This can be a tough topic to discuss in writing but we are going to do our best!
One question we get regularly is if it’s better to start with a balance bike or with a pedal bike and training wheels. Sadly there isn’t one correct answer! Here are some reasons you may or may not choose each one.
Balance Bike – This is great for more independence when you are out and about taking a walk as a group. Your little one can ‘walk’ with it even if they don’t yet know how to balance on it. They can progress at their own pace with this type of bike. It also helps them to develop the balance skills needed for eventual bike riding. It may be less ‘scary’ for them as well because they have progressed from walking with it to picking their feet up and balancing so they know if they feel unstable they can easily put their feet down. In my opinion, the biggest benefit of this style is that they learn how to balance on two wheels sooner.
Pedal Bike with Training Wheels – This is great for learning pedaling and steering. You can learn steering with a balance bike but being able to steer and pedal can be challenging because it requires two separate things to be happening at once. With learning how to pedal you can also work on speed with pedaling. When you eventually transition to a two wheel pedal bike being able to maintain a certain speed with pedaling is extremely helpful for maintaining balance.
As a PT we have found it easier to teach kids using a pedal bike with training wheels first and then transitioning to no training wheels. This is often because the kids we are working with need help learning how to coordinate pedaling. Using a tricycle before the training wheels can help with this as well. The other nice thing about a tricycle is that you can lock out steering as they learn to pedal. You want to do this because in the beginning they aren’t able to isolate movement to the feet only and they use their hands on the steering to help with getting power and coordination for steering. As they improve with their pedaling you can unlock the steering to let them work on pedaling and maintaining a straight line. This is where you may need to help decrease their arc of motion by only letting them veer so far with the handle bars so that they can easily bring it back to midline!
While we have found this way easier, we still use balance bikes as well, and most parents who haven’t needed help for their kids learning to ride a bike have preferred the balance bike for the reasons listed above.
Just like everything with coordinated movement its all about practice and repetition. The more they practice the easier it will be to pick up.
If you are really struggling, let us know and we can help you trouble shoot how to help your little one become a bike rider!