A balance bike is a type of miniature bicycle that children are able to ride without needing to know how to pedal or balance. In fact, the whole idea of the balance bike is to teach children how to balance and ride a bike on their own. Because of the running motion children use to ride these bikes they are sometimes called running bikes.
What is a Balance Bike?
A balance bike is a short bike that is typically targeted for children between the ages of 3 and 6. They don't have any pedals or chain. Balance bikes are designed for the child to push with their feet while scooting around their riding area. The child will soon begin to coast and balance on the bike without needing to be taught how to do it.
Balance bikes are short enough that the child always feels like he is in control. Parents don't really have to "use" a balance bike to teach children to ride. They simply need to provide a bike for the child and let the child learn on their own how to push and balance. Children as young as 2 years old can learn to use a balance bike.
How does a Balance Bike work?
Balance bikes are a successful way of teaching children to ride a bike because it teaches them how to balance before they start using pedals. The whole concept of steering a bicycle is a complicated process. It is not something that a 4 year old child can conscientiously think about and do. Adults probably can't either. However, with a little practice and no fear of falling, a child can learn to instinctively steer a bicycle by using a balance bike. Balancing a bike is all about small corrections in the bike's direction of travel.
A balance bike works by allowing children to learn to instinctively steer a bike on their own. They don't need to go to classes. Mom and Dad don't have to be frustrated. Children will learn by themselves if given the right tool-a balance bike.
Are Balance Bikes better than other bikes?
Balance bikes are better for teaching children to ride than other bikes because they are smaller. This allows the child to straddle the bike while keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground. A parent can use a regular bike to accomplish much of what a balance bike does, except it is hard to find bikes small enough for really little children.
To use a regular bike in the same way one would use a balance bike, the pedals need to be removed. This allows the child to move their feet freely without kicking the pedals of the bike. The seat should be lowered to its lowest possible position too. The child should be comfortable standing over the bike.
A regular bike can be used to teach a child to ride just like a balance bike is used, but the above modifications may keep a parent from wanting to use a regular bike. The biggest mistake parents make when using a regular bike in the same way as a balance bike is that they often want to buy a bike that is too big and let the child grow into it. A bike that is too big for the child to control will cause unnecessary fear and may keep the child from wanting to practice on the bike.
Are Balance Bikes better than training wheels?
Most first time parents are casual about training wheels. They assume that the only way to teach a child to ride a bike is by using them. This is all they know. However, after a parent has taught a child to ride, they usually take a strong opinion either way about training wheels.
Some parents think training wheels are great because mom and dad don't have to work hard while their children use a bike at the park. What they don't realize is that they may be delaying a child's ability to learn to ride a bike properly. Training wheels teach a child to pedal, but they don't teach a child to balance. If the desire is to teach a child to pedal, a tricycle is a more appropriate choice.
Other parents are convinced that training wheels are the worst fate to come upon a child. As mentioned, these crutches can keep a child from learning to balance. The way one steers and controls a bike with training wheels is completely opposite from the way steering is done without these devices.
Using a balance bike completely eliminates the need for training wheels. By the time a child graduates from using a balance bike, they already know how to control a bicycle. If they have ever ridden a tricycle, then they already know how to pedal too.
How to use a Balance Bike to teach a child to ride
To use a balance bike to teach a child how to ride starts with letting the child play with the bike. They will learn on their own the proper way to steer. No one will have to teach the child that if they start falling to the right, then they must turn to their wheel to the right. By the way, training wheels teach the child to turn to the left which causes crashes once the training wheels are removed.
Eventually the child will, on their own, learn to coast the bike by giving it a good push and lifting their feet. They will enjoy the freedom of movement this provides. They may even start seeking out little hills to ride down so they don't have to work so hard to push.
Once the child is comfortable with coasting and balancing, then it is a simple matter of getting a size appropriate bike for them. They should still be able to touch the ground on their new bike. If the child knows how to balance and steer using the balance bike, making the move to a bike with pedals is a simple matter. It should not require any bending over and running by the parent.
When the child is ready to move from a balance bike to a regular bike the transition will be nothing short of amazing. Trying to push a child to learn to ride a bike in one afternoon without having used a balance bike will be nothing short of traumatic for both the parent and the child.
Balance bikes have been used for many years to teach children in Europe to ride a bike. They are just now becoming popular in the United States. For those who have small children who will soon be learning to ride a bike, they can save themselves hours and tears by buying and using a balance bike.