As a previously busy family, we had been lacking in the “outdoor skills” department. A silver lining to our stay-home lifestyle right now is that we have been able to spend time doing things on our to-do list. The number one thing we had been neglecting was teaching the kids how to ride their bikes!
You might be thinking that by the time most kids are tweens, they’ve figured out bikes. That’s true for a lot of families. It wasn’t true for us.
Thankfully, this time at home has allowed us to focus more on each other, and less on where we need to be, and when. As a result, both my daughters have left training wheels behind.
Related: Surviving Covid 19 with Tweens
It wasn’t easy. The older kids get, the less confidence they seem to have in skills they see younger children already mastering. It’s a hit to their self-esteem. My oldest will be 12 this fall and she *just* took her training wheels off in April.
She loves the freedom she has now. She goes riding almost every day.
(My younger daughter doesn’t quite have the confidence and endurance for longer rides yet, but she’s getting there.)
So how do you teach your kids to ride their bikes?
Really, you don’t.
What kids need is encouragement to practice, and a helping hand when they fall.
The hardest part of teaching your kids to ride their bikes is watching them fail.
Learning the balance is hard. Pedaling, steering, watching for others, and staying upright are a lot of things to pay attention to at once. Both my girls took what I felt was a long time to put all the pieces together.
But once they got, BOOM! Off they went and I felt comfortable letting them bike around the neighbourhood without me.
There are a few things you can do to help your kids develop the skills necessary to ditch those training wheels.
Start with a balance bike.
Unlike training wheels, a balance bike doesn’t get slowed down by uneven surfaces. This was a sticking point with my youngest daughter – she would get frustrated when pedaling got tough because the sidewalk was cracked and uneven.
Balance bikes are also light and easy for small children to maneuver with. That means they will use the bike for longer than a child struggling with a heavy bike burdened with training wheels.
We didn’t go the balance bike route. My girls had hand-me-down bikes to learn on. In retrospect, I see how a balance bike would have sped up this process for us.
We know kids don’t always listen to their parents. Something as simple as enlisting another family member, neighbour or friend to coach your child may take some of the stress out of the parent-child struggle.
Look for local “Learn to Ride” classes. In Kingston, Ontario Cycle Kingston provides cycling education and summer camps for kids.
The occupational therapist Emma had sessions with offers help to children struggling to learn to ride a bicycle. The benefit of an OT is that they have a lot of experience with children all across the learning spectrum. They can tailor their teaching directly to your child’s struggles.
Check your local Occupational Therapy clinics for children to see if they may offer a similar opportunity. Make Way for Me Occupational Therapy offers the bike help in their Skill Development Summer Program.
Easier said than done, I know, but the best way to teach your kids to ride their bikes is to just let them do it.
Stay nearby, offer encouragement, and help them get back up when they fall. You can’t make them learn this skill. It comes through practice and confidence.
The delight on the face of your child will be so worth it in the end. I promise.
I was so sure Emma, my eldest, would never figure out how to ride her bike. She learned when she was 11. That’s when she was ready, and we had to respect that.
Two weeks after Emma ditched the training wheels, Rose did too. She was 8. She’s still nervous, four weeks later, but she loves going for short rides, or tooling around the nearby church parking lot.
Have your children learned to ride their bikes yet? I’d love to hear your stories. Drop them below in the comments!