Riding a traditional or electric bike is an easy and enjoyable way for kids to get active outdoors in the spring, summer, and fall. But, like any skill, riding a bike properly has to be learned. And if kids are too intimidated to go fast, or lack the proper know-how when it comes to braking, for example, they might lose confidence around this activity.
So, what bike-riding skills should parents focus on first? Well, steering, braking, speeding up and slowing down, balance, and overall pedal motion are the major ones to look at.
The next step? Working through these bike-riding skills! Children pick things up faster when they’re playing and having fun. So, here are five fun activities that can help build your child’s skills and self-assurance around bike riding.
1. Driveway obstacle course for steering
Look no further than the front of your house when it comes to enhancing the skill of steering. Parents can create a fun obstacle course on their driveway using anything from colourful rocks to large stuffies, sand pails (as cones), and other child-friendly objects you have around the house, garage, or shed.
You want to create a bendy and curvy course, so your kid(s) can weave through it. Another fun element of this activity is getting your child to help with the set-up!
When the obstacle course is ready, invite friends or neighbours to join in on the fun. You can turn it into a competition, where children work in teams or play individually.
2. Create traffic lanes for braking
Grab your sidewalk chalk and outline some traffic lanes on either the sidewalk in front of your house, in an empty parking lot, or even a wide-open (concrete) space at a park. Ensure to outline an end mark! Have your kids do sprints (in their lane) on their bike and brake as close to the line as possible. Parents can join in on the fun too.
3. Puddle fun for speed
Many young bike riders can be a little fearful of speed on their bike, especially after those training wheels come off.
With that said, even the slowest of bike riders won’t be able to resist going a little faster with this fun activity! After a rainstorm, grab your helmets and head out for a bike ride in search of puddles. Biking through puddles is a fun (and wet) way to get the most reserved rider to speed and enhance that after-splash! This is a great way to build confidence in your child’s pedal work and to help increase their speed for longer rides in the future.
4. “The slowest” wins the race for balance
On the opposite side of the spectrum, riding your bike as slow as possible can help build the skill of balance. Create a straight-lined course where the object of the competition is to bike as slow as possible, without placing a foot on the ground. Pull out that sidewalk chalk again to make the lanes. Another option is waiting for a hot summer’s day, and simply have the kids bike through a water sprinkler! The last one to hit the finish line wins!
5. Build a wooden trail for mountain biking
Want to train your kids for nature trails, someday? If you have some old pieces of wood lying around, create a long and winding wooden bike path in your backyard. You can use old wooden boards, or extra 2x4s that might be left over from a home reno project. No nails or hammers needed; simply line up the wood pieces parallel to build a path that’s about three to four feet in width. It doesn’t necessarily have to look aesthetically pleasing, and you can use mismatched wood.
Kids are used to easy sailing on concrete or asphalt, so biking on a wooden (bumpy) trail will set them up for the uneven road that lays ahead when mountain biking through designated nature trails. They can earn extra points if they remain on the wooden path without steering their bike into the grass.