Biking with kids CAN be fun, but we know it can also be an emotional roller coaster before the fun ever kicks in. If your child does not know how to ride a bike, read our article about Avid4 Adventure's "Never have I ever" biking progression for tips on how to get your kid pedaling. If you’ve made it past teaching your kiddos how to ride a bike, congratulations! You got beyond running awkwardly beside them. They wobbled; you wobbled. They fell; you fell. They cried . . . well, you cried, but for different reasons. Now what? Bike riding is a great excuse (as if you even needed another one) to get outside with your family. We’ve put together some tips & tricks to make the experience even more fun when biking with kids.
- It’s all about the bike: When the time comes for your kiddos to shed the training wheels, do a little research to find the best bike for them. Whether you’re in the market for a single-speed bike, a multi-speed bike, a mountain bike or a hybrid, the best advice is not to follow the “room to grow” adage. After all, you’re not buying a shirt. Buying a bike that’s too big or too small will cause setbacks, so spend time investigating sizes and maybe even take your child to a bike shop. Here's a great article from our partner, Specialized, on how to pick a bike for 2 - 5 year olds.
- Brush up on skills: Whether you’re pedaling around the neighborhood or hitting the trails, make sure your child is comfortable with basic bike handling skills. It’ll be frustrating for them, you, and other riders if your kiddos aren’t quite ready for the open road. Make sure your child can start and stop their bike, ride in a straight line and not swerve and can stay on the right side of the road/path. A fun way to practice is to draw chalk “paths” on sidewalks and have riders follow straight lines, twists, and turns. Also, be sure to add stop signs to practice their start and stop skills.
- Pick a destination: Choose a ride with a fun destination - a park, a favorite lunch spot or an ice cream shop. Kids like goals, so think about what interests them and pedal to your destination! You might have a favorite nature trail, but your kids may not find it quite as interesting, so plan for your group.
- Set a good example: Biking isn’t a “do as I say not as I do” kind of activity. Kids need to be taught to stay on the right side of the road/path, use hand signals, and obey traffic rules – and they need to see you follow those practices, too. If you expect your kids to wear a helmet . . . and we ALL do . . . you need to, as well.
- Keep your expectations in check: Whether you’re headed out with your family or having one-on-one time with your child, you want to enjoy it and share the experience. Find a time when you’re not rushed and can ride at your child’s pace. On Avid4 Adventure parent agrees. She went on a bike ride with her 7-year old and said, “It was great that I didn’t have huge time pressure around what time we needed to get home. We stopped and looked at whatever she wanted to look at, and it allowed me to focus on the journey. We stopped at a creek. She noticed a tree that had fallen and spoke to me about how the flood had probably caused that. We stopped at amazing tree carvings done by a Native American artist.” Savor the quality time spent together no matter the distance covered.
- Know your child: If your child is just starting out, don’t plan a long bike ride. A short, successful ride to your neighborhood park is far better than a longer ride that comes with meltdowns. The flip side to knowing limits is recognizing your child may be more capable than you think. A parent noticed this when she was braking so she and her daughter could stay together, and her daughter said, “Can you go faster, Mama? I don’t want to run into you.” She realized that she was still thinking of her daughter as slower and younger when, in reality, she was stronger and faster. As a parent, you know your child, so just go with it!
Kids and bikes belong together, so start early – even before kids can pedal – and get riding! Enjoy the outdoors, get exercise, and discover new things on your bicycles! Looking for more information about how we teach biking at camp? Visit our website to learn all about it!