Learning to ride a bike can be difficult. So can teaching someone to ride a bike. I recently taught my 4 and 6 year olds to ride without training wheels, and this is what I learned.
First of all, a kid is ready to ride on their own when they want to. Don’t force them to or they will fight learning and there will be tears. If they don’t want to, host a bike-riding party for some friends who can ride without training wheels and let the peer pressure work its magic.
- Wear running shoes.
- Put down the baby that usually rides your hip.
- Find a level, large section of asphalt to learn on so that you don’t have to attempt too many turns in the beginning. (church parking lots are good for this, so are cul-de-sacs).
- Help the kid on to the bike and then hold on to your child, not the bike. This is the most key part of the process. If you grab the handle or the seat back, they will not learn what it feels like to be totally balanced, and you will be running a LOT more because it will take a LONG time to teach them how to correct and find their balance. So, loosely hold on to their back or sides and keep them upright. They will likely fall a few times, which isn’t a big deal. Falling isn’t bad, getting hurt is. So keep them from getting hurt.
- Instruct them to pull the handle bars to the middle and feel how it feels when they are balanced. Keep identifying when they are centered “Do you feel that?! That’s just right”.
- Go pretty fast. It is easier to stay upright with more momentum. (running shoes)
- When they are pretty good at keeping in the center, let go! Keep running by their side to correct them if they start to wobble, but let them feel the physics of it without any interference from you.
- Keep doing straight sections until they are ready to start turning. They’ll just get better and better with practice. So give them lots of time to ride.
The key to this, like most of parenting, is knowing when to let go and being willing to do it.