So is learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels an essential life skill?
No. I didn’t really think so either. But it is an important milestone of childhood, wouldn’t you say? I think most parents look forward to the day their child overcomes every fear and uncertainty to zoom away on two wheels, achieving something that moments before seemed impossible and in one instant learning a skill they will remember for the rest of their lives. As the old saying goes, “It’s like riding a bicycle! Once you learn how, you never forget!”
But it doesn’t always come so easy. Both of my daughters struggled to learn to ride a bike. They were so fearful, so unsure. And though they did eventually learn, it wasn’t without tears and protests and a few scraped knees! (And LOTS of running up and down the street with our hand on the back of their bike! Talk about exhausting!)
But this week our little Peanut learned to ride a bike and it was one of the most seemless experiences you can imagine. And he’s only FOUR! And interestingly enough, he took to it much later than his older brother who was riding without training wheels at age THREE!
So what was our secret? Meet the balance bike!
|Cute, huh? And incidentally, I don’t have a son named Jaden. We just never took off the stickers…|
On an evening walk through our neighborhood a few years ago, my husband and I met a couple who were sitting outside watching their boys ride their bicycles. I noticed one of the boys seemed incredibly young to be riding without training wheels and when I made a comment about it, they informed us he was only four and had been riding for quite some time. Needless to say, we were impressed!
But then they showed us their wooden balance bicycle. The wife was German and said her parents, who still lived in Germany where bikes like these are a bit more common, had sent it over as a gift. With no pedals, this bike is designed to teach a child balance which, of course, is the real challenge in learning to ride a bike. The couple insisted that once a kid has the balance part down, learning to pedal comes easily!
Little Man was barely more than a baby at that point, but we were reeeally interested in that wooden bike and I scoured eBay and other online stores for one like it. (Be warned: good ones don’t come cheap.)
Then when we’d nearly forgotten about the wooden bike, I was driving by one day and happened to see our neighbors were having a yard sale. And guess what they had among their wares! I went home that day with a new (used) wooden balance bike for our boys.
And we found it works just as they said it does! Once a child has mastered the balance bike, transitioning to a pedaled bike is a breeze! Both of my boys took off on a regular bike in, no kidding, probably 60 seconds or less! Sometimes Peanut still forgets to pedal, but falling isn’t a problem because he has the balance to keep the bike upright.
Here are a couple of videos of him on the wooden bike. Peanut’s pretty tall for his age and his legs are so long I think it looks hilarious! But don’t let his slow pace here fool you. He can absolutely FLY on his wooden bike! (And, yes, I realize he’s not wearing a helmet. Forgive my utter disregard for my child’s health and safety. Sometimes I forget that letting your kid ride without a helmet is completely taboo…)
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