With five kids, I get to do things people who don’t have five kids don’t. For instance, I get to experiment with different ways to teach a kid how to ride a bike.
This method I am about to share is the easiest.
Remember that little kids do not speak or understand complicated things. Say things in the simplest way possible. Use simple statements. Say things like, “You will not fall. You will not hurt. You will have fun. You will go fast.” Speak slowly. Smile. Nod. Listen. Have fun. Kids grow up, so enjoy every moment you can.
Step 1: Get equipment that fits. The simple rule of thumb is that the kid should be able to easily reach the ground while sitting on the bike, knees slightly bent, heels on the ground. They should be able to have their legs out so that the peddles don’t hit their legs. Get a bike helmet that is comfortable and doesn’t cover their eyes. Don’t get knee pads, gloves, etc… They don’t need it.
Step 2: Take the training wheels off. They are dangerous. When a kid starts having fun on the bike, they will try to turn and the bike will fall over because of the wheels. They learn that fast is dangerous, which is simply backwards for a bike. Tell them that the training wheels will make them hurt. It will make them fall off the bike when they go fast.
Step 3. Have them sit on the bike, feet on the ground, hands on the handlebars. Tell them that the bike will not fall over if their feet are on the ground. Tell them that they must not take their feet off the ground. Show them by gently pushing the bike sideways. Their feet will keep it up.
Step 4. Tell them to “glide”. This means they walk the bike, build up some speed, then have their feet float over the ground. If they lose balance, they use their feet to keep from falling and to stay up straight. Do not hold the bike during this. Let them start with walking, then let them build up some speed. When they glide, cheer for them, tell them “Good job!” give them a high five. Tell them they are learning quickly, and doing well.
Step 5. When they get good at gliding, they will naturally put their feet on the pedals. Tell them they can push the pedals to go faster. If they begin to lose balance, they will stick their feet out to keep from falling. Pretty soon, they are riding their bike! When they pedal two or three times on their own, tell them they have learned to ride a bike! Cheer! High five! Give them a cookie!
The last skills they need to learn are how to stop. Show them how to pedal backwards or how to pull on the brakes. They will figure out how to stop with their feet rather quickly. After that, teach them the rules of the road. In our house, it’s basically: (1) Don’t zoom into intesections; stop, go slow, and then go on the straight parts. Cars cannot see you, and you will get hurt and maybe die if you zoom into intersections. (2) When you see a car, say “Car!” and move to the side of the road.
When they get older, show them the stop signs, tell them to stay off the sidewalk if they go fast, tell them to stay on the right side of the road, and teach them the hand signals.
Three of my five kids learned this way. The last two learned in 5 minutes flat.
The last one that learned (6 years old) was really upset when we took off the training wheels. He showed us how the bike falls if it doesn’t have training wheels, and he said, “I will get hurt! It will be bad!” We had to show him all the other kids riding their bikes, and show him that they do not have training wheels and they do not fall. It took him a while to understand, but when he did, he wanted to learn.
Tomorrow, I am going to try and teach the 5 year old. I think he understands that the training wheels do not help.
It helps if you have a very, very gentle slope on a street. This will help them build up some speed, but not so much they realize what is happening.
Finally, training wheels are like government assistance. It seems like a really, really good idea, until you learn you never needed them in the first place, and are better off without them.