Fostering a love for life-long fitness through cycling is possible with children as young as one year when they are introduced to a balance bike. Since toddlers are on the move, love motion, running and controlled speed, introducing a developmentally appropriate two-wheeled balance bike will eliminate the transition from tricycle to bicycle. A balance bike grows with a child as young as one and up to six years. A toddler is able to maneuver on a balance bike as soon as he or she is able to walk. Older children have a blast running and gliding on their balance bikes as they manipulate obstacles and conquer small hills.
Benefits of a balance bike
Introducing a balance bicycle to a toddler compliments the development of balance, aerobic fitness and muscular strength. Toddlers become confident manipulating a lightweight, two-wheeled, bicycle through controlling speed by walking or running rather than using pedals. Toddlers first learn to steer a balance bike by picking up the front wheel. They naturally transition to steering the front wheel using handlebars as confidence increases on the bike. Children finally progress to shifting weight for steering. Shifting weight is very important for balancing and turning a bike with pedals. This skill is not learned on a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels. Transitioning to a two-wheeled pedal bicycle is much easier for children after gliding, steering and balancing on a bike without pedals.
With many balance bikes weighing less than 7 pounds, a child is able to pick it up, mount and dismount without adult assistance. Because a balance bike does not have pedals, the weight of a traditional bike is eliminated. Prices for balance bikes mirror a quality tricycle, however, a balance bike may provide years of activity, challenge and enjoyment for a child between 1 and 6 years old.
Toddlers and young children control the speed of a balance bike. They stop by standing up. Children learn to safely climb and glide down small hills. They manipulate the bike around obstacles and become confident with speed as their balance and gliding skills mature. Wearing a helmet becomes a routine with young children on their bikes as they learn their helmet is expected when riding a bike. The bike may be used in a playroom, back yard, driveway, garage, park, or bike path. Since a balance bike is small and light, it is easily transported to safe riding areas.
In 1818, Baron Karl von Drais invented the first balance bike in Germany. It was called the velocipede nicknamed the “dandy horse.” German children have been enjoying the benefits of balance bikes for decades. The German Kettler brand manufacturer helped popularize balance bikes in the United States during the past decade. Each year, they are becoming more popular in the United States.
What to look for in a balance bike
A balance bike should be adjustable for a growing toddler. It must be light and easy to maneuver. If purchasing a wooden bike, check the quality and safety of paint. The bike should have an area for feet to rest when gliding, a guaranteed frame, and have no sharp edges or areas for finger entrapment. A quality bike will be shipped with tools needed to adjust the seat and handlebars for proper fit as a child grows.
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