What Do Tricycles Teach Children?

Riding a tricycle helps kids develop physically, psychologically and emotionally.

Riding a tricycle is a rite of passage for many children. Depending on the child’s size and individual development, most kids are ready for a tricycle by the age of 2. By the time they turn 4, children are generally able to pedal, steer and control the tricycle and are ready to move on to a bicycle with training wheels. Riding a tricycle teaches children several important life lessons.

Balance and Coordination

During the preschool years, children’s bodies grow and develop rapidly. They learn to control their gross and fine motor movements, coordinating their bodies in increasingly complex ways. Pedaling a tricycle requires coordinated foot movements, while steering requires the child to coordinate her hands. Most children have trouble maneuvering their new tricycle, but with effort they gradually learn what they need to do.


According to developmental theorist Erik Erikson, toddlers ages 1 and 2 are in the developmental stage that leaves them torn between autonomy and doubt. At this age, children are naturally drawn to do things for themselves. They want to learn how things work and how to perform simple tasks. A tricycle is a symbol of freedom for kids this age, and they will work hard to master its use.


As kids enter early childhood, around the age of 2, they are eager for new adventures and increasing responsibility, and want increased control over their own movements. During this phase, which lasts until age 6, most kids master the tricycle and move on to a bicycle. Encourage your child’s initiative by letting him tell you when he thinks he is ready to give up the tricycle.

Traditional Tricycles vs. Semi-Recumbent Trikes

Cyclist and bicycle expert Sheldon Brown points out that traditional upright tricycles are best only for children who are learning to ride. As kids grow bigger, stronger and more confident, they want to move faster than is safe on a regular tricycle. Semi-recumbent tricycles are less durable due to their all-plastic construction, but tend to spin out rather than tipping over when cornering. Brown points out that these tricycles are difficult for kids to learn on, due to their awkward steering geometry, and suggests that kids begin with an upright tricycle. He also points out that bikes with training wheels have brakes, which both types of tricycles lack, making them a better choice for kids who love to ride fast.