Balance Bikes: The Secret to Learning to Riding a Bike

How to Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike

I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 27 years old.

But that’s a story for another day.

Regardless, I knew that if there was thing I taught my children early on – it would be to ride a bike.

And after teaching him to ride his bike last year at the age of five without much effort at all, I’ve discovered the secret to teaching a child to ride a bike:

Choosing the right training bike.

When Jack was about to turn three, we decided that we should get him some kind of bike to ride during our walks. He showed an interest in bike riding whenever we were with his cousins, so we thought it would be a good idea.

At first, I thought about buying him a little tricycle – but then something else caught my eye.

A balance bike.

After doing some research, I realized what a cool concept it was and how it would set him up to transition to a “big kid” bike.

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Jack was a little nervous on it at first, but within a few weeks, he was zipping around like no other. Up until he turned five, we were constantly getting comments on how good he was at it and what a cool concept it was.

schwinn balance bike

When Jack was about to turn five, Forrest and I felt he was outgrowing the balance bike and was ready for a “big kid” bike.

Against my better judgment, we decided to start him out on training wheels with it.

Jack was thrilled by this because he seemed to think it was a rite of passage – you can’t ride a two wheeler without training wheels first!

However, we quickly found that he became very reliant on those training wheels, and he seemed to forget how to balance on his own. I noticed him wobbling back and forth quite a bit.

training wheels

After just a few days, Forrest and I decided to take them off and see how Jack did.

It was a bit of an emotional disaster – he couldn’t stay up if his life depended on it, he got frustrated, Forrest got frustrated, and they both said, “This is never going to work!”

However, I had a flashback to when I gave up learning to ride a bike as a child, and I told Jack he was going to get back on it until he learned, and that I knew he could. I sat there for about 20 minutes saying over and over again, “I know you can do it.”

He was skeptical but gave me the benefit of the doubt, and we went back to the sidewalk.

He stumbled again a few more times, and I could tell he was about to call it quits…but before he could, I went and grabbed his balance bike. I told him to get on it and ride it so he could remember how to balance.

So he went up and down the sidewalk and really got his groove back. After I felt like he had done that enough, we went over to the neighbor’s grassy hill (with permission, of course) and decided to practice there.

OF course, riding on the grass is a lot harder than on concrete, but he felt less like he might hurt himself, so we went with it.

The first time down the hill – he stayed up for a little while! More than he had before, and I could his confidence was growing.

After about 20 minutes, he was successfully going down the hill without falling. I will never forget the look of pride in his eyes that he had finally done it.

I almost started crying thinking about how hard he worked and how he was successful!

And I was so grateful for that little green balance bike.

He then got enough confidence to go down the cement path next to the hill – and even after he crashed into a bush (just once), he got back up with no tears and tried again – successfully.

And he’s never looked back.

From that point on, Jack quickly became skilled with riding his bike, and I can’t think of a time where he has fallen.

And I really do believe that him getting back on the balance bike, realizing that he knew how to balance, and then trying again (with lots of words of affirmation and encouragement from mom) is what helped.

So if you are determined to get your kiddo to learn a bike sooner rather than later – get them a balance bike.

It teaches them how to balance, which is an essential skill when it comes to bike riding. Training wheels might give kids confidence that they won’t fall down – but in the end, it becomes more of a crutch that you have to wean away from than a helpful tool (at least in my opinion from watching Jack really struggle with balance after he used them).

Oh, and gain a little patience for the process and understand the power of words of affirmation – they make a big difference. I think Jack finally started to believe in himself because he could tell that believed in him.

I’m obviously not an expert – but I do think balance bikes are the secret to teaching a child to riding a bike quickly and easily! Jack rode his for about two years, but I think we could have introduced a pedaled bike to him sooner if we’d wanted. So if your child is struggling to get rid of training wheels, I think having them on a balance bike even just for a short time can help!

So there you have it!

What is a Balance Bike

A balance bike is a bike with no pedals. They have two wheels, and a child rides it by powering it with their feet. Once they get going, they can put their feet up on a little foot rest and they can whiz around pretty quickly on them!

Children as young as 18 months can use balance bikes, and they can really get pretty speedy on them! By the time Jack was done using his, he was whizzing down hills like no other. I’m not getting when I say we got stopped at least once every time we went to the lake by our house by people who were amazed!

Even though it can seem a bit scary at first, they are actually safer than tricycles or training wheels which tend to wobble from one side to another. Balance bikes truly teach the principals of bike riding before you add the pedals.

Is that to say if your child rides a tricycle or uses training wheels, they won’t ever learn to ride a bike? OF COURSE NOT. There have probably been hundreds of thousands of kids who have done just that. However, a balance bike is an awesome resource and tool if you are able to get one.

Best Balance Bike

There are so many balance bikes out there, and it can feel a little intimidating to choose one!

I’ve seen them as low as $25 and as high as over $200!

To be honest, any of them will probably work. But if you are buying the balance bike when your child is younger, they will likely have it until they are about 4 or 5 years old – so it’s generally a good idea to invest in a slightly better one.

We got Jack a green Schwinn bike (similar to this one) – and I think it was about $50. It worked well for the two years he used it, and we plan to let Oliver use it when he is ready.

When looking for the perfect balance bike for your child, consider the following:

  • What is it made of?
  • Is it adjustable?
  • What are the age recommendations?
  • What are the customer reviews?

Honestly, as long as the reviews don’t say it falls apart after a month, you should be good to go 🙂 Here are a couple of popular brands of balance bikes to consider (variety of price ranges):

I hope that this was helpful! We really believe in the power of a balance bike in our family 🙂

teach your child to ride a book


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