Bergen (just over 2 years old) is a new balance biker. He received a balance bike for his 2nd birthday from our generous family and has been cruising around the neighborhood, in his own little way, ever since. It’s been fascinating to sit back and watch his interest and skills develop over just a short period of time. If you haven’t noticed already, our little guy is a big bundle of energy, so it’s nice to have one more tool in the box to channel it all, and wear him out for bedtime.
While we sit back (sort of) and watch his progress, we’ve noticed a few little things have helped move him into the direction of being a full on balance biker. He’s not quite zipping and whizzing up and down pathways, but he’s close, and certainly in a whole different category from where he started, which was not even being able to hold the bike up!
1. Consistent Opportunities for Practice.
If possible, offer balance biking as an activity choice everyday. The great thing about balance biking (and I’m sure other activities too) is that you don’t need tons of time for each session, if it’s practiced consistently. I’m talking even just 5 minutes. What worked for us was trying it out every evening when we returned from walking the dog. Sometimes Bergen would want to go for 15 minutes, sometimes he’d decline the offer to try, but at least we were getting out there.
The consistent practice also got Bergen into the routine of wearing his helmet every time we got the bike out. At first he would squirm, scream, cry, and laugh hysterically because the strap tickled his neck. Just to put the helmet on took more time than we were actually balance biking! Now he just sticks his chin out and lets me clip it on.
2. Huge Patience.
This is the hard part. I feel like the biggest nag and nit-picker that ever lived because I’m constantly saying, “keep your hands on the handle bars”, “look ahead”, “don’t ride in the neighbor’s lawn”, “peddle your feet faster” and on and on. I have to remember to sit back a bit, relax, and allow Bergen to figure out somethings on his own.
I also learned to be okay with stopping even if we only went out for 3 minutes. It’s actually harder for these little guys than it might look, which I didn’t realize at first. I noticed this when after just going 6 blocks or so, Bergen was starting to break a sweat!
3. Make it Fun!
I’m always reminding myself that riding a bike is supposed to be a source of joy, and I don’t need to take it so seriously. Just by accident, we came up with little games that help to motivate Bergen, get him to move along, and sometimes get him to ride faster.
- Race ahead and have your balance biker try to “catch” you. Kind of like tag, but one of you is on a bike!
- Ride to a special destination. There is a chestnut tree 2 blocks from our house that Bergen calls the “nut tree”. He likes to collect the nuts and throw them into the street. There is also a small park just 4 blocks or so away that we’ll make a goal of riding to.
- Think of fun obstacles to ride through. Bergen loves riding through rocks & big collections of leaves.
4. Continue (if possible) Family Bike Rides.
Nothing motivates Bergen to ride on his own more than after we’ve taken a bike ride together as a family. We’ve had some good success capitalizing on this (and he’s got his helmet on already, so why not?) and always give him a chance to ride when we return from our outing. Kids seem to want to copy what their parents do, so it’s also been really motivating for us to get out and ride more. Win/Win.
We haven’t utilized this enough because it’s just so much easier to leave straight from our house, but when we take the bike to a big open park with pathways and trails, it’s so much less stressful! Trails and grass are a lot more forgiving on falls, we don’t have to worry about crossing streets, and “accidentally” riding on neighbor’s property isn’t an issue.
***Bonus Tip: You are never supposed to balance bike on hills, BUT once your tyke is comfortable with walking with the bike, if you happen to find a street or pathway that has just the slightest, slightest incline, it may just help speed them up a bit, and thus get practice with balance.***
Do you have a balance biker in your life?
What tips do you have to share?
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