To pedal or not to pedal--that’s the question on every parent’s mind when it comes to teaching little kids how to ride a bike. While balance bikes have been around a while in Europe, they’re still just gaining recognition in the U.S. That's no reason not to take them seriously; strider bikes actually provide many important physical, developmental, and emotional benefits for tykes learning to ride.
Here are the top five reasons why balance bikes are the best option for little ones just getting in the saddle.
1. You can start ‘em young:
Children as young as 22-months-old can learn to balance on their own. At the age of 4 or 5, when they get taller and stronger, they smoothly transfer to a pedal bike without ever needing the counterproductive training wheels.
2. Without "crutches":
Unlike training wheels, which don’t impart any real skills, balance bikes teach skills like balancing, steering, braking, using caution, as well as basic traffic rules--the skills needed to ride a traditional pedal bike. Plus, kids gain confidence, enthusiasm for biking, and the benefits of exercise from an early age. Moreover, training wheels appear on the black list of many pediatricians due to their negative impact on a child's spine.
3. The lighter, the better:
Balance bikes are two to three times lighter than pedal bikes with training wheels which is crucial for two or three-year-old children. Toddlers can ride several miles without getting tired, keep up with their parents and older siblings, and run up hills they would never conquer on pedal bikes with training wheels. What we often do not realize is that little kids have to manage pedal bikes with training wheels of almost their own physical weight. Just imagine yourself riding a 130, 150 or 170 pound bike! No wonder little children have problems pedaling and keeping those (relatively) heavy machines moving.
4. They reduce risk:
Because there are no pedals, toddlers and preschoolers benefit from the security of having their own feet on the ground. Kids learning to ride on bikes with pedals are likely to keep their feet on the pedals when they are about to fall down, increasing the risk of toppling, along with the bicycle. With balance bikes, children instinctively plant their feet to slow down and stabilize, reducing the risk of tipping. Some balance bikes also have rear, hand- controlled brakes; steering limiters for a smoother ride; and non-swivel seats, to further reduce the risk of falls.
5. They foster positive parent-child bonding:
Bike riding is something families can do together. It’s free, encourages physical activity and outdoor exploration, and gets the whole family moving, together. While pedal bikes with training wheels don’t allow younger children to keep up with their parents or older siblings, balance bikes keep the entire family happily on the go.