Starting a toddler on a balance bike is a great way to give children independence and encourage outdoor movement. But, for parents, sometimes the task can be daunting!
I grew up proudly sporting…and then ditching my training wheels on my bike at age 7. It was a big deal…..dwarfed now by some of my own kids riding pedal bikes before the age of THREE.
Learning to Ride a Balance Bike
And while it sounds and looks impressive (especially when said kids are petite riding those pedals), they certainly aren’t unique. With the introduction of the balance bike as more mainstream over the past 10 or so years, kids are finding newfound freedom on wheels at a much younger age.
Let me also preface by saying that not ALL kids want (or can) ride a bike at 2 or 3 or 4 or 7. There is no magic number and no right number. Every kid is different, every experience is different.
So if your kid isn’t ready yet, that doesn’t mean they’re behind or failing or any of that nonsense. So, take a deep breath and relax – it’s more important to LOVE biking than anything else. That’s our goal here more than anything else. Have a reluctant biker? Here’s some tips!
How to Teach a Toddler to Ride a Balance Bike
After having 5 kids successfully ride a balance bike (with no knowledge of training wheels), we’ve learned a few things. As always, I know I don’t know everything, nor do I claim to. Please comment with your own suggestions or questions, and chime in the conversation. That always helps ALL of us!
The photos below show all our kids riding…all at about age 2 (some more proficiently than others).
Of the five of them, one was on pedals before three, 2 of them right at age three, one of them not until three and a half and one TBD since she is still riding a balance bike and just figuring out how to glide at almost 3.
10 Tips for Balance Bike Riding
Introduce your toddler to a balance bike at a young age
12-18 months is a great time to have a balance bike in your possession, even if it’s much too big for those little legs. Let it be in your house and available for them to check out at any time.
If you find your toddler is scared of their balance bike, do not push it. Exposure and small increments of riding repeatedly are the most effective tactics in learning to ride a balance bike.
Talk it up!
When they DO check it out, make a big deal about it – about how neat it is and “big kid” they are. Encourage other kids or adults in your home to do the same.
Learning to ride a balance bike happens easier when a child is exposed to a culture of biking that is fun.
Bling, Bling, Bling
Horns, bells, tassels, etc. go a really long way. Bring out the bling and be ok with that! They make fantastic stocking stuffers.
We listed some of our favorite bling ideas in this post.
Don’t Forget the Helmet
Get a well-fitting helmet right away AND make sure they wear it every.single.time. The helmet goes with the bike like peanut butter and jelly, no questions asked. This is important for two reasons:
- They never question wearing a helmet when they’re older because that is ALWAYS what they have done.
- Just because your toddler is barely walking with the bike now, they’ll soon catch on and YOU’LL be running to catch up. Be ready for crashes – they do and will happen. And helmets can be replaced much easier than heads. We’ve had many a helmet save a forehead.
As far as toddler bike helmets, we recommend the Giro Scamp, Joovy Noodle and WOOM helmets (returning December 2020). These all fit small heads well and truly keep them protected.
Check out our other bike helmet suggestions here.
Toddler on a Balance Bike: Start Small and Don’t Stress
Get your toddler straddling the bike even just 3-5 minutes a day. Walk with them, supporting the bike so they can get a feel of it. You’ll feel like nothing is happening and they’ll never ride. They will.
Once you can (weather improves, the child seems more interested, etc.), take it outside. Go on a walk and be patient enough to let them ride 10 feet. Then 30 feet. Then 50.
The great thing about balance bikes is that they are light and small. They can be thrown in a stroller super easily. It’s all about consistency….a little every day AND not pushing it. Your 2 year old is more strong-willed than you.
Bring A Friend
PEER PRESSURE goes a super, duper long way with bikes. Get around other kids riding balance bikes so they get the idea. Even though yours has pedals, ride with them.
If they’re the only one on a bike in your family, they’re just not going to have much interest in doing it. Ride circles around them, but show them how fun YOU are having!
Before you know it you’ll have a little biker gang of kids on balance bikes doing tricks.
Patience is a Virtue when teaching a toddler to ride a balance bike
Be patient. Really, really patient. The consistency and time really does make a difference. Let them try on a slight downhill too…but be ready to run after them when they start going!
Eventually they’ll naturally start balancing and lifting their feet to glide. And life will never be the same!
Get them the Right Bike
Best tip? Get them a balance bike that works for them, not against them. You can find our full line-up of balance bike reviews here. To be honest, there are many that have passed through our home over the past 7 years that are not on that line-up, but those are the ones we have had the best luck with.
The most important things to pay attention to are stand over height (you want it low for the little ones) and we prefer balance bikes with handbrakes so they can be learning that skill too.
While we think many of them are great, this is the one we recommend to family and friends first (and this is why)
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Tuesday 28th of January 2020
Thank you so much for sharing these tips and tricks. You have a lot of experience, for sure. Our 3rd is just now 18 months, so far she had a small wooden 4 wheeler in the house. She loves riding that. We still have several larger bikes just waiting for her to pick them up. She wants to do whatever her older sisters so, so I am pretty sure that she will want very soon.
Wednesday 31st of May 2017
I didn't get my oldest two on balance bikes until they were older (3 and 4), but better late than never! And they transitioned to pedal bikes so easily. Now my 3rd is just getting started at age 2, and my 16 month old isn't going to be left out for long!
Friday 26th of May 2017
Great reminders for why I need to get my girls out more on theirs, especially now that our rural road has been repaved with a friendlier to bikes surface.
Thursday 25th of May 2017
We have both a balance bike and one with wheels, along with a couple scooters. Our biggest issue is getting her to understand steering. She makes it a couple feet and drives into the grass or turns so tight she falls then it is days before she wants to try again. She hates not being perfect the first time, but I have no idea how to helo her figure steering out.
Thursday 25th of May 2017
Hmmmm....let me do some digging and see what I can find out for you!
Wednesday 24th of May 2017
I love the idea of having it around for when they decide they are ready!