Photo Credit: Felipe Ramales/PacificCoastNews
Even celebrity moms need to teach their kids how to ride a bike. Exhibit A: Katie Holmes. The star mama has been spotted around New York guiding 6-year-old Suri with a little assist from training wheels.
Ready to teach your child how to ride a bike -- and how to ditch those training wheels? Here's some expert advice.
Keep your balance The balance method is the way to go for younger kids just starting out on a bike, says Alissa Simcox, director of education for the League of American Bicyclists. "A balance bike doesn't have pedals and allows kids to master the act of balancing," she says. "Once they're ready to graduate to a bike with pedals, they only have to focus on starting and stopping." Starting with training wheels can actually be more difficult, she adds, because in addition to learning to stop, start and pedal, your child also has to learn to trust the feel of the bike's balance. Tip: If you don't have a balance bike, just remove the pedals from a regular bike.
Give her some room It may sound obvious, but you need some space when you're ready to take the training wheels off, and a narrow sidewalk probably won't cut it. "Use a parking lot or other traffic-free space that has a gentle grade," Simcox says.
Coast along Have your kids practice starting off on their bikes pushing their feet on the ground, Simcox notes. "The goal for the child is to coast without using their feet except when stopping," she says. "Once the child is ready to transition to pedals, have them continue to practice coasting and eventually their feet will find the pedals when they want more speed."
Don't forget a helmet This should be non-negotiable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more kids between the ages of 5 and 14 visit hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries than with any other sport, and many involve the head. "A properly fitted bicycle helmet reduces the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent," the NHTSA states. "Everyone -- adult and child -- should wear bicycle helmets each time they ride." (Kudos to Katie for making sure Suri is wearing one!)
Get the right fit To get the proper fit, have your child stand over her bicycle, the NHTSA advises, and make sure there are 1- to 2-inches between her and the bar of a road bike, or 3- to 4-inches if it's a mountain bike. According to the NHTSA, the seat should be level, and the height should be adjusted "to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended." Remember, you want your kid's feet to be able to touch the ground easily!