How to Help Your Toddler Learn to Ride a Bike

Learning to ride a bike is an all important rite of passage. Even in my thirties, I can still remember learning to ride my first bike without training wheels. It may have had something to do with the fact that I inadvertently rode into a patch of bindi-eye prickles and punctured my tyres – but all the same a happy memory that will stick with me for life! The feeling of riding a bike, unaided, is pure joy for a child.

So now that I’m a parent and on the other side – the teacher instead of the student, there is a lot more to think about. So where do you start when helping your toddler learn to ride?

Firstly, choose the type of bike that you feel would best suit your child. There are a few options on the market at the moment and each has its place in terms of teaching your child cycling skills.

  • The tricycle with its three wheel base is a great starting point. It will allow your child to scoot themselves along without the worry of being unbalanced. It will teach your child steering and possibly even pedalling (as some have a small set of pedals attached to the front wheel.
  • The Balance bike is a great transition from the trike (or can even be used as a starter bike) as they generally come without pedals. The great thing about balance bikes is that they teach your child the motion of moving forward, while balancing on two wheels. Some brands will also have a set of pedals that you can attach to the bike once your child has the balance part down pat. And then you can progress to pedalling.
  • And of course there’s the pint-sized version of a regular bicycle – usually in the style of a BMX but with training wheels. This is probably what you remember from your own childhood. This bike is great for the long run as you can detach the training wheels once your little person has the hang of riding and it serves as their first real bike.

So now that you have an idea of which bike would best suit your child for their current ability, here are some tips on how to teach technique and independence.

Transition your toddler from a trike (once they are pedalling), to a balance bike (without pedals). The balance bike allows them to put their feet down which gives them stability. You can help by holding the back of the seat initially and one handlebar (while still giving your child room to hold the same handle bar) and guide your child along. Then tell them that they can have a go at steering, and remove your hand from the handlebar but still hold the seat to steady their balance. And once your child is happily navigating their way around, allow them to master the balance without your help and let go of the seat. You can give tips to your child like, telling them to place both feet on the ground if they feel unsteady.

Then finally try the mini-bicycle with training wheels (lifting the training wheels up a bit so that the child is still using their balancing skills while pedalling), then go to one training wheel for a bit, and finally none.

Or you can skip that part if your child is already adjusted to balancing from steering the balance bike.  In which case you can simply bolt the pedals onto the balance bike and take the same approach as before by holding the seat while they master all three actions, steering, balancing and pedalling. And before you know it, your ‘hold the seat, balance the child chase’ will end, and your toddler will go sailing away off into the distance (or if they are anything like me, straight into a patch of prickles)!