Monday, August 3, 2009

When to Teach a Child to Ride a Bike

When is the right time to take off the training wheels and teach your child how to ride her own two-wheeler? It may never be easy, but once your child learns, it's a skill she'll have for her whole life. This weekend we were at the shore with a group of friends and when it came time for the morning bike ride, one of the women, now in her mid-40's, admitted that she never learned how to ride a bike. It was a shame because she missed out on a beautiful, healthy, fun morning activity.

According the American Academy of Pediatrics:

1. Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike until he or she is ready, at about age 5 or 6. Consider the child's coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster brakes until your child is older and more experienced.

2. Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new bike.

3. Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to "grow into." Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.

4. How to test any style of bike for proper fit:

a. Sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebar, your child must be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground.
b. Straddling the center bar, your child should be able to stand with both feet flat on the ground with about a 1-inch clearance between the crotch and the bar.
c. When buying a bike with hand brakes for an older child, make sure that the child can comfortably grasp the brakes and apply sufficient pressure to stop the bike.

5. A helmet should be standard equipment. Whenever buying a bike, be sure you have a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)-approved helmet for your child.

The process of teaching your child to ride his first two-wheeler likely won't be easy. There will be some frustration on both your parts and maybe a few tears (on both your parts!) but persevere! It will be well worth the effort when he can ride with his friends year after year after year.

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