Gift of two-wheels
Give your children a lifelong love of cycling with our tips and advice for teaching kids to ride bikes.
Did your child get a bike for Christmas? Are they already relishing the feeling of their first taste of freedom on two wheels? There is a lot riding on your child’s initial experiences of cycling – you want them to fall in love with it so that it becomes a natural part of their lifestyle through every stage, but an upsetting beginning can put kids off sport and activity. Here are our top tips for setting them off on the right track.
Stop before the fun stops
Don’t wait until they are tired, cold or hungry to pack up and go home. We know it’s not always easy to predict when that point will occur, but if you can finish every ride on a high note, with them wanting more, it’s going to be easier to get them out on the next ride. Miserable memories of exercise and resentment for being dragged outside when they didn’t want to go are some of the most common reasons given by sedentary adults for why they are not active now.
Little and often to build confidence
Do you ski or snowboard? Think how rusty you feel on the slopes when you haven’t been for a year. Skills need to be constantly reinforced with practice to gain proficiency. Some kids take to cycling like ducks to water, others are a little timid and take time to build their confidence. Cycling a little bit nearly every day will build skills and confidence much more quickly than an occasional bike ride and will ensure that the skills are firmly fixed in their brains and bodies.
Set them up for success
Give them the tools they need to do well. A bike that fits and is in good condition is absolutely fundamental to them enjoying cycling. There’s loads of great advice on children’s bikes including from Cycle-SOS and CyclingUK.
Learning a new skill, especially a physical one, is tiring and fatigue affects our ability to learn. Before heading out on your bikes make sure your child is well fed, rested and not showing signs of tiredness or frustration. We all know sometimes kids need to be cajoled into doing anything but there is no point in pushing them so hard that cycling becomes associated with conflict. It should be fun and if it isn’t save it for another day.
Use the bike to go to interesting places
Who doesn’t love an adventure? Whether it’s pedalling to your local playpark or going to get an ice cream, having a fun destination as your goal makes the whole journey a little more exciting. For older children it’s a great time to introduce map reading and navigation skills. Tracing out your journey before you go and planning different routes, even to familiar places, is a brilliant way to teach them about their local geography and build some valuable life skills.
Model the behaviour you want to see
As parents you know children learn by example and they love to copy. Make sure they see you doing the things needed to prepare for a bike ride, as well as helping them once outside. Check your bikes over together, inflate your tyres, ensure you have a full water bottle, and talk about what you’re wearing to be warm, be seen and be safe. These things will then become part of their own preparation routine as they grow. Don’t ask your children to do something you don’t do – if you want them to wear a helmet wear your own too. Once out on the road or trail, slow down and talk through everything you’re doing so they can follow your example.
Make it a part of their life
Introducing a child to cycling instils in them a lifelong skill, which offers fun, adventure, health and cheap transportation. Use bikes as much as you can in your daily activity, such as riding to the shops or school if possible, so they learn that motorised transport is not the only way to travel. Cycling is versatile; it can be a leisure pursuit, competitive sport or simply gets you from A to B. Most people dip between these types of cycling at different times of their lives so give your children exposure to all of it.
Make memories together
Cycling holidays are a brilliant way for families to connect and explore somewhere new, as well as cementing a love of bike riding. On a bike you don’t have to travel far to experience something completely different as this range of UK family cycling holidays shows. Cycling holidays have enough activity to keep everyone happy but still allow time to relax together. You’ll be amazed how enjoyable a cycling holiday can be.