Contributor Julie Forbes is somewhat of a mom-pro these days, with 3 kids 4 and under. She’s been telling me all about the magic that is the balance bike, so I asked her to write this post… maybe because I wanted her to convince me? And I think she just did.
Dreading the scraped knees and the tears that will follow when teaching your child to ride a bike? Then re-think the traditional approach. There’s an easier way to do it that’s totally worked for all my kids so far!
Step #1: Buy a balance bike
Here’s why: Balance bikes teach kids the hardest part of riding a bike=learning to balance. Learning to pedal is not hard, but learning to keep the bike upright is.
On a traditional bike with training wheels, kids first learn to pedal. Once they have that down, you take off the training wheels and the child has to learn to balance. In my mind, that order is backwards.
On the contrary, a balance bike is just a bike without any pedals, and it sits low to the ground. That way, kids naturally sit on the bike and walk along with it. As they get more comfortable, they start to run with it. Then once they get going, they pick their feet up off the ground to make the bike go faster.
In the process, they’re learning to balance. If the bike becomes wobbly, they can quickly put their feet on the ground to stabilize themselves. Just like it’s easier to rub your tummy when you’re not also patting your head, it’s easier to learn to balance when you’re not also trying to pedal too.
Step #2: Let them get comfortable
We bought our first-born a balance bike for his second birthday. Within a few months, he was flying on it.
(Notice how he is picking his feet up and balancing on his own?)
After seeing the success with his balance bike, we bought our second-born a balance bike right after she started to walk. By the time she was 1.5 years old, she was pretty confident on it.
Step #3: Introduce the pedals
Eventually, you’ll notice that your child barely has his or her feet on the ground when they’re on their balance bike. They’ll get so comfortable balancing, they’ll eventually just use their feet to push off the ground and propel themselves forward. You’ll be amazed at how fast they’ll go!
We bought my son a pedal bike for his third birthday and immediately took off the training wheels. We moved the seat to the lowest position so that it felt similar to the balance bike.
My son initially used the pedal bike just like his balance bike: he pushed himself along the ground avoiding the pedals. This was kind of cumbersome (as the pedals were getting in the way), so I explained to him that he could go a lot faster if he’d just put his feet on the pedals to push himself forward. After a few days of my nagging, he finally tried it… and it was magic!
There’s not a whole lot of teaching involved because the process just develops naturally. It’s an intuitive way for kids to learn