As soon as your child is comfortable walking you can introduce them to a tricycle. In general, the sooner you get them out on wheels, the easier it’ll be for them to learn to ride a bike in the future.
But even before your child rides a bike with training wheels, they should begin practicing on a tricycle. These three-wheel bikes balance on their own, so you don’t have to worry about your child falling over. They’re easier to control and stop and often come with a handlebar that parents can use to navigate and control their child’s riding.
For the best tips on teaching your toddler to ride a tricycle, keep on reading.
Begin With A Trike
When introducing your toddler to biking, it’s best to start with a trike. Like a tricycle, this children’s bike has three wheels. But where it differs is that it doesn’t have pedals. It’s designed so kids have to use their feet to move forward.
Trikes are great because they can help your toddler learn the basics of biking. First Cry Parenting explains it helps kids get used to holding onto the handlebar and pushing off with their feet. They don’t have to simultaneously learn how to pedal, which can be overwhelming and frustrating. Once your child has mastered the trike, you can introduce them to a tricycle to help develop their pedaling skills.
Choose The Right Sized Tricycle
It’s not true that any old ‘tricycle will do. You need to ensure the tricycle is an appropriate height and size for your toddler. Kids in Wheels explains that your child’s feet should be able to touch the ground when sitting on the tricycle, while their knees should slightly bend when touching the pedals. They should also be able to easily reach the handlebars.
Additionally, make sure your child is sitting in the right position when on the tricycle. They should be able to reach the handlebar and pedal with ease. Instruct them not to lean on the handlebars, and to keep their back straight when pedaling. If your toddler struggling to sit correctly, it could be a sign the tricycle isn’t a good size.
Have Patience With Pedaling
The hardest skill your toddler needs to learn when riding a tricycle is how to pedal. This requires adult involvement and supervision in addition to patience.
To begin, have your toddler sit on the tricycle without putting their feet on the pedal. Push the tricycle from behind and instruct them to watch the pedals rotate. Explain in age-appropriate terms that they need to move the pedals in the same direction to make the tricycle go forward. Show them how the pedals must move in the opposite direction in order for the tricycle to go backward.
Then, encourage your toddler to put their feet on the pedals and repeat the motions. Continue to push the tricycle from behind to ensure they move forward; stop pushing if your toddler takes their feet off the pedal. Once they get the hang of pedaling, they can try navigating the tricycle without you pushing.
Take Proper Safety Precautions
Safety is paramount for children learning to ride a tricycle for the first time. Not only will this prevent serious injury, but it teaches them the importance of proper safety gear from a young age. This can inspire good habits for life.
Make sure your toddler wears a helmet whenever they’re riding a tricycle. You need to ensure the helmet fits properly. Child Safe Canada explains it should fit snug and sit low on their forehead, only 1-2 finger-widths higher than their eyebrows. Similarly, the chin strap should be tight enough that no more than one finger can fit. Additionally, you may want to consider having your toddler wear knee and elbow pads. This will protect their skin and brace the impact should they fall while riding the tricycle.
Wearing a helmet (and other safety gear) is non-negotiable when riding a bike, and make sure your toddler understands. If they’re resistant, don’t allow them to ride the tricycle until they’re wearing the right gear. Consider letting them pick out their own helmet (or customizing it with stickers, for example) to get them motivated to wear it.
Finally, pay attention to the environment in which you’re teaching your toddler to ride a tricycle. It’s best to choose a sprawling, smooth surface. The fewer obstacles, the less likely your toddler is to bump into something. The grass is the best surface for teaching a toddler to ride a tricycle, since it’s cushioned and soft compared to other materials, like concrete, which is a huge risk for injury.
Sources: First Cry Parenting, Kids in Wheels, Child Safe Injuries,