Is a tricycle going to be the first cycle you are buying for your little one?
Will next year’s birthday gift be a regular cycle, with training wheels?
Think again! Balance bike has changed the way kids learn to ride a cycle. The trend is quickly catching up in India.
Being the first ones in our vicinity to get a balance bike, I get queries about my son’s strange cycle with no pedals.
So here’s all you need to know.
What’s a balance bike?
A balance bike is very similar to a regular bicycle, but it has no pedals, chain, training wheels, and mostly no brakes.
Taking pedals off a kid’s bike? Wondering how that works?
Take a look at my proud son and his bike in that picture.
Notice how both his legs are off the ground and there are no training wheels.
Learning to cycle, without ever using training wheels or having someone run behind you is what balance bike is all about.
Balance bike is a way to learning to balance early.
Why not the tricycle?
The tricycle is a common first birthday gift. It brings back nostalgic memories of riding a tricycle as a child, doesn’t it?
Young children love to mimic their parents or older children riding two wheeler. Tricycle helps them do that, while teaching them basic skills of pedaling and steering.
However, it has some limitations.
Limitations of tricycle:
- Tricycle will not teach them balance, which is very important to ride a normal cycle.
- Tricycle is suitable for younger toddlers. Soon, you have to move on to cycles with training wheels.
- Tricycles are suitable for indoor use and not for rough terrains.
- Tricycles are usually bulkier, making it impractical to take it outdoors.
- Tricycles are difficult to turn and manipulate. They require help from adults initially.
Why not stabilizers or training wheels?
Stabilizers or training wheels are added to a regular bicycle to help your child ride a cycle, before they learn to balance.
The fact is, most children who are used to training wheels will not have confidence to ride a cycle, once they are removed.
While training wheels allow children to learn some skills like pedaling and riding on a road, they have now been found to be a bad idea.
Disadvantages of training wheels:
- It does not teach a child to balance a cycle.
- Many children will have difficulty foregoing them and move on to a regular cycle.
- It teaches bad habits while turning a cycle. Kids learn to turn the handlebar the wrong way, as the training wheels will prevent them from falling down anyways. This has to be unlearned later.
What’s new about a balance bike?
A balance bike comes from the concept that balancing is the most important skill to learn a cycle. Things like pedaling and braking can be learnt easily once the art of balancing is learnt.
As I mentioned, a balance bike does not have pedals, chain, and usually it doesn’t have a brake too.
Children as young as one and half years can use a balance bike. The correct age to introduce a balance bike is when a child can walk steadily.
Five advantages of balance bike:
- A balance bike is usually lightweight, such that a two year old can lift it independently.
- It is usually designed without any additional / sharp parts that can cause injuries during a fall.
- The child learns the art of balancing first so there will be no need for training wheels later.
- Easy to transport in a car, so you can let them ride it in a park, zoo etc
- Very less chance of injuries, as the child puts his feet on the ground, as soon as he senses trouble. My son hardly falls off his balance bike and if he does there is no injury. On the other hand, he easily tends falls from a tricycle.
How my son learnt to ride a balance bike:
My son is quite the adventurous type. When we bought him a balance bike at one and half years, I assumed he would take off right away. But I ended up thinking that balance bike for a toddler was a bad idea.
Having been used to a neighbour’s tricycle, he was afraid balance bike would let him fall. He would say “Kicha damaal”, meaning “Krishna will fall”.
The instruction manual clearly told us not to hold the child or the cycle for support, instead to let them use their intuition. Thus kids will learn to use it without any support from adults.
We didn’t force him to use it but seeing his 5-year-old friends trying it out, my tot was soon interested. He started sitting on the seat and taking a few steps on the cycle.
Then I took the balance bike with him on our road, which does not have much traffic. He grew more comfortable on the road, due to more space available. He loved to ride the cycle on the road, like the older children (minus the pedals, of course).
Then as he learnt to walk fast on the balance bike, I wasn’t able to keep pace with him. Since this can challenge his safety on the road, I decided to let him ride in our apartment’s terrace, which had enough space without the traffic concerns.
After a couple of months (which was slower than my expectations), he learnt that he could take his feet off the ground once he got the cycle moving with his feet. Slowly, he learnt to do that for longer. In the video, you can see my 2.5 year old balancing his bike, with his feet in air, from time to time.
Yay! He has learnt to balance! I hope that when he is ready for a bigger cycle, we can get him one without training wheels!
So is it only for toddlers? The good news is that you have balance bikes for older kids too. I am really happy that we bought him a balance bike.
His grand mom still bought him a tricycle, as she could not imagine a child without one. My son prefers it when he is having a lazy spell as riding a tricycle is easier. But he loves his balance bike too and he has fun while learning the important concepts of cycling.
I hope I have spiked up your interest about the newest buzz in children’s cycles.
Have you heard about the balance bike for toddlers before? Would you want to buy one for your child? Let us know in the comments.