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With a little bit of help, lots of determination and masses of praise you can get your little ones riding a bike even if you can't ride one yourself! It is astonishing how quickly children learn about balance, speed, peddling and brakes when they are inspired and excited about riding a bike for themselves.
The most important thing to arrange when teaching to ride a bike is to make sure a helmet is properly fitted and that it is worn at all times. Elbow and knee pads are a good idea too to mimimise scrapes. You may even get them to wear gloves in case they fall off and graze their hands...
A correctly sized bike is essential too. Riding a bike that is too big can be treacherous for little ones and will prevent successful learning. It may also damage their confidence if the bike is too big to handle. Make sure the saddle is at the right height too to ensure their feet can touch the ground. Obviously, check that everything is working correctly, especially the brakes!
Start by pushing the bike and encouraging your child to simply sit on the saddle and have a ride. Explain about balancing and show them how it feels when the bike is balanced and when it's not. Then, talk about steering and explain how to make the bike go in different directions.
The next step is to gently push the bike and get your child to propel it forward using the pedals. Try not to hold the handlebars as this will interfere with their grasp of balance. They need to master the bike and whether it stays upright or not.
To start, the best place is a slightly sloping area, that is covered with short grass. It's not difficult to ride on short grass. The incline will mean they are propelled forward slightly. And, the grass will mean a softer landing than stone paths.
Keep an eye on how they are sitting on the bike. It is common for children to sit too far forward and bend their body; encourage them to sit upright. Make sure they are not gripping the handlebars too much either. They need to just gently hold them.
Decide which is to be the leading foot (the one they push off on) and try to keep to the same one each time.
Learning to ride can be incredibly rewarding, but also frustrating. Be patient and keep practicing to get it right. Try for a couple of pedal pushes to start with. Give plenty of praise when they start to get the hang of riding. Keep a watchful eye and direct them rather than tell them off about things they may do wrong.
Once they get the hang of it, they will never look back and it will be the start of lots more fun!
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