The Developmental Benefits of Balance Bikes for Children
Getting their first bike is a rite of passage for many children. While some children still have bikes with training wheels as their first bike, balance bikes are becoming the most popular way to introduce your child to the pleasures of bike riding. Balance bikes have seats like conventional bikes but don’t have any pedals. To move the balance bike, children need to push themselves forward using their feet. Unlike peddling, this method teaches children about speed and movement and teaches them how to balance. Balance bikes also teach children how to steer.
Read on to discover more about balance bike developmental benefits and the link between motor skills and balance bikes.
What Are Balance Bikes?
You may have seen kids on balance bikes where their feet are on the ground. So, what are balance bikes? Sometimes known as gliders or striders, balance bikes are no-pedal bikes that rely on your child moving with their feet. As an educational and fun way to explore, balance bikes help improve your child’s sense of balance while increasing their motor skills.
The Benefits of Balance Bikes for Children
Did you know the developmental benefits of balance bikes are greater than tricycles or bikes with training wheels? Here are some of the ways that a balance bike helps children:
Improves spatial awareness: When children use balance bikes, they learn how to navigate them around the house, park, and footpaths. They also learn how to adjust their body position to suit external surroundings.
Stimulates balance: Balance bikes help children steer, flex their muscles, move their feet and balance – all at the same time. By mastering and using more than one skill at once, your child will feel more confident when running, jumping, swinging, and sliding.
Teaches control: When your child is on a balance bike, their feet are still on the ground. This gives them more stability and control and helps build their confidence.
Physical Development Through Balance Bikes
Balance plays a significant role in the physical and mental development of your child. Balance bikes actively teach children how to maintain balance by challenging their postural control. Several studies support the positive physical development through using balance bikes.
A 2022 British Journal of Developmental Psychology study, ‘Mastering balance: The use of balance bicycles promotes the development of independent cycling’, found that “children who had practised with a balance bicycle started practising at a younger age, had shorter practice duration, and were able to cycle independently at a younger age in comparison to children who had practised with a bicycle with training wheels (or with both training bicycles).” The researchers found that balance bikes improve postural control while teaching children to maintain balance actively.
A 2022 International Journal of Environmental Research Public Health study, ‘Learning to Cycle: From Training Wheels to Balance Bike’, states, “Learning to cycle is an important milestone in a child’s life, so it is important to allow them to explore cycling as soon as possible.” The study compared using a bicycle with training wheels to starting on a balance bike (BB). It found that “Children who used the BB as the first bike had a significantly lower learning age (LA) than children who did not use it (p < 0.001). To maximise its effects, the BB should be used in the beginning of the learning process.”
Ideal Age to Introduce Balance Bikes
Balance bikes can be introduced to your child from two years of age. As an ideal first bike for your toddler, balance bikes move when your child’s feet move. However, if your child isn’t keen on balance bikes, don’t force them. After a few weeks or so, they’ll see their friends on them and be bursting to try to balance bikes out for themselves.
Psychological Benefits of Using Balance Bikes
Balance bikes encourage outdoor exercise and play. As your child develops gross motor skills, they’ll also socialise while feeling included. Balance bikes have the following psychological benefits for children:
Improved confidence and happiness.
Better spatial awareness.
More time spent outside with friends and family.
Prepares them for cycling on a pedal bike in the future.
Emotional Development in Toddlers and Preschoolers
Balance bikes can improve the emotional development of toddlers and preschoolers and offer the following emotional and cognitive benefits:
· Enhanced self-esteem.
· Greater freedom and independence within their immediate environment.
· Improved concentration, attention, perseverance, and patience.
Safety Considerations for Using Balance Bikes
So, are balance bike safe? Well, like any activity or sport, there are safety considerations to be aware of.
Common Safety Concerns and How to Mitigate Them
There are three common safety concerns to be aware of when your child uses a balance bike.
Wear a helmet: One of the most important safety precautions for your child when they’re riding a balance bike is to wear a helmet. When choosing a helmet, ensure it fits snugly and covers the back of the head and forehead. HipKids collection of helmets offer protection with sleek designs.
Choose a safe location: When introducing the balance bike to your child, the area must be away from hazards and traffic. A flat, even surface like a local tennis court or playground is ideal and will help build their confidence.
Check the balance bike: Getting into the habit of checking over the tires, brakes, and handlebars will ensure your child stays safe. With children growing so fast, it’s also good to check the seat height so their feet reach the ground easily.
How to Choose the Right Balance Bike for Your Child
When you choose the right balance bike for your child, it’s essential to consider the size, weight, material, and safety considerations like brakes.
Balance Bike Features to Consider
Read on to find out HipKids tips to consider when buying a balance bike.
While it can be tempting to buy a bike larger than your child requires, it’s important not to. When they stand over the bike, they should be able to put both feet on the ground. And if your child has a bike they love that’s easier to ride, they’ll use it more.
Your child’s balance bike shouldn’t exceed 30% of their weight. If the balance bike is too heavy, they’ll be unable to move it. And parent to parent, who wants to be lugging a balance bike home if it weighs more than your toddler.
HipKids balance bikes are available in steel and wood. Our wooden balance bikes are eco-friendly and light, while our steel balance bikes are heavier but have seats that can be adjusted quickly.
Some balance bikes have brakes while others don’t. Younger children are more likely to use their feet to brake, while older children will need them because they enjoy going at faster speeds. A balance bike with hand brakes will also teach your child how to move safely before they graduate to a larger pedal bike.
When to Transition from a Balance Bike to a Regular Bike
The three key indicators your child is ready to transition from a balance bike to a regular bike are:
- They have developed good hand/eye coordination
- They are confident and have mastered their balance bike
- They want to use a pedal bike
Age Guidelines and Milestones
Since children develop at different rates, there are no strict age guidelines for when they should upgrade from a balance bike to a regular bike. It’s important to consider other factors like:
- Hand/eye coordination
- Special needs and requirements
Some children may graduate to a pedal bike when they’re three or four, while others will be happy on their balance bike when they start primary school.
Can you start with a balance bike instead of training wheels?
Bikes with training wheels used to be the only way children could learn how to ride a bike. But with most bikes not fitting smaller children, it can be hard to learn how to balance and steer. Balance bikes have become the best way to teach your child how to ride a bike. Lighter, smaller, and narrower than a traditional bike, balance bikes improve confidence while creating independence.
Are balance bikes suitable for children with developmental delays?
Balance bikes can be used effectively for children with developmental delays. Unlike traditional bikes or bikes with training wheels, balance bikes don’t require a pedalling action. Balance bikes improve freedom and mobility while enabling children to participate with their friends. If you’re unsure if a balance bike suits your child, email us here.
Balance bikes provide fun, entertainment and developmental benefits for children. When choosing a balance bike, HipKids suggest you look for the following to make your child feel safe and secure:
- A balance bike with rubber tyres
- Non-slip, soft handgrips
- A comfortable saddle