Balance and trust, these are the two elements necessary to ensure that the little ones gain confidence on the two wheels and learn to pedal alone, with their legs. We asked Silvia Malaguti, head of the educational activities at Fiab Milano, how parents can help their children in this passage.
“There is no more or less indicated age to ride a bike. On the contrary, I personally advise you to put the child in a condition to try as soon as possible »says Silvia Malaguti , head of the educational activities of the Italian Cycling Federation (FIAB) of Milan and author of the ” Bimbi in bici “ manual . Advice and good practices for cycling in the family “.
1. First rule: never use the wheels
«To ride a bike it is necessary to learn to stay in balance and, to do so, one must also fall sometimes. That’s why, since the baby is very young, even around 18 months , I suggest you try a bicycle without pedals »explains the expert.
The bike must be low enough to make sure that the child is able to put all the sole of the foot on the ground . «In this way, he will understand that the bike does not fall, because it is his own legs that support her – continues Malaguti -. On the other hand, children who ride bikes with wheels do not understand this mechanism, because it is the wheels that keep the bicycle on its feet “.
2. With the pedal bike
Towards 3-4 years , it is the right time to offer children a bike with pedals . «There is not a particular model, just some caution to pay attention to. The first concerns the dimensions : they must be suitable for those of the child. In addition it will have to have the adjustable saddle so that it can put all the sole of the foot on the ground. Only then will he learn how to handle the bike on the tips – explains the manager Fiab -. Then the child is told to push himself without putting his feet on the pedals and, if they are bothering, they can also be disassembled. In this way, he will understand that when it is stationary it can support the vehicle with its legs, while when moving it is the same speed to hold it up ». Furthermore, it will develop its sense of balance while correcting the trajectory to avoid falling.
3. Encourage them
To instill confidence in them, you can encourage them and stimulate them through play. “For example, you can challenge them to see how far they go without pushing the bike. In this way – continues the expert – they will be forced to keep their feet lifted from the ground for an ever greater time, becoming more and more familiar with the vehicle ». When they do many feet with their legs raised, then they will be ready to ride.
4. The departure
«The easiest way to teach the child to start is to learn how to do it with his legs on the ground . Tell them to start pushing and then put their feet on the pedals once they are in motion. When he is good, you can teach him the classic method of holding the pedal up and then give the first quick push, “advises Malaguti.
“Another important thing to teach is how to brake . Take hold of the handlebars while the child is pedaling and, at a certain point, tell them that you are about to release the grip. At that moment he must brake and, at the same time, put his feet on the ground in order to stop the vehicle. Let him repeat the operation two or three times and you will see that he has already learned, “says Silvia Malaguti.
A detail to check before introducing this step concerns the hardness of the brakes: if you notice that they are too difficult to use, ask a technician to loosen them a little.
6. Mistakes not to be done
“Parents must avoid supporting the child from the saddle, or reduce this help as much as possible – says the author of the manual “Bimbi in bici” -. The child must succeed alone in intent. And then you have to avoid showing your disappointment if it fails: you have to give it time to assimilate information and experiment. They have all learned to ride a bike, he will do it too. ” Another precaution is not to make him wear shorts , because at least one fall is likely and therefore better to avoid getting hurt or frightened by a peeled knee.
“However, it is good to avoid overprotecting your children or covering them with anxieties: otherwise they will associate cycling as something dangerous and they will not want to do it or they will be afraid of it” he points out.
7. Prepare the ground
Do not be too anxious but do not mean to protect children from harm: “To maintain a relaxed climate – Malaguti claims – take them to a place that has a lot of space in front and not a round track: you can not learn to ride a bike making curves immediately. Make sure there are no obstacles such as grass or stones in the path , and that it is very long and wide, without people. And then always put the safety helmet on». To encourage children to ride a bike, have them often go by bike, even for shopping or to go to school. “They have to live this moment as something fun , not a struggle. When it becomes a habit, it becomes a normal thing and you will have formed small budding cyclists »concludes the expert.