Most parents first buy their child the smallest bicycle with training wheels and let them practice steering and pedaling. When the child is older and ready, they can either raise the training wheels or remove them altogether to help the child learn how to balance. This is the most common way to teach a child to ride a bike, but it may not be the best way. Many parents now are starting with a balance bike instead of a bike with training wheels.
A balance bike doesn’t have training wheels or pedals. Instead of learning to pedal first, the child learns to balance the bike. They’ll start with their feet down, scooting on the bike and steering to where they want to go. When they get a little brave, they’ll scoot and then lift their feet to glide. If they lose their balance, they instinctively put their feet down to catch themselves and then start to go again. This teaches them to balance and to start and stop the bike on their own. For most kids, it alleviates the fear of falling off the bike since they start learning to balance and go when they’re very young.
Before a parent buys a balance bike, they should find the best balance bike for their child. Start by reading reviews of the different bikes available and then looking at the bikes to find one that’s the right size. The child should be able to sit on the bike and their feet should touch the floor so they can scoot and get it to go on their own. Many are adjustable, so it may be helpful to measure the child’s legs to find one that’s going to fit just right since the bikes can be adjusted for between 18 months and 5 years old, depending on the brand and model.
Once a parent has found the right bike, it’s easy to let the child teach themselves to ride the bike and balance it as they go. They’ll pick up on everything intuitively and once they’re confidently balancing and riding the bike they can move up to one with pedals. Most parents will find that by learning to balance before they learn to pedal they’ll fall less and feel more confident about their ability to ride a bicycle with pedals.