Child Physical Therapy: Bike Riding

Riding my bike around the neighborhood or to the nearest ice cream shop is always one of my fondest childhood memories. Bike riding provides a sense of independence and freedom for children, as well as a number of physical benefits. With summer approaching, learn about the benefits of riding a bike and tips for helping your young ones learn!

Chris Yarzab

Chris Yarzab

Why is bike riding important?

Bike riding is a full body strengthening activity. Bike riding requires balance, hand-eye coordination, strength and endurance. It improves bilateral coordination by working both legs together to turn the pedals. Bike riding also strengthens the core, which is necessary for everyday posture. Lastly, it facilitates social interactions with other neighbor children. Riding bikes with other kids improves a child’s social confidence.

What is an appropriate age to start riding a bike?

Children typically learn to ride a bicycle between the ages 3 and 6 years old. To help your child become familiar with bikes, consider a push bike or no pedal bike around 18 months. Balance bikes, like Skuut, are great to help your child develop confidence on the bike. The child’s feet are on the ground to provide stability while learning to balance. Once your child is around 3 years old, a tricycle is appropriate. Tricycles can help your child coordinate leg movements. It introduces the cause and effect of pedaling in order to propel forward.  Two-wheeled bike with training wheels should be introduced around 4 years old. Between the ages 5- 6 years old, it is time to ditch the training wheels for a two-wheeled bike! Start out on the grass with a slight incline. The incline will help the child slowly coast while practicing balancing on a two-wheeled bike. The grass will provide a sense of safety since falling on grass is less painful than the sidewalk.

How can I help my child learn to ride a bike?

  • • Extra support. Hold the back of the seat when your child is first starting to ride. Slowly release your grip as your child’s balance becomes stronger and eventually let go.
  • • Cheer your child on! Encourage your child to continue to pedal faster. By pedaling faster, they are receiving more proprioceptive input to aid in motor planning. The child can place more energy and awareness into the task of pedaling rather than letting fear conquer.
  • • Safety first. Before letting go, be sure your child is able to break correctly. Practice breaking on the grass before you start on the sidewalk.
  • • Sizing matters. Make sure the size of the bike is appropriate for your child. The child should be able to straddle the frame of the bike and place both feet on the ground. When sitting on the seat, one foot should be able to comfortably touch the ground.
  • Helmet! Always have your child wear a helmet, whether they are riding a tricycle, push bike, training wheels, or two-wheeled bike. An appropriate size helmet allows two finger widths between the eyebrows and helmet rim, and one finger width between the chinstrap and chin. The helmet should not move from side to side while on the head.

                  Riding a bike is challenging at first, but it will get easier with more practice. Continue to celebrate the small victories, and help your child cope with falls. If your child is fearful of riding a bike, do not force them to learn. Continue to let them explore other bikes such as balance bikes, push bikes, and tricycles until they feel comfortable. If your child is having difficulty with riding a bike, our physical therapists at Lumiere Children’s Therapy can help. Schedule an appointment today!

Lumiere Therapy Team  32x32

References:

Bike Riding Milestones. (2017, May 04). Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://www.abcpediatrictherapy.com/bike-riding-milestones/

Drobnjak, L. (2017, March 23). Helping Your Child Learn to Ride a Bike. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://theinspiredtreehouse.com/child-development-learning-ride-bike/

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