Why Balance Bikes are Better for Toddlers
Young children are naturally active and as parents, it’s important to embrace this so toddlers can practice and improve on a variety of skills. It’s recommended that each day, young kids (from 2-4) get at least 30 minutes of structured adult-led play and at least 60 minutes of unstructured free play.
Balance bikes are a fantastic way to introduce your child to a new physical exercise technique beyond walking, running and throwing. Children are learning and refining balance up until their teenage years. Balance is crucial to a young persons’ development and ability to learn.
What is a Balance Bike?
A balance bike is essentially a toddler bike without pedals, that focuses on balance and steering. The child uses their feet to move themselves along, essentially walking or running, while sitting comfortably on the seat.
They are lightweight (especially the aluminium framed models) and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Parents are extremely conscious of supporting their children with early balance skills such as crawling and walking, however as the child ages, it’s common for us to fall away in supporting development in this area. Riding a balance bike is a great way to practice and master the next stages of balance and coordination development.
Main Benefits of Balance Bikes for Toddlers
They Build Strength and Coordination
With no pedals, a balance bike encourages toddlers to lift their legs and push to move forward and use their arms to steer. Not only does this help increase strength, it allows the young child to fine tune their coordination, motor skills and agility.
It’s also been shown that a youngster’s ability to improve their balance and coordination also helps strongly improve their attention and learning skills.
“When kids stabilize themselves from an unstable pose, they learn how to focus faster and more efficiently,” says Catherine Jackson, Ph.D., from California State University at Fresno.
You Don’t Need Training Wheels
When riding a normal bike, you need to master both the pedaling and the balance. Which is why a lot of children use training wheels. However, eliminating the need to balance, means the child doesn’t actually master this skill. On a balance bike, proper balancing techniques are learned from day one.
A balance bike lets your child skip using training wheels when learning to ride a bike. Once they’ve mastered the balance, they can go straight to a regular bike without requiring training wheels.
“Learning how to balance is the essential component of riding”, says Narissa Parke of Lets Roll. “When children feel safe and confident with their feet on the ground, they quickly learn to stride on the bike and raise their feet to roll”.
The Child Can Start Young
The recommended starting age to first ride a bike is between 3 and 5 years, depending on the individual. But a toddler as young as 18 months can start to ride a balance bike.
If your child is able to walk well and is tall enough to put both feet flat on the ground when sitting on the balance bike, then they are good to go! Kids who ride balance bikes generally start riding regular bikes earlier than those who don’t.
The Risk of Injury is Lower
Because both feet are on ground, a child is much less likely to crash when riding a balance bike. And because they are pushing with their feet, there is only so much speed they can muster up. Furthermore, the seat is lower to the ground than a regular bike, meaning any falls will be less intense.
Balance Bikes Help Kids Enjoy Physical Activity
Balance bikes are a lot of fun and can help toddlers feel like part of the family. If an older sibling has a bike, the young one doesn’t have to feel left out and can still join in on the family bike ride.
The exercise will be seen as enjoyable and because they are starting to ride a bike at a younger age, there is a greater likelihood they will develop healthy habits for life.
Finally, these bikes without pedals create confident riders. Mastering skills such as steering, breaking, caution and most importantly balance will not only help the child transition to a regular bike, but instill confidence that they will have throughout their everyday life.