I can remember my summers so vividly. Riding my bike in a secured parking lot where my sister and I knew that cars rarely came. I would ride that bike for hours. My sister and I even made up ‘dance’ routines with our bikes to the hits of the summer…ah the memories.
I can actually remember the first time a rode a 2 wheeler. I had previously ridden a bike with training wheels, but my friends had a small bike that fit me that only had two wheels. It was small enough that I could comfortably place my feet flat on the ground when I felt unstable.
By the time I was 10, I was trying all sorts of cool things that my sister was doing…riding without holding the handle bar, mounting the bike in this cool way that my dad used to. I felt so free. Nothing felt quite as good as riding my bike down the boardwalk with the ocean breeze blowing.
Of course, times have changed. When I was a child we never thought of wearing a helmet while riding. You just didn’t do that. Today, if you’re NOT wearing a helmet you’re not being safe and smart. Particularly if you are riding your bike in the street.
Also, training wheels are not the only way to learn to ride a bike. Today, gliders are particularly popular with parents. I’m not promoting them or suggesting that every parent run out and buy them. However, this is another way to familiarize a child with the concept of balance and bike riding.
As an occupational therapist, I look at the many benefits that riding a bike has on development. Most people don’t break down the task but riding a bike involves several major developmental milestones such as balance, core strength, visual scanning, bilateral motor coordination, and lower extremity strength just to name a few.
Just because a child is 5 doesn’t mean that he should be able to ride a bike. We as parents need to be patient and understand all of the foundational skills that must be in place before a child will be able to ride even a tricycle. If your child has weak legs, they may not have the strength to pedal. If your child can’t maintain a seated position on the floor without supporting himself with his hands, or leaning to one side or the other, they may not have the core strength and balance to ride a 2-wheeler.
Bottom line, learning to ride a bike takes many more steps and foundational skills than we often think about. So don’t beat yourself up as a parent if your child isn’t riding a 2-wheeler at age 4 or 5. Give it some time. Give them plenty of opportunities. And enjoy the process. 🙂