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Learning to Ride

Learning To Ride: The Tricycle, A Toddler's First Bike

Charles Luiting


Of all things parents teach their kids, riding a tricycle has a comparatively low degree of difficulty. It's far easier than potty training, getting them on a consistent bedtime schedule, or keeping them from building sandcastles in the cat's litter box. Properly getting a tyke on a trike, however, does require a dose or two of parental guidance. And patience. OK, and maybe some casual bribery. In the overall scheme of things, teaching a kid to ride a tricycle is pretty easy and eventually results in a sweet payoff.

"There are a couple of main goals for having the kids on a tricycle," said Candace D., mother of a 2½ year-old and a 16 month-old. "You want them to have some fun and freedom and you want to get them prepared for riding a bike."

Indeed, you do. And we outline below 10 simple steps to get your youngsters pedaling away on their first three-wheeler.

When to start

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests most kids are good to go by about the age of 3. Unlike a bike, riding a trike doesn't require perfect balance – in fact riding a tricycle can help little ones improve their balance.

Where to start

Some parents will start inside, with the child in a low-sitting chair. Mom or dad can use their hands in place of pedals, instructing the child to push on the hands and simulate the pedaling motion, pretending the hands are actual pedals. You can even have them hold a ruler or a kitchen spoon in place of real handlebars. This is also a good time to reinforce the difference between right and left.

Heading outside

Some obvious stuff here, but we've got to say it. Avoid places with vehicle traffic and make sure there's plenty of room for turning in any direction. Flat, paved surfaces are best.

Bike fit

Few things are more frustrating than not being able to reach the pedals (the memories of ill-fighting bikes still haunt many adults). Give strong consideration to buying a trike like our Roadster Kids Tricycle that comes with an adjustable seat. This is particularly helpful as kids grow, since you can easily move the seat away from the handlebars to accommodate longer legs.

Over communicate

This one comes from Candace, who recommends explaining to kids exactly what the plan is and the role they will play. "It also motivates them to get their socks and shoes on, to find their favorite bottle or juice pouch," she said. "My kids seem to work best when they know what's coming."

What to wear

A helmet is a necessity, obviously. Teaching the importance of helmet wearing at a young age helps plant a seed of safety for future biking adventures. Closed-toed shoes are highly recommended, so the young ones don't scrape their toes and feet.

Teaching to ride

Be prepared to go low. By that we mean on their first trike outing you might actually have to get on the ground alongside your child and help their little legs turn over the pedals. Once they master that (it's a skill they'll acquire surprisingly quickly), be prepared for a few sessions of walking or running alongside them, bent over with one hand on their shoulder and another on the handlebars to assist with steering.

Make it fun

This is where small amounts of bribery can come in handy. Bring along a few of their favorite treats and reward them for riding independently to a specific spot. Set up a finish line and have them race you to a spot in the driveway – the "winner" gets rewarded with a treat.

Manage expectations

If you've been a parent for more than 10 minutes, this issue has undoubtedly already reared its head. There are just some days, no matter how fun you make it, no matter how much you bribe, cajole or plead, when your kid is going to do what your kid wants to do. If they don't want to ride their trike, or when they've suddenly declared they've had enough riding time, simply call it quits and move on to something else.

Prepare for the future

The tricycle era is relatively short-lived. Some children are riding their "big kid bikes" by the time they start kindergarten. If your child loves riding their trike (and trust us, they will) it won't be long before they start wanting a real bike. From there, if all goes as planned, they'll want a mountain bike, a road bike, or an e-bike. Schwinn, of course, can assist with all of that. But potty training and bedtime schedules? Um, yeah, we can't be of much help.

Learning to Ride

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