Teaching Your Child to Ride a Bike: Tips from Chicago Occupational Therapy

Riding a bike can be a fun and meaningful occupation for kids! They gain a sense of independence and it’s a great activity to do with friends and family! Plus, bike riding is a great form of exercise. Kids typically start learning how to ride a bike anywhere from 2-5 years old. A child needs to be excited to ride a bike which will motivate them to learn to ride a two-wheeler independently! Below are some great tips for teaching your child to ride a bike: 

Benefits of learning to ride a bike: 

  • Increases cardiovascular health
  • Increases muscle strength/endurance
  • Improves balance
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves social skills 
  • Benefits learning development and mental health

Foundational skills required for riding a bike:

  • Core strength and postural control: A child needs a strong core and the ability to sit upright to help stabilize and balance their bodies on a bike. Click here for core strengthening exercises for your child!
  • Lower extremity strength: A child needs to have leg strength to be able to pedal the bike for longer durations and when on an incline.
  • Grip strength: A child needs strong hands to hang on to the handle bars along with being able to squeeze the brakes. Click here for toy ideas that will help increase your child’s grip strength. 
  • Coordination and motor planning: A child needs to have adequate coordination and planning in order to put all the pieces of riding a bike together such as starting/stopping, turning while pedaling, and ability to control the speed of the bike. 
  • Attention: A child needs to be able to attend to where they are going and to the surrounding environment to avoid any accidents!
  • Body and safety awareness: A child needs to be aware of where their body is in relation to their environment in order to be able to ride a bike within the community in a safe manner. A child also needs to be able to understand safety when riding a bike, for example, not crossing a street when there are cars. 

Tips for riding a bike: 

  • Start with a tricycle, training wheels, or balance bike! Kids who are beginners for riding a bike will start with a tricycle or balance bike to start learning how to coordinate the bike, balance, start, stop, etc. Balance bikes are a great place to start as it is a two-wheeled bike with no pedals and the child has to use their feet to propel the bike. They are great for improving a child’s balance and coordination before trying a two-wheel pedal bike. A tricycle or a bike with training wheels can also be helpful for teaching your child to start/stop, turn, and navigate their environment without worrying about falling. 
  • Break down the task of riding a bike in to simple steps. For example, you can work on the child’s ability to balance while stationary, then starting/stopping the bike, and so on. 
  • Create obstacle courses with cones or other objects so that your child learns to turn and avoid obstacles in their way. This can help with safety and awareness of their environment. 
  • Have your child ride to a visual target such as a cone or favorite toy. This will help their attention and work towards them looking up at the world versus on the ground/wheel.  
  • There are also a ton of adapted bikes for children with disabilities so that they can learn to ride a bike too! Click here for a blog that describes different options for adapted bikes.
  • There are often local bike clinics within your community that may also be useful to helping your child learn to ride a bike. Clinics can provide you with helpful tips and strategies. Plus participating in a bike clinic is also a great social activity! 
  • Always use a helmet! Safety is key and wearing a helmet with help avoid injury if your child falls while learning. Even when a child is able to ride a bike, wearing a helmet should always be a priority! 

Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services and how we can help your child flourish and grow.