Avoid these mistakes when teaching your child to ride their bike
Teaching your child to learn to ride a bike is one of life's big milestones.
It should be a fun and exciting experience for both you and your child, but sometimes things don't go according to plan!
Here's our tips on the biggest mistakes parents (and grandparents) make when trying to teach a child to ride a pedal bike.
1) Starting too young
Just because the child down the road was pedalling by the age of three doesn't mean this is when your child will be ready.
Many children will have all the skills needed to ride at some point between the ages of 4 and 6, but others not until later.
Further reading: What's the best age to teach a child to ride a bike?
2) Missing the balance bike phase
One of the key skills of learning to ride a bike is mastering balance. Balance bikes are perfect for this, and mean when your child moves onto pedals they've got that skill sorted.
Balance bikes tend to be cheaper than pedal bikes too and can be used from a younger age.
If you've already bought them a pedal bike you may be able to convert it into a balance bike.
Further reading: Choosing the best balance bike for your child
3) Using stabilisers/training wheels
You may have memories of learning to ride using training wheels (aka stabilisers). However time marches on, and they've been proven to make it more difficult for many children to learn to ride a bike.
They turn a two-wheeled bike into a three-wheeler and when they're finally removed your child will find the wheel they were used to having (especially when turning corners) isn't there anyone. This makes them wobble and they risk toppling over.
However, some children, particularly those with special needs such as coordination difficulties, neurodivergence or some physical disabilities, will find training wheels/stabilisers useful.
Further reading: Does my child need stabilisers?
4) Not giving them enough time to learn to ride a bike
You can't rush learning a new skill. Reading, writing, playing a sport or musical instrument. They all take time to develop the skill and confidence needed.
Learning to ride a bike is no different. Don't expect your child to receive a new bike and learn to ride it immediately.
Yes, some children may learn to pedal in a matter of hours, but others will take days, weeks, months or even years to master the skill.
The key is giving them plenty of time, space and encouragement to keep on trying.
5) Too much pressure
Riding a bike should be a fun experience. As should teaching your child. If you make too much of a big deal about it, and expect them to "perform" on the day this can make the situation very stressful.
Let them progress in their own time, and put away your phone. Celebratory videos can come later!
6) Wrong size bike
This is a classic mistake many parents make when trying to teach their child to ride a bike. It can be caused in two different ways.
Most common is that a parent decides it's time for their child to learn to ride a bike, sees the price tag and decides that they'll buy a larger bike for their child to "grow into". This is a HUGE mistake!
You try riding a bike where your feet don't reach the ground and your arms don't reach the handlebars and tell me how safe you feel. Now consider your child trying to do this for the very first time!
The other problem is that a child already has a bike that they've grown out of before they've learnt to pedal. The thought process of the parent is "I'm not buying them a bigger bike incase they don't learn to ride it".
This is a self-fulfilling prophecy - it's incredibly hard and uncomfortable to learn to ride a bike when your knees are up around your ears and you keep bashing them on the handlebars.
In both these cases the child will be miserable and show no interest in learning to ride. The parent will declare the child is not interested and the opportunity to learn a life skill that will bring them a lifetime of fun, fitness and free transportation is lost.
Further Reading: Is my kids bike the right size for them?
7) A bike that is too heavy
The younger your child, the more difficult it will be for them to move and ride a heavy bike. Some starter pedal bikes can weigh almost as much as a small child.
There's an increasing number of lightweight kids bike available, plus also a lot of very heavy, badly made kids bikes out there.
If your child is struggling to learn to ride, it could be the bike that is the problem.
There's a growing number of secondhand quality kids bikes available, so you don't have to spend a fortune.
If you're in the UK leasing via the Bike Club can be a cost effective option too.
Further reading: Why you shouldn't buy a REALLY cheap new kids bike
When I was writing this article I kept coming across stock photos of young children cycling barefoot.
This made me think that having the correct footwear when cycling is important.
Some kids shoes (especially girls shoes) have very smooth soles and these may slip off the pedals, especially if it's raining.
Bicycle pedals tend to be rough and uncomfortable, so if they're trying to learn barefoot or in socks this may put them off!
The benefits of balance bikes
Balancing is one of the most important skills your child needs to learn before they can ride a pedal bike.
In most cases we recommend a balance bike first before your child moves up to a pedal bike
Here's some articles with more details:
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How did you teach your Cycle Sprog to ride?
Has your child learnt to ride yet? Where did they learn?
And what hints and tips do you have for others about to embark on this?
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