How to teach your child to ride a bike

One of the most amazing and beautiful experiences you can share with your child is teaching them how to ride a bike. Not only are you giving them a gift that they will be able to enjoy for life, you’re having a good time in the outdoors and enjoying a special bonding experience that will give you great memories for years to come.

We’ve taken a broad look at the basics behind teaching your child how to ride a bike. With the right approach you can get your child riding a bike in no time at all, and have a lot of fun along the way.

Choosing the right bike

child riding bike

Kids grow up quickly, but don’t be tempted into acquiring a bike that’s too big just because you feel as though your child will grow into it. Having a bike that’s the wrong size will not only slow down the learning process, but it can potentially develop bad cycling habits in your child that may take years to correct.

When looking for a bike for your child, you should choose a size that your child will feel comfortable controlling. As a general guide, your child should be able to stand over the top tube of the bike with both feet planted on the ground.

Choosing the right helmet

mother putting helmet on child

Just as important as finding the right size bike is finding the right size helmet. Again, rather than choosing one they’re eventually going to grow into, go for one that fits them now. Bike helmets should sit level across the middle of your child’s head, and should be no more than a couple of centimetres above their eyebrows.

If it’s not sitting correctly don’t hesitate to adjust the helmet or purchase one that’s of the right size. The most important thing about teaching a kid how to ride a bike is instructing them on safe riding practices.

Finding the best place to learn the basics

dad following son on bike

Even if your child looks like they could be the next mountain bike rider, it’s crucial to choose the right area to teach them how to ride. Ideally what you’re looking for here is a spacious area without any traffic. You want an area that is large, flat, smooth and paved, and where you can be in control at all times. This could be a driveway, park path or an empty parking lot. Even something like an empty tennis or basketball court could work for this.

Learning without pedals

child riding bike with no pedals

Before you can run you first need to know how to walk, and before you can pedal you first need to know how to control and manoeuvrer a bike. Training wheels are a valuable tool for making this process easier and getting a kid used to sitting on and pedalling a bike, but it won’t teach them balance which is the most important thing.

Lower the seat and make sure the tires are inflated properly, then help your child get used to the feeling of balancing it by scooting around. Once they’ve got the hang of this encourage them to coast with a bit of movement. They won’t be able to pick up too much speed, and this will provide a good basis for the next few steps.

Turning and coasting

child with turning on bike

This is the perfect time to introduce your child the act of turning on a bike. Introduce them to the movement of steering by getting them to coast through long, looping turns before moving onto smaller, more precise circles. This may take a while for your kid to get their head around, so be patient and let them slowly ease their way into steering a bicycle.

If possible, try to introduce concepts such as braking and slowing down at this stage in the learning process so they get a sense of how important it is to control their speed. Fun activities like getting them to work their way through cone courses is a good way to do this.

Riding with pedals

child learning to use pedals on bike

This is the hardest concept for your child to get their heads around, so when showing them how to ride with pedals go slow and have your hand on their shoulder for support. Teach pedal awareness by getting them to sit on a bike and find the pedals with their eyes closed, then show them how to start moving with pedals from a stopped position.

Ideally they should be able to learn how to balance and feel comfortable on a bike without assistance after a little bit of friendly, supportive tutoring from you as a parent.

Braking and steering when pedalling

father teaching child how to ride bike

Finally, it’s time to put the last piece of the puzzle together. Get your child used to the act of braking at a standing start, then have them try it out as they’re pedalling. Teach them the importance of slow, segmented braking, and using both the front and back brakes to get to a stop safely and securely. After this introduce the braking concepts when showing them safe steering practices. A fun game you can try while teaching them how to do this is by getting them to follow you around on your own bike while making turns.

Teaching your child how to ride a bike is one of the best parts of being a parent and is a valuable bonding experience that you will enjoy for years to come. By taking the time to make sure they learn the principle of this properly and in a safe, secure, supportive environment you’re setting them up for a lifetime of safe, enjoyable cycling and creating a wide array of enjoyable memories that both of you can look back on in years to come.