Children love learning how to ride a bike, however, it isn’t easy and does take some time and practice. There are a couple of ways that you can teach your child to ride a bike, but this differs depending on the child.
Balance bikes are designed to teach children how to balance themselves on two wheels without any pedals to worry about. Training wheels, on the other hand, are added to a bike’s rear wheels to give your child more stability while riding a proper bike with pedals and a chain.
There is a lot of debate about which sort of bike you should start a child with. There’s no one right answer and at the end of the day, you should choose whichever type of bike your child enjoys best – but there are certainly pros and cons to each type of bike.
Let’s take a look at each type of bike in more detail then we’ll compare the pros and cons of each for teaching a child to ride independently.
A balance bike is a type of bike with no pedals. It was invented all the way back in 1817 by German Karl Drais. The first balance bike was made from wood and had no brakes or gears. Today, there are many types of balance bikes available that follow a similar concept to the original design.
The most common type of balance bike has a frame, two wheels, and a seat. This allows kids to sit upright, but the most noticeable thing is that it doesn’t have any pedals.
How a Balance Bike Works
For your child to move forwards, they must push off the ground using their feet. Typically, they will start off by walking while sitting on the saddle. Then as they get more confident, they may begin to run while on the saddle.
Finally, they will glide, and their feet will be off the ground. Once they can ride with their feet up, then they have learned how to balance. After a period of timing mastering their balance bike, they’ll be ready to begin learning how to pedal.
- We have a complete guide over here on how to teach your child to ride a balance bike and master these maneuvers.
As a result, with a balance bike, the child learns how to steer and balance first. Then they can progress on learning how to pedal later on.
Why Balance Bikes Work Well
Alongside this, a balance bike teaches your little ones how to lean into a turn correctly due to the steering.
Some balance bikes also come fitted with a brake so they can learn how to slow down using their hands rather than their feet, though this is not common to all balance bikes. Generally speaking, they’ll learn to stop with their feet first.
Learning to balance is seen as a much more important lesson than learning how to pedal. It is once you know how to balance, then you know you won’t fall and pedaling will come naturally.
There is much anecdotal evidence (though no scientific studies!) that children who start with a balance bike learn how to ride a proper bike much faster.
Bikes With Training Wheels
Training wheels were a much later invention that the balance bike. Introduced in the 1950s, there are two types of training wheels (also known as stabilizers): single and double.
Single vs Double Training Wheels
Single training wheels are attached to only one side of the rear wheel. Double training wheels are attached to both sides of the bike. Double training wheels are the most common.
The main difference between single and double training wheels is that single wheels are easier to learn because they are lighter.
However, if you want to use them properly, you need to know how to lean into a corner. If you don’t lean into a corner right, you risk falling over.
Single training wheels are usually used until a child is about 3 years old. At this point, they should be able to walk unassisted.
Double training wheels are often used after this, but some parents prefer to use them all the way through.
The main advantage of double training wheels is that they allow your child to lean into corners. This means that they can learn how to balance themselves before leaning into a corner. When they lean into a corner, they are given support, so they don’t fall over.
When children are learning to ride a bike, they tend to lean into a turn too fast. This causes them to lose control and fall over. By using double training wheels, they can learn to lean slowly without losing control.
Why Use Training Wheels
Once your child begins to get more confidence, you can begin to remove the training wheels, and they’ll be left with a regular bike.
This is when the child will need to learn to balance on just two wheels and remember to pedal at the same time.
This step can take a bit of time and practice for your child to feel confident in pedaling by themselves and keeping their balance. Because many children become reliant on the training wheels/stabilizers the balancing skill takes longer for most children to master, compared to those who started with a balance bike
Balance Bike vs Training Wheels: Does It Matter?
Balance bikes are best suited for young children who are just starting out riding. They teach your child how to balance and steer first. Also, they are easy to ride and help children develop confidence from an early age.
Training wheels are another popular way to teach your child to learn how to ride. Your child will need the coordination skills to pedal first, then you teach them the skill of balancing after.
This debate has split parents, as there is no right or wrong way to teach your child how to ride a bike.
A balance bike may indeed mean your child learns faster but is there a rush to getting your child riding independently?
If your child is enjoying the comfort of using their pedal bike their stabilizers and being able to pedal alongside their family we see no reason to pressure a child; their confidence or coordination skills simply may not be there yet.
It has to be said that a balance bike does make it easier as your child learns how to balance on two wheels straight away. But at the end of the day, its all about your child and how you think they will prefer to learn how to ride a bike.
Benefits Of Cycling
No matter which way to teach your child to ride a bike, it will provide them with many benefits.
Cycling is great exercise. It’s not like running, where you have to put in the effort to keep up with the pace. You can simply sit back and enjoy the scenery while your child cycles alongside you!
It helps develop motor skills as you can go on a bike ride together. Your child will learn how to steer and balance themselves. They will also learn how to move their legs and arms at the same time.
Cycling is good for their health as it improves lung function and strengthens bones. Alongside this, cycling is a lot of fun for children as they enjoy riding outside in the fresh air. Even if it’s just riding to the park!
Both balance bikes and training wheels provide different benefits as well. Balance bikes help teach your children to balance and their direction and steering skills. While training wheels improve your child’s leg functions due to pedaling.
Keeping Your Little One Safe
If you choose a balance bike or training wheels, they both need you to follow the same safety precautions.
- Your child must always wear a helmet that fits them properly. Make sure it fits snugly and has a chin strap.
- When your child starts out on a balance bike or training wheels, make sure you set up the bike correctly. The bike needs to be adjusted so that the seat is level and the handlebars are at a comfortable height.
- You should teach them safe biking. For example, staying away from roads and making sure they are seen before they cross a road.
- Alongside that, you make sure that your child’s bike is always maintained, so this will reduce the chances of injuries if something does go wrong.
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