The ability to ride a bike is a milestone that many kids are ready to tackle between the ages of 3 and 6, according to outdoor gear retailer REI. Teaching your child to ride her first two-wheeler is something that takes time, patience and trust, but the feeling of watching your child coast along on his own down the street can give both you and your little one a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Find an open, flat space that is paved and free of bumps, damage or other imperfections that could affect the ability of your child to keep her bicycle in a straight line. Empty parking lots, basketball courts, tennis courts and residential, dead-end streets are good choices.
Outfit your child with a properly fitting helmet and wrist guards to protect him in case of a fall. Make sure the tires are properly inflated to add to the stability of the bike.
Remove the training wheels with a socket wrench and lower the bike seat to a position low enough for your child to sit on the seat and have her feet straight and touching the ground.
Use a pedal wrench to remove the pedals of the bike. You want to teach your child to balance on the bike first before adding in the pedaling component, and this allows him to place his feet down on the ground to balance himself if needed.
Ask your child to sit on the bike and use her feet to scoot herself along. This helps her learn the balance of the bike. When she becomes confident with scooting the bike with her feet, have her scoot and then lift her feet up while the bike coasts along for small spurts of time. Gradually reduce the scooting and encourage her to coast with her feet up for longer periods.
Set up the safety cones in a pattern and have your child scoot and coast through the cones to learn and practice steering. Another method is placing a cracker straight ahead of your child and asking him to run over the cracker to work on keeping the bike straight and steering over the cracker if needed. Continue working on the steering until he is able to steer while coasting along.
Reattach the pedals when both you and your child feel comfortable with her ability to balance on the bike. Keep the bike seat low and ask her to keep one foot on the ground while the other foot is on a pedal at the 2 o’clock position. Have her press down on the pedal to move the bike forward, and then repeat the same steps but with the foot that was previously on the ground.
Have your child place both feet on the pedals and hold the back of the seat to add some balance and move along as he pedals. When you feel he has mastered the pedaling with your help, let go and let him pedal on his own.
Practice the steering while pedaling the bike with the safety cones and crackers. When she is confident in her steering, move onto braking. Most children’s bikes use a backward pedal motion to brake. Have her stop pedaling forward and slowly press back on the brake to slow the bike. Encourage her to place one foot down as she brakes to aid in her balance.
Raise the bike seat when both you and your child are confident in her balancing, steering and stopping skills. In the proper position, the bike seat should be high enough that when the pedal is in the 6 o’clock position, there is a slight bend at the knee.