Explore America's Campgrounds
Your Child's First "Real" Bike
As a child, or even a grown-up, the thrill of riding down the road on a bike is tough to beat. Riding a bike is a great way to get outside, stay fit and explore nature. If your child sees you riding a bike or is used to being pulled behind you in a trailer, he might be interested in his own set of wheels. Fortunately, there are many different types of bikes available for young children. These safe, fun bikes will get your child rolling right alongside you or his friends.
While adult bikes are sized according to the size of the frame, bikes for children are sized according to the diameter of the wheels. The most common sizes for children's bikes are 12", 14", 16" and 20". An average-sized 4-year-old would most likely ride a bike with 14" wheels. Most size charts give a recommended wheel size based on the child's height and inseam. To get an inseam measurement, have your child stand barefoot with her back to a wall and place the end of a pencil at the top of her inner leg, as close to the crotch as you can get. Use a tape measure to measure from the pencil down to the ground. When you look at a first pedal bike for your child, make sure that her feet can touch the ground when she is on the seat. This means that she will be able to stop the bike with her feet if needed, which increases confidence and makes the bike safer. Also make sure that your child can reach the handlebars and brakes comfortably. A bike shop that stocks several different bikes can help you to find one that fits your child and that she will enjoy riding.
If your child has never ridden a bike before, a balance bike is a great way to start. A balance bike usually has 12" tires, hand brakes and no pedals. Balance bikes are designed to help a small child learn to balance. There are balance bikes designed for toddlers and for 3 to 5 year olds. They are propelled by your child's feet, meaning that they're quite safe on flat ground since there is no way to pedal and pick up speed. These bikes are a great way for kids to learn to balance, steer and stop a bike without having to worry about the coordination of pedaling. Once kids learn to ride a balance bike with confidence they are often ready to transition to a small pedal bike.
Although training wheels used to be common on smaller bikes, and you probably learned on them, they have recently fallen out of favor. Training wheels are difficult on uneven surfaces where the wheels can end up off balance. Many people now believe that if kids learn to scoot, steer and stay upright on balance bikes, they can transition from these directly to small pedal bikes without the crashes and accidents that we all endured. However, if your child wants training wheels or is already used to them you can raise the wheels up a bit to help your child learn to balance without needing to lean on them.
Regardless of the type of bike you buy for your child, don't forget to think safety first. All children should wear a well-fitting helmet while riding. Teach your child that wearing a helmet is part of riding a bike, and don't forget to set a good example. Children should also wear closed-toed shoes while riding, and be sure to tuck in any laces so that they don't get tangled in the pedals.
Stacy Zogheib's writing has been published in various online publications. She is a teacher and developmental specialist with experience teaching first grade, special education and working with children ages 0 to 3. She has a Bachelor of Arts in elementary and special education from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University.