Steps and Activities to Teach Bike Riding
Bike riding can be a fun and meaningful activity for children of all ages! Progressing to independent bike riding on a two wheeler requires your child to have strong foundational motor skills and adequate sensory processing abilities. In this blog, we will explain the progression to independent bike riding, break down the steps to teach a child to ride a bike, and provide activities that can help support the development of skills needed for independent bike riding.
Teach Your Child to Ride a Bike
Begin teaching your child to ride a bike in an environment where they are comfortable like a quiet school parking lot or a flat driveway. Busier environments such as local trails can be overwhelming to a new bike rider. If your child is nervous about falling, practicing on grass first can be helpful, however your child must have the strength to propel the bike on a softer surface.
We can continue to help our children get comfortable on a bike by explaining the different parts of the bike and what each part does. Every child learns at a different pace, so take a moment before each step to talk through what the task will look like and how much support you will be giving them. Now let’s ride!
Related reading: Bike Riding Handout
Step 1: Help Your Child Become Comfortable on a Stationary Bike
The first step in learning to ride a bike is to practice getting on and off of one. An adult can hold the bike still at first so the child can practice the motion without having to worry that the bike will fall onto them. Practice putting up and taking down the kickstand as well.
Related reading: Bike Riding and Sensory Integration
Step 2: Teach Your Child to Tilt
After your child can comfortably get on and off the bike, as well as use the kickstand, the next step is to get your child used to lateral tilting. Have your child sit on the bike with the seat at a height where their feet can comfortably touch the ground. While an adult stands at the front of the bike and holds the handlebars, instruct your child to first put both legs up onto the pedals. Then, tilt the bike from side to side and have your child put that corresponding foot down to catch themselves while the bike is tilted either direction.
Step 3: Gliding on a Bike (Pedals on or off)
This step helps a child with bilateral coordination, maintaining balance, and coming to a stop safely on the bike.
Note ***Some bikes allow you to take off the pedals allowing the child to glide easier, especially if the child has longer legs. This activity can also be done on a balance bike.***
Step 4: Practice Pedaling with Maximum Support
This step teaches the child to pedal forward to maintain speed. To begin, have an adult stand on the side of the child, holding onto one of the handlebars with one hand and the back seat of the bike with the other hand. As your child begins pedaling the adult walks with them, fully supporting the bike and preventing it from tipping over. Remind your child they need to keep pedaling to keep themselves upright, and that the faster your child pedals, the more stable the bike will be. It is important to remind your child to look ahead of them, rather than look down at the bike. A great way to encourage this is to have another person walk in front of your child and hold up fingers while your child shouts out how many the person is holding up.
Step 5: Progress to Pedaling with Minimal Assist
This step increases a child’s balance and ability to utilize the handlebars in conjunction with pedaling.
As the child becomes more comfortable with step 4, you can provide less and less physical assistance. You will notice that as your child improves, you will go from holding the bike up, to only having to rest your hand on the handlebar. During this step, allow your child to practice catching themselves as the bike starts to tip over, rather than fully preventing the bike from tipping. You can start letting go of the bike for one second at a time to see how the child is able to continue bike riding, and practice going around turns or turning around.
Step 6: Run Next to the Bike as Child Pedals without Physical Support
This step incorporates all the previous skills learned together for independent bike riding. Once your child can pedal without the physical assistance of an adult holding onto the bike, have them pedal while you run next to them. This allows them to ride the bike while knowing you are there to help them stop if they need to. At this step you may need to provide physical assistance to get them started and then can let go and run next to them until they need to stop.
Step 7: Practice Practice Practice!!!
The more practice the better!! Have the child go through getting on the bike, pedaling, and stopping the bike. Practice going around curves or turning around and being able to stop if they are going toward roads, parked cars, or other people. Depending on the child’s skill and comfort level, bring them to the local park to practice riding when there are other people around.
Step 8: Play Fun Bike Riding Games to Help Gain Confidence
These games are great to teach your child to navigate different hazards that may be in the way, while implementing how to stop quickly if needed, and increase your child’s comfortability and confidence.