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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What parents need to know when teaching a child how to ride a bike

What parents need to know when teaching a child how to ride a bike
By:  Michael G. Lander

Parents can teach children how to ride a bike by riding along with them
and they can make it a fun-filled experience that they can also enjoy
together as a family.

Children seem to grow up so fast.  For parents, it probably doesn't seem like it takes any time after they come into world that they are quickly learning how to walk and talk and trying to explore the world around them.  Along with their growing curiosity, many children become drawn to things that can move and propel them and that is when they begin to show an interest in bicycles.

Learning how to ride a bike for most children is a big part of growing up and bicycles and childhood almost seem synonymous with one another.  Bikes can give children a lot of happy memories that they can carry with them throughout their lives and, for some, it can also be the beginning of what can become a lifelong love affair with them. 

As much as children might be eager to jump up on a bike and try to ride, parents, understandably, might look at this with a little more caution and a certain degree of trepidation.  Teaching a child how to ride a bike, though, isn't as scary as it might seem and it only requires a little time and patience and a simple, common-sense approach.

There are a number of ways that a parent can help a child learn how to ride.  Parents can read up on it and they can apply whatever approach that they feel comfortable with or they can simply go with how they themselves learned how to ride.  In the end, it really isn't all that complicated and it can be done by just following a few very simple and practical steps.

For parents looking for a little guidance, here are some of the essential basics for teaching a child how to ride a bike.  For more in-depth and detailed information on the topic, I would recommend checking out any of the following websites:

Sheldon Brown's "Teaching Kids to Ride" - http://sheldonbrown.com/teachride.html,
International Bicycle Fund's "Learning to Bicycle Without Pain, Teaching Bicycle Without Strain" - http://www.ibike.org/education/teaching-kids.htm,
Recreational Equipment, Inc.'s (REI's) - "Teaching a Child How to Ride a Bike" - http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/teach-child-to-ride-a-bike.html,
Bicycling Magazine's - "Teach Your Kid How to Ride a Bike" - http://www.bicycling.com/video/teach-your-kid-ride-bike#/video/all,
wikiHow's - "How to Teach a Child How to Ride a Bike" - http://www.wikihow.com/Teach-a-Child-to-Ride-a-Bike & 
arose08's - "Teach Your Child How to Ride a Bike" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO7HsWf8cbI. 

Teaching a child how to ride a bike takes time and patience and sometimes
it takes a little assistance and a helpful push, but once they learn, it can
open a new world and a love for cycling that can last a lifetime.

For most of children, their first introduction to riding anything usually begins with a tricycle.  The tricycle, (or trike), is a good way for a child to become familiar with the concept of peddling and steering something.  When it comes time to get a bike, it is important for a parent to get one that's the right size for the child and to get them a new one as they outgrow their old bike.  The International Bicycle Fund has great advice for parents on this topic at http://www.ibike.org/education/buying.htm.   

With that first bike, most parents would probably feel a little more comfortable with having training wheels put on, if they don't already come with them.  The training wheels should allow a slight rock or tilt side-to-side and, as the child learns to peddle, steer, and brake, they should be raised incrementally.  Eventually, they should be removed when the child seems ready and you are ready to run alongside them.

From the very first bike ride, and those that follow, parents should make sure that their children are always wearing a helmet and parents should be sure to emphasize safety.  Kids Health has some very useful information about bike safety on their website, at  http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/out/bike_safety.html, that parents might find especially helpful.  Parents can also minimize many risks by keeping a watchful eye on their child and keeping them away from any cars and traffic.  

For any child, the most challenging part of learning how to ride a bike typically comes whenever they have to try and balance themselves.   Parents will usually find that every child is different and that some will grasp it faster than others.  The important thing at this point is that the parent remain patient and that they start off slowly and easily and try not to overdue or rush a child.  Most children are pretty unsteady and wobbly at first and, for this reason, it is always a good idea for a parent to run alongside the child as they make their first, initial attempts at riding without the use of training wheels. 

Parents have a number of places where they can ride with their children
from neighborhoods, parks, and trails in and around Memphis.

Even though no parent wants to see their child fall and get hurt, it does happen and the best thing that you can do, as a parent, is to try to be there to help them avoid that from happening.  Fortunately, most kids are pretty resilient and seem to bounce back from their injuries a lot faster than grown-ups do and they will often jump right back up on the bike without having to be coaxed or encouraged to do so. 

One of the added benefits of teaching a child to ride is that it can help you to rediscover the thrill that you once had for cycling as a kid yourself.  Even though most of us were first introduced to cycling as children, life happens, and many of us get away from it.  Having children can give you a great excuse to come back to it and bike rides can offer a unique opportunity for you to ride together as a family. 

As children become even more comfortable and confident on their bikes, parents can take their children riding around their neighborhoods, to parks, or on one of the many paved trails that we have in Memphis and in the surrounding areas.  As children get even older, families can plan trips and vacations with their bikes, which can make for some good quality time together with everyone benefiting from all that cycling has to offer.

Teaching a child how to ride a bike can open a new world to them and give them a love for cycling that they and the entire family can enjoy for many years to come.

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