Riding a bike is fun. It’s a nostalgic, warm-weather activity, passed down from generation to generation. It’s an enjoyable experience on many levels, and can be either an exciting social activity, or relaxing individual experience. It can even be a great way to get in a bit of welcome exercise! Bike riding also stimulates the vestibular system. This system, which is located in our inner ear and detects movement, helps our body to make adjustments and corrections to maintain balance and complete gross motor skills efficiently. This input can be regulating for many, which is why after a nice bike ride it can be hard to get a rider off their bikes, but when they do, they are more relaxed.
Learning to ride a bike, however, can be a difficult and trying experience for both the child and the teacher. In the end, though, it’s well worth the process. Though the therapeutic benefits of biking are numerous, biking doesn’t come easily to everybody! Not to fear; we can learn together.
Learning to Ride
Particularly for children with delayed motor skills, coordination and motor planning difficulties and/or low muscle tone, learning to ride a bike can be challenging (to say the least). At Sasco River Center, we work diligently with your child creating strategies and developing the skills required for them to ride their bikes safely and independently. During bike camp, your child will participate in games, activities, and crafts all geared towards getting your child riding his or her bike through mastering one skill at a time. Learning to ride a bike is beneficial to your child mentally, socially, physically and developmentally. Riding a bike helps to strengthen your heart muscles and build stamina promoting health awareness at such an early age. Children develop a sense of responsibility and independence as well as gain confidence from learning how to ride a bike. Riding a bike with peers and neighbors allows for your child to interact and build social skills with other children in an active environment. Biking is a great activity for a child to get outside while still working on their core strength, balance and muscular coordination, all while having fun!
By the way, there is no “right” age to learn to ride a bike, but if your child is ready, check out some tips below!
3 Secrets to Teaching Bike Riding
Secret 1: Don’t use “training wheels”
- They teach kids to balance on training wheels, not on their own two wheels
- They are slow and inhibiting (even for the best of riders – and I’ve seen some VERY proficient training-wheel riders.)
- They don’t do corners well, and in fact teach muscle memory of the wrong technique.
- They become an unnecessary crutch that prolongs a movement towards riding without training wheels at all.
- Either simply remove pedals from an existing bike, or get a balance bike. (You can get a balance bike on Amazon for less than $100)
Secret 2: Start with developing trust in their own body
- Build up skills. First try having them keep their feel flat on the ground while they walk the bike. This way, they get to experience the sensation of leaning without falling. As an aside, make sure the bike fits properly; your child should be able to stand flat-footed over the top bar of the bike. If in doubt, a smaller bike is better than a larger bike. (As another aside, if you want to see truly AMAZING kids bikes, check THESE out! If I could back in time, I’d get one of them.)
- Assure them that their feet will keep them from falling as they walk the bike forward and experience the sensation of leaning without falling.
- Eventually, they learn to trust their body. It’s at this point when lessons become fun. Students are now motivated and excited to learn!
Secret 3: Be calm, present and patient
- This is more about you than your Child, but trust us, it helps.
- The goal is to decrease anxiety and fear, while boosting confidence. Your calm and patient presence helps them maintain the desire to continue working while they experience setbacks and unfamiliar sensations.
- Our demeanor, particular when children are learning a challenging new activity, very much affects children’s responses to learning something new.
Biking Fun At Home
It is never too early to start working on skills to help our kids learn to ride a bike.
Here are some activities to work on balance and coordination for our early bikers. These skills will help work on balance, which is certainly one of the most important steps to becoming an independent rider. Here are some biking activities seen at bike camp that you can do at home once your child is ready for the bike.
Off the Bike Activities
Try these to “warm up” our balance before getting on the bike
- Jumping on each foot 10x with arms out to side
- Walk across a line pretending you’re on a tight rope with arms out to side
While on bike, have children go around looking for nature items outside to work on all aspects of biking such as coordination, balance, motor planning and strength. (The child can be scooting, gliding or pedaling)
Red Light, Green Light
Red Light = STOP, Green Light = GO & Yellow Light = SLOW DOWN.
How To Play: Start with everyone along the starting line, When you say ‘Green Light’ everyone will move towards the finish line, When you say ‘Red Light’ everyone must immediately stop. If players are still moving when you call ‘Red Light’, they must go back to the starting line.
BONUS TIP: To get your child more involved, have them come up with a color and a rule/ movement for that corresponding color to add into the game.
Want more? Try Bike Camp/Lessons with us!
Do your kids want to learn how to ride a bike? We can help! Sasco River bike camp can help your children gain the confidence and skills needed in order to get pedaling! At the end of bike camp, your child will walk away with not only confidence and a fun experience, but also a biking “license” to remember their hard work and dedication. Find out more HERE, or email us: email@example.com.
Though Mark Maidique is listed as the Author, this post was written by a team of Mark Maidique, Teresa Salzillo, and Deanna Lindberg.