Exercise bikes for kids - pros and cons

A while ago I got sent a link to an article about a revolutionary "new" cycling toy – the Fisher Price Think and Learn Smart Cycle. It's a stationary bike that connects to a tablet to allow young kids to play games while they cycle.  Within a couple of days my social media feeds and inbox were full of articles about exercise bikes for kids - you may well have seen them too.

A new stationary exercise bike for toddlers from Fisher Price

Opinion has been divided about whether this is a good thing or not.  Some blogs (including all the tech blogs), thought it’s a great piece of kit - you can get the kids exercising, learning and using tech at the same time.  Other blogs (including all the free range parenting blogs) were hitting their head on the table, shouting WHAT IS THIS? Children should be outside enjoying fresh air and imaginative play, not sitting inside on an exercise bike and watching a screen!

However, this isn't actually a new invention - the Fisher Price Smart Cycle is an exercise bike for kids that has been around for years but previously you needed to use a cable to hook into your TV screen, and purchase specific game software to play whilst riding.

Exercise bikes for kids have been around for a whileThe revolutionary upgrade to the new model is the tablet stand, which brings it up to date with todays technology.  You download the Fisher Price app to your device and then your child pedals along as they play games - most of which have an educational slant (literacy, maths, science).   If they don't pedal, they don't get to progress with the game.


Fisher Price Think and Learn stationery exercise bike for kids

Are exercise bikes for kids a good idea or not?

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been musing on whether the Smart Cycle is a breakthrough for children's development and fitness, or a sad indictment of the society we live in. I have to confess after much thinking,  I was still unsure, so I decided to go what I always do when I can't decide on something.  Write a pros and cons list!  So, for what it's worth, here are my thoughts on the whether a stationery exercise bike that links into a tablet, is a good idea or not.

Cons of exercise bikes for kids (attached to a screen)

1) Children already spend too much time on devices, and they certainly don’t need to be looking at one whilst they’re exercising
2) Kids should be outside riding real bikes, not stuck inside watching screens
3) It’s associating exercise with being indoors and watching screens – shouldn’t we be encouraging them to be outside running around?
4) Children should be keeping fit by running around in general play, not working out adult style on gym equipment.
5) It does nothing to promote the balance skills needed to ride a real bike. A toddler would be much better off on a balance bike.

Pro’s of the Fisher Price Think and Learn Smart Cycle

1) It gets kids exercising - with childhood obesity a growing problem, this is to be encouraged.
2) Great for horrid days when it’s not possible to get out on a real bike
3) There is an increasing awareness about the positive impact of stationery exercise bikes in primary school classrooms.  This could help many children concentrate on homework activities.
4) Great for times when a child wants to ride their bike but the parent is busy doing something else and can’t supervise outside
5) Brilliant for homes where there is nowhere safe to ride a bike outside.
6) Allows kids to role model their parents exercise routines (where the parent goes spinning or uses a stationary bike / rollers)
7) Allows children to pretend to be one of their cycling heroes warming up, or cooling down, at the end of a race
8) Can be used without being attached to a screen
9) Can get toddlers used to the pedalling action, good for when they move from a balance bike to a first pedal bike. As I was writing the two lists, I was aware most of the cons are either to do with the fact that it’s possible to attach a screen to the Smart Cycle, or based on the assumption that it used instead of outdoor play and exercise. However, the Pro’s show that it can be used in association with outdoor exercise, and would be a good way for children to exercise and let off steam when outdoor cycling is not possible. So, in writing my two lists I’ve realised I’ve probably come down on the side of exercise bikes for kids being a positive development.  My only caveat is that they shouldn’t be used every time with screens, and SHOULD NOT replace kids getting outside and playing, exercising and riding their bikes the in fresh air.The Fisher Price Think and Learn Smart Cycle is will be released in the US in autumn 2017 - I'll let you know when it's available in the UK.  I believe the cost to be around $150 (c. £125) for the bike and then $5 per app.

I’d love to know what you think about indoor exercise bikes for kids and toddlers – would you buy one for your child?? Leave me a comment below, or on the Cycle Sprog Facebook page.

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  1. Jane says:

    Brilliant article, with some really interesting points. My son is 8 and has autism. When we go out, he rides a tag along and his pedalling is somewhat lazy! I would be really interested in something like this smart bike, not only to get exercise indoors when it's raining/we haven't got the time to go out on a supervised ride, but also to get him pedalling a bit more naturally. However it only goes up to age 6. Do you know whether there are any alteratives for older children? Thank you!

  2. Kara says:

    Hi, I’ve been considering buying this for my son who just turned 4. We also have a daughter that recently turned 7. We live in a place that has snow 6 months of the year. While we are a family who enjoys winter sports and activities, there are also many storms and snow days off school. I really think my son, and his sister, will love this- app or not. I’m a teacher as well and I find the idea of kids having some sensory output while having learning technology time is a great idea.

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