Often, cycle-loving parents want to pass on their love for the sport to their off-spring with the hope that they may get another cycling buddy soon. However, for the child to pick up and enjoy cycling, they have to be taught well and allowed to pick up the technique at their own pace. This article focuses on some tips that could be helpful to get your child to enjoy their time on the saddle.
MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS READY
More often than not, when a child sees other children riding a bicycle they are going to want one too. This is a good indication that they are ready to be on a cycle and have grasped some sort of idea of how it works. Many children can start out learning to ride a bicycle around 4 to 5 years of age.
CHOOSE A CYCLE
The first and most important thing is to choose a bicycle that it good for your child. When it comes to a first cycle, never buy one with the notion of, 'she/he will grow into it'. The cycle should be of an appropriate size for your child. Before buying it, make sure that the ball of your child's feet can touch the ground easily when he/she is on the saddle. Also, ensure that the reach from the saddle to the handlebar is comfortable and not to 'stretched out'.
Irregularities in sizing can make the child uncomfortable while on the saddle and lead to them not being able to maintain a correct posture and thereby, the concept of balancing while pedaling becomes harder to grasp.
AVOID TRAINING WHEELS
While the idea of starting your child off on a set of training wheels is appealing, it is suggested by many experts to avoid them altogether. The reason behind this being that even though the child may get used to pedaling, they don't get the right feel and posture required to be able to balance. Then, trying to learn how to balance after removing the training wheels becomes a daunting and exhausting task. Which could lead to discouragement to ride a bicycle.
CHOOSE A SUITABLE AREA
Remember to choose a suitable place for your child's first ride. Obviously, riding in a park or on grass may sound the most appealing for if they fall, they have cushioning. However, this isn't a good idea as pedaling on grass (especially for the first time) isn't very easy! Choose an area that has a smooth, preferable tarmac, surface. To avoid unnecessary accidents, make sure that there isn't traffic in the area
It is natural for your child to be scared or apprehensive about their first time on a bicycle. To give them confidence, support them when they are on the saddle. Holding the handlebar or the saddle while they ride isn't a great idea. Instead, stand behind them and wedge their rear wheel between your legs and calves while they mount the cycle. Support them by holding gently under their armpits, so that they've got complete control of the bicycle. Doing so also eases pressure on your back as you aren't bent over holding the back of their saddle.
LET GO GRADUALLY
As you see your child gaining confidence on their bicycle, you can slowly start to let go off them. However, stay close by if they suddenly require your support.
If fully ready to ride, they will grasp the concept of balancing and pedaling almost instantaneously.
Sometimes, it helps if the child learnt the concept of pedaling one foot at a time. In this sense, position the pedal of their stronger foot at 2 o'clock and get them to place their foot on the pedal. Then, ask them to push down hard on that pedal while the other leg is pushing on the ground. They will grasp the concept after some practice.
PUT A STOP TO IT
It maybe easier for your child to grasp the idea of braking without actually being on the bicycle. Have them walk alongside the bicycle, holding the handlebars and pushing it.
Introduce them to the concept of braking by having them pull the brake levers at any point. They can try pulling the levers at different intensities to get a feel of how the braking works, without it catching them unguarded and throwing them off their bicycle.
Once they've got used to the brakes, have them sit on the saddle and try braking. Most often they will brake effectively however, they may forget to put their feet down while braking. So, ensure you are close enough to catch them if they do fall.
TRIAL AND ERROR
Learning how to ride a bicycle takes some practice and patience from both the parent and the child. Some children may pick it up fast while some may take their own time to get a hang of it. Always be patient with your child and encourage them to get back up when they fall. Supportive and encouraging words will boost your child's confidence and enable them to pick up faster.
Never lose your patience or get angry with your child if they make the same mistakes or take time to grasp a concept. This will only discourage them and hinder their progress. Sometimes, being harsh or impatient with them may cause them to want to give up learning how to ride.
If you are buying your child his/her first bicycle, remember that they ARE going to fall while learning. Make sure you buy a helmet that fits properly and that they wear it whenever they get out of the house to ride.
Secondly, when starting out, protective gear could be helpful to brace their falls. Arm pads and knee pads are especially useful as these are the areas that get hurt more often than not. Long pants and long-sleeved t-shirts are better than bare arms and legs. Last but not the least, good shoes or boots are better than sandals and slippers.
Rest assured, all of this will enable a smooth learning phase for your child and keep them glued to the saddle for times to come! Brace yourself, for children grow fast. Their bicycles too will have to keep up with their growth!