push them too hard. This is very important. Forcing them to ride when they're not ready will turn them off to bikes and can set you back months or years even. This is one the greatest experiences your child can have so don't turn it into a painful memory for them.
Step 2: Get them on a bike that fits them comfortably. Don't know how? Check for the following:
- Can their feet reach the ground easily when they are seated? This is important. Adjust the seat height until both feet can just touch the ground at the same time.
- Can they reach the handlebars easily? You don't want their arms to be straight nor their hands too close that they will bang their knees on the handlebar.
- Is the handlebar at the correct height? You don't want them to be too leaned over. An upright position is the most comfortable.
Step 3: Let them ride around all they want with the training wheels on, but let them know that they are just temporary and you will take them off when they are ready. The key here is knowing when they are ready. They'll either tell you, or you will be able to tell by the way they are zipping around all over the place with ease.
Then one day take them off temporarily. Have them straddle the bike and just sit there, putting weight on one foot and then the other, rocking back and forth. Then have them move forward using their feet. This is just to get them used to what it feels like with the training wheels off. You can also have them put one foot on the pedal and the other the ground, and then alternate foot positions. Another thing to do is have them walk with the bike, placing one hand on the seat and the other on the handlebar. After they get the feel of it put the training wheels back on. Do this once every few weeks or so.
Note: When you put the training wheels on, make sure that they are raised as high as possible in the slot, so the bike can rock side-to-side a little before a training wheel touches the ground. This will also help give them the feel of riding. In fact, when they are going straight, the training wheels often won't be touching the ground and they will be riding without even knowing it.
Here are a couple of other things people have tried to get kids used to the feel of riding a bike:
- Taking one training wheel off.
- Removing the pedals, cranks, chain, training wheels, and lowering the seat until the child can put both feet flat on the ground.
Step 4: Wait. When they are ready they will tell you. You can speed the process by telling them they can't go off the driveway, sidewalk, road, etc. until the training wheels are off.
Step 5: When they are ready, take them off. Then resist ever putting them back on. Walk with them, holding the back of the seat. If you have some soft grass you can have them ride off the driveway into the yard and then let them go as they get to the grass. Tell them not to stop pedaling. Keep doing this and before they know it you are not even holding the back of the seat, just pretend you are. You're just there so they feel safe. Just walk, or run, alongside. They've got it.
To teach them to steer tell them to look where they want to go. Conversely, tell them not to look where they don't want to go. Have them aim for an object in the distance so they are not looking down at the wheel. Also, make sure they don't have a death grip on the handlebar. Just keep it loose and look where you want to go.
Stopping is easy. Starting is the toughest thing. Have them put one foot on the ground and the other on the forward facing pedal. Then have them push down on the pedal while pushing off with the other foot.
Most importantly, make sure they wear their helmet. And keep it fun. If it becomes otherwise, stop. Try it again another day.