Inside: Most articles about teaching kids to ride a bike without training wheels go like this: Get your kid a balance bike. But balance bikes are expensive, and purchasing two bikes (a balance bike and a pedal bike) isn’t practical for most young families. In this post, learn how I taught both of my kids—and several neighborhood kids—how to ride a bike without training wheels in under 30 minutes.
When I shared what we were going to do that morning, my son argued back. I heard the panic in his voice as I searched in the garage for knee pads. “But what if I can’t? I’m going to fall.”
With calm hands, I strapped the knee pads to his shaky legs. “You will walk your bike to the school, but you will ride it back home.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I believe in you!”
Here’s the Important Part
As we approached the flat field behind the school, he began to whimper, “I’m going to fall. I’m going to fall.”
Kneeling, I met his eyes and said, “Yes. You will fall. You will fall once, then twice, and probably a third time. So let’s practice falling first, then we will practice riding.”
I held his bike steady as he climbed on and began to pedal. “I’m going to let go now, and you are going to fall.”
He fell to the right and hit the grass. A smile erupted over his face as laughed. “That wasn’t scary and didn’t even hurt! Let’s go again!”
We practiced again…and again. With the fear of falling no longer consuming him, his confidence grew with each length across the field. Within 30 minutes, he was cruising.
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Why Does This Work?
I recently read a book called The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears by Lawrence Cohen. In his book, Cohen discusses the importance of validating a child’s fear without judgement.
Validating my son’s fear of falling with calm assurance counteracted his anxiety and increased trust and confidence. Letting him know exactly what was going to happen (that he was going to fall) removed his fear of the unknown.
How to Teach Your Kid to Ride a Bike Without Training Wheels in 30 Minutes or Less
Learning to ride a bike without training wheels is an amazing milestone. I was so proud of my son, I felt my heart might burst. Besides knowing he was emotionally and developmentally ready, there were several factors in place that contributed to his success.
Follow the tips below, and you might have your kid riding within 30 minutes too!
1. Help Your Child Feel Safe
Helmets are essential, but knee and elbow pads can help increase confidence by making your child feel safe.
My son wore “his armor” for two days, but only grabbed his helmet on the third day!
2. Check the Seat
I lowered my son’s seat as low as I could. This enabled him to place his feet comfortably to the ground, which made him feel better about riding without training wheels.
3. Try Soft First
Soft grass isn’t as intimidating or painful as pavement. Encouraging your child to pedal down a small grassy slope can help him learn to balance his bike, naturally.
4. Let Go
Holding onto your child’s bike the entire time hinders their natural ability to balance.
I held my son’s bike steady as he climbed on and began to pedal, then gave him a gentle push forward and let go (I didn’t even run beside him). He fell often but quickly learned to balance his bike and ride independently.
5. Ride Over a Walkway
Once my son felt confident about his ability to bike on grass, I encouraged him to ride back and forth over the flat walkway.
That little bit of concrete showed him that pavement was nothing to fear, and eventually, he felt brave enough to try riding in the parking lot.
6. Watch Yourself
Sometimes as adults, it’s difficult to remain patient while teaching kids new skills. (Especially when they start yelling, crying, or throwing a fit.)
It would’ve been very easy for me to give up and give in, except, I know my kid! I know that this child, my oldest son, is the one who needs a little more encouragement to try new things. I made an effort to use a calm, encouraging voice that demonstrated confidence in his abilities!
7. Cheer Your Heart Out
Goodness, kids are amazing! As my son was riding, I cheered, “Keep on pedaling! Push! Push! You’re doing it!”
Cheer your heart out, dance, pump your arms, and spin your kid around in the air when he succeeds! However, nothing you can say or do will beat the feeling of success and pride your child is feeling intrinsically.
How did you teach your child to ride a bike without training wheels? Share your tips below in the comments.