Learning to ride a bike can be an exciting and scary time for both children and their families. Bike riding is an excellent opportunity for your child to participate in physical activity and develop healthy, lifelong habits. As a result, many children and their families select riding a bike as a goal or milestone they would like to achieve.
Most typically developing children learn to ride a bike without training wheels somewhere between the age of 3 and 8 with the average age being 5 years old. However, each child develops this skill at their own pace and children with disabilities may learn to ride a bike later in life or may require a bike with appropriate modifications to meet their abilities.
Here are some different bike options to explore that may meet your child’s needs:
- Tricycle – these can come in many different shapes and sizes including adult sized tricycles with three large wheels
- Bicycle with training wheels
- Reclined or Recumbent Bike
- Balance Bike– a bike with no pedals to help your child develop balance and steering skills
- Big Wheel Bicycle
- Bicycle without training wheels
Bike riding requires balance, co-ordination, strong leg muscles, and strong core muscles. Here are some tips to help your child progress through the stages of learning to ride a bike:
- Safety: Make sure your child has a properly fitting helmet, one that covers their forehead, but does not fall over their eyes. Your child should be able to shake their head side to side without the helmet moving. The Y straps on the sides should be adjusted to sit just underneath your child’s ears.
- Balance: Encourage your child to practise standing on one leg, this can be done through activities such as throwing a ball or seeing how many times your child can hit a balloon into the air while balancing on one leg. Next, consider the use of a balance bike or removing the pedals from your child’s bike. Put the seat height low enough so your child can touch the ground with both legs. Encourage your child to sit on the seat and scoot along with their feet. Once they have mastered scooting, have them practise lifting their feet up once the bike gets moving.
- Co-ordination: Engage your child in a game of “Go, Go, Stop” where they can practise moving their bike forward and co-ordinating their new found balance skills with using their brakes. You can also have your child practise pushing their bike around an obstacle course of cones and progress to scooting the bike through the course using their feet.
- Leg and Core Muscles: Encourage your child to practise running, jumping and climbing. Encouraging your child to play on playground equipment can help them to develop these skills. If you are looking for more ideas of how to develop your child’s jumping skills, refer to our previous blog post on how to develop your child’s jumping skills.
If you are concerned that your child is not progressing in their bike skills or you are unsure about what sort of bike may be appropriate to meet your child’s needs, a therapist who works specifically with children may be able to give them the helping hand they need. Move and Play’s therapists frequently help children to learn to ride a bike.
Contact our clinic today by email or phone on (07) 4942 9343 to find out how our physiotherapists and occupational therapists can help your child.