Tricycles and training wheels are classic equipment for teaching young kids to ride a bike. But there’s a different type of training bike that’s getting a lot of attention: The balance bike! Balance bikes have actually been around for quite a while. They’re extremely popular around Europe (especially in Holland, where many biking enthusiasts reside!) and more parents and caregivers from all over the world are turning to balance bikes to get their tiny tots moving.
What is a Balance Bike?
Balance bikes (sometimes referred to as striders or gliders) are bicycles specifically designed for toddlers. Children as young as 2 can begin riding balance bikes. Balance bikes have two wheels and no pedals. The goal of the no-pedal approach is to help toddlers learn to steer and balance first. As their balancing becomes more stable and their steering becomes more accurate, they’re more likely to make a smooth transition into a traditional bicycle with pedals.
Benefits of Balance Bikes
Here are a few benefits of the balance bike that set it apart from tricycles or training wheels.
Gives Them More Control
The key feature that makes balance bikes so attractive is that they offer toddlers more control. Because their feet are still on the ground, they’re introduced to the world of cycling with the benefit of stability! Balance bikes are designed to make little ones feel safe and secure while easing them into riding.
Helps them Master One Skill at a Time
Learning to pedal, balance and steer, all at the same time, can be quite the task for a toddler! With balance bikes, they’re learning one skill at a time. First, they learn to sit on the bike and find their balance with their feet planted on the ground. As they walk their feet forward, they can feel how their arms steer the direction of the bike. Before you know it, they’re zooming up and down the street, moving their feet, balancing their bodies, and giving those motor and coordination skills a boost!
If you can remember when you first learned to ride a bike, you might recall feelings of fear and frustration. Falling off a bike might be considered a necessary childhood step, but it can also be a little scary and discouraging for a young child. Balance bikes are low to the ground, which can make falls a lot less daunting. In addition, they’re easy to use! Toddlers pick up on balance bikes very quickly, making them feel positive, self-assured, and confident in their new skills.
Much like a tricycle, balance bikes offer a lot of developmental benefits. It helps them practice motor planning (learning how to turn corners), understand spatial awareness (learning how to avoid obstacles), and it activates the vestibular system (learning how to balance and move). Plus, it’s a great leg workout! Building leg strength can help with other milestones like climbing stairs and walking backward.
Tips for Purchasing a Balance Bike
There are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing a balance bike. First, you want to make sure that the height is right for your child. When seated, their feet should be safely planted on the ground with the ability to push off. Another thing to watch out for is the tire size. Smaller tires (about 12-inch) are great for younger riders, and larger tires (about 14-inch) are better for taller or older riders. Air tires are better for toddlers because they’re lighter, which makes it easier for your child to maneuver the bike.
After some time on a balance bike, you’ll notice your toddler becoming more and more comfortable with balance and coordination. When they’re ready for their next challenge, you just have to add pedals and viola! A cyclist is born!