Most biking families have a simple rule – no helmet, no bike. Helmets are a critical piece of gear for biking and, in my opinion, should be non-negotiable. This post will help you understand how to get kids to wear a helmet, how to fit helmets AND the best bike helmets for kids.
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Getting kids to wear their helmets
Sooooo you have helmet regulations in place in your family, but in practice, enforcing this rule isn’t always easy. We started a “no helmet, no bike” policy from the second they could straddle a push bike. There is good data that shows that helmets keep kids safe. But that doesn’t mean they never put up a fight.
If your kid is resisting their helmet – and doesn’t automatically give in when you tell them the rule – try lightening the mood.
Put on your own helmet, even if you’re just standing by to watch. Toddlers and preschoolers might find it funny if you “forget” which body part to put the helmet onto. Give the helmet a funny name, or try sticking flowers in the holes.
Older kids might benefit from a little honesty – if you’ve ever gotten in a bike accident, tell them. Kids tend to think they are invincible, and it can be important to remind them (gently) that they’re not.
If these methods don’t work, make sure the helmet is comfortable. We once picked out an awesome looking R2D2 helmet, only to realize the lack of holes made it completely miserable in the summer.
How to pick out a good kids’ helmet
If you’re looking for a new helmet, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Also check out this helmet-fitting video from our friends over at Buddy Pegs.
Fit of the Helmet
if a helmet is too loose, it won’t be effective. If it’s too tight, you’re going to get resistance from your kid. Make sure the strap fits snuggly under the chin. Don’t go solely on ages when buying a helmet – kids have different size heads, and you need to make sure it fits, even if it means going up or down a size.
Comfort of the Helmet
If a helmet is too hot, or pinches in the wrong place, or has a visor that makes it difficult to see (or doesn’t have a visor and the sun gets in their eyes) – your kid will be less inclined to wear their helmet.
Not all helmets work for all sports. For example, a skateboard helmet should cover the back of a head. Many bike helmets don’t. If your kid does multiple sports, make sure their helmet is safe for every activity.
While safety is the ultimate priority, you’ll also get into a lot less fights if your kid feels good about what they’re wearing.
What is MIPS?
You’ll notice some kids’ bike helmets are labeled “MIPS,” which stands for Multidirectional Impact Protection System. MIPS helmets account for rotational impacts to the head, and help absorb some rotational impact.
All helmets have to meet certain safety standards, which currently do not include MIPS technology. Some studies have shown benefits from the technology, but it is an add-on. MIPS helmets are slightly more expensive, at about $15-20 a helmet.
Best Bike Helmets For Kids
When you’re deciding what to buy, you need to consider a few things – what sport will this helmet primarily be used for? Is my kid hanging out in a trailer, or going off mountain bike jumps? What is their chief complaint with their old helmet (Too hot? Too pinchy? Visor in the way?) What’s your budget?
When you figure out your answers, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of helmet you need. REI has a great selection of kids helmets that can help you find something that works for your kid.
If you are looking for a multifunctional helmet, the Nino Jr. is certified for both bike and snow. The helmet also has a flippable brim. And bonus – the inner liner is machine washable.
A smaller version is also available.
The Giro Tremor is a mountain bike style helmet with MIPS technology. The tremor has a large brim, and is great for sweaty heads and those who live in hot climates. The Giro Tremor has plenty of ventilation, but without compromising safety.
Nutcase has both MIPS and non-MIPS helmets. Nutcase’s helmets features vents in the front that will help keep heads cool. The buckle is magnetic, and means no more pinched chins. A spin dial in the back makes getting the right fit easy. Nutcase helmets are slightly heavier than others in this lineup, but are fantastic helmets.
Nutcase also offers a similar baby-sized helmet.
The BOB bike helmet is great for new riders who mostly need to get in the habit of wearing a helmet. The price is affordable without compromising any safety standards. This helmet fits really small heads very well.
POCito Omne SPIN Helmet
The POCito features SPIN technology. Like MIPS technology, SPIN technology helps protect brains during a impact. This technology lets the helmet turn during an oblique impact, reducing the transmission of force to the brain. Pocito helmets are also made with recycled materials.
It’s never comfortable (or safe) to ride with a squashed ponytail underneath your helmet. The Giro Scamp is ponytail compatible, making for a more comfortable ride. The visor is built in and not removable in this model.
The TMM team has found that this helmet fits MOST young kids very well and is a top choice for our little riders!
The Troy Lee A1 helmet is another MIPS helmet. This one features a large, adjustable visor. It also has hard shell that extends down the back of the head, instead of just foam like many youth helmets.
The OutdoorMaster might not be the fanciest, name-brand helmet, but it’s the most affordable, and still checks all the safety boxes. Over 1,300 5-star ratings on Amazon can’t be wrong!
While it doesn’t have MIPS technology, this helmet is CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) certified and is made with a standard EPS foam and an ABS shell, so it does provide adequate protection. In particular, the back of the helmet comes down behind the ears and provides good coverage for any sideways skids or handlebar flips.
The helmet is highly adjustable, so fits most heads well, from age 3+. (Don’t expect your 1-2 year olds to fit though – we found it runs slightly large.) It will grow with your child for several seasons.
Our favorite thing is the variety. This helmet comes in 13(!) different prints and colors, from unicorns to dinosaurs. If you have a child who resists wearing a helmet, you can let them pick their favorite design or color for motivation.
It also has wonderful ventilation and airflow for hot days on the bike path.
The downside of the OutdoorMaster is the cheaper price tag. It’s probably not going to last as a hand-me-down for 10 years and five kids, but is certainly tough enough to last through hard use for at least a couple of years. If you aren’t concerned about extended durability, then it’s a great and very affordable option.
Tell us your favorite!
Has your family tried any of these helmets? Let us know what your experience has been with them in the comments! We hope you find something that works for you, and keeps your kids safe and happy.
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