My four-year-old little boy confidently hopped on a two-wheel bicycle for the first time this past weekend and rode off into the sunset like he’s known how his whole life. He can thank the time spent cruising around on his balance bike for his successful first time out on the regular bike.
Shortly after his 3rd birthday, he got a balance bike from Santa Claus. This kid has always been a little bit ahead of the pack when it comes to his physical development. He was standing without any assistance at 8 months and walking shortly after that. He was riding a Micro-Mini Scooter around the neighborhood at 18 months old. He is basically fearless and likes to worry his mommy as a past-time.
In case you are not familiar with what a balance bike is, it’s a small little bike that doesn’t have pedals, so the rider uses their feet to propel it forward and stop. It’s low to the ground so there’s no chance of the child falling off since their feet are able to touch the ground to keep them stable. When the rider gets going, they will lift their feet up to coast along until the bike looses momentum. As they coast, they are using all the skills needed to stay upright, which makes the rider’s transition to a two-wheel bike a natural one. The balance bike teaches the child how to master their balance using core strength, navigate the bike around obstacles, control their speed, and develops those gross motor skills. You can check out the balance bike I have here.
His older brother started his bike riding journey on training wheels and while he generally rides life on the side of caution, he was not one bit interested in taking those training wheels off, even though he is a very kinesthetic learner. Big Bro started zipping around on the balance bike and then one day, while he was at a friend’s house for a playdate, he picked up one of their two-wheel bikes and started riding around like no big deal. You better believe we took those training wheels off as soon as we got home that day!
For the last 2 years, Mr. Independent Fournado has been cruising on his balance bike, and when I say cruising, I mean, he hikes his little legs up and coasts for several yards until the bike starts to lose momentum. I just knew that he was ready for a full-fledged bicycle sans the training wheels.
A dear family friend (and fellow Scottsdale Moms contributor) gave us her son’s old bike, which was actually a brand new bike that he never rode and outgrew. We used this “new” bike as a bribery tool for being a good patient at the dentist (ask me for more awesome parenting strategies). He was so excited to ride it, he would have done anything! The day following the dentist appointment, he hoped on that two-wheeler and was ready to go. For about 15 minutes I ran alongside him, holding both the handle bar and the back of the seat as he peddled. He was hung up on how to pedal, so he kept looking down at his feet and not where he was going. We nearly ran into a few obstacles like the mailbox, a palm tree, and a parked car. This was not for the faint of heart, let me tell you, but he is Second Kid so I was a little less precious about the idea of him falling and getting hurt.
Once he figured out how to pedal, and me yelling, “Look straight ahead, not down,” and him yelling back, “I am, Mommy,” we got into a rhythm. I took away my hand on the handle bar and just held the back of the seat, running alongside him. Eventually, my hand went to his shoulder on the opposite side of me. Progressively, I had just a finger under his armpit. Then I did the hardest thing in the world and what every mother must do at some point… I let go.
I let go and ran alongside him as fast as I could keeping his pace. He got faster and faster and before I knew it, he was half way down the street, leaving me in his dust. Nothing prepares you for letting your child ride off into the sunset, and yet, that is the goal, isn’t it? To build them up with confidence and equip them with everything they need to go off into the world. To be there in case they need us, and to cheer them on for their bravery and their incredible accomplishments. Wait, I was just talking about riding a bike. Two things I still have to teach him are slowing down and stopping so he’s not quite ready to be off on his own.
Back to learning how to ride a bike, I highly recommend getting your child started on the balance bike and skipping the training wheels altogether. They’ll be riding off into the sunset in no time! But don’t worry, Mama, they always come home for dinner.