Archives for : January2013

The Best Tip Ever for Teaching Your Kid to Ride a Bicycle

I was at the local park with my daughter, trying to teach her to ride without training wheels. I was running behind her bicycle and holding her seat to help keep her from tipping over. This was good exercise, but it was not very effective and eventually gave me a sore back. After watching us for a few minutes, another father at the park came over and said that he had just taught his daughter to ride last week. The best tip that he told me was: “Buy her some some elbow and knee pads.”

So, we went and bought some pads that night. My daughter put them on; practiced falling down on the pavement a few times, and instantly became fearless. The next day, after a half-hour of practice with the pads on, my daughter was able to ride without training wheels. Removing fear from the process made it much easier for her to learn.

A second tip that we used was to wrap a towel under her armpits and use that to help stabilize her instead of trying to hold onto the seat. This allowed her to find her own balance point and still catch her when she tips to one side too much. It also keeps your back from getting all sore.

Pacific Cycle Cars Bike Pad Set (Red)
This set of knee and elbow pads will make your kid fearless. They also come in handy when learning how to rollerblade. Make sure they wear a helmet too!
Huffy Disney Cars Bike with Training Wheels (12-inch)
The main distinguishing feature of this bike is that it has Lightning McQueen drawings on it, but honestly, that was all that mattered for my daughter. The frame is heavy, and the quality of the bike is on par with the other bikes you find at other big box stores. Better bikes can be found, but they probably won’t have the right Disney characters on it. This bike has 12″ wheels. When learning to ride without training wheels, it helps to have a smaller bicycle so the kid can have some extra clearance when trying to stand over it.
Huffy Disney Cars Bike with Training Wheels (16-inch)
This is the same bike as above, just with a larger frame and 16″ wheels.

What tips do you have for teaching your child to ride?

See our other posts on bicycle trailers, trailercycles, children’s bike helmets, and balance bikes!

Kids Strider or Balance Bikes

Whether they are called strider bikes, balance bikes, push bikes, or running bikes, they all refer to kids bicycles that don’t have pedals. These have been popular in Europe for a long time, but they are becoming more common in the US lately.

My daughter’s present for her third birthday was a Kinderbike Mini Laufrad balance bike. She loved it right away, and I think she we could even have gotten it earlier – like when she was 2.5. She had a lot of fun with it, and it really helped her get the feel for balancing on a moving bicycle. While she was trying to learn to ride without training wheels, she would switch back and forth between the balance bike and her pedal bike.

I liked the Mini Laufrad because it’s very lightweight and makes it easy for the kids to handle. It also fits shorter kids, but they may outgrow it before they are quite ready for a bike with training wheels or a pedal bike. In my case, I bought a longer adult-sized seat-post (the M-Wave Seat Post, 27.2mm) and used a hacksaw to cut it shorter so that it wouldn’t hit the ground. This might not be a problem with the non-Mini Laufrad

There are some balance bikes made out of wood, but I don’t recommend them because they are not as durable, and somewhat heavier. I’ve seen more than one of them broken at the connection between the handlebar and the downtube. There is a nice review of some of balance bikes in the New York Times that was published in 2009.

Kinderbike Silver Mini Laufrad – Ages 18 Months – 4
KinderBike Laufrad Balance Bike
M-Wave Seat Post, 27.2mm

See our other posts on bicycle trailers, trailercycles, children’s bike helmets, and teaching your child to ride without training wheels!

Children’s Bicycle Helmets

It can be hard to find a bicycle helmet that fits well and is comfortable for small children, especially for riding in a trailer when they are 1 – 2 years of age. Shown below are the two models that we have used.

Many people seem to have strong opinions as to the minimum age for having a child ride in a trailer. Without passing judgement on anyone else (and following our pediatrician’s advice), we started when they turned 1 year old. Probably more important than the calendar age of the child is how well they can keep their head stable over some bumps. Use your best judgement as it applies to your child.  At this age, the length of your rides is going to be limited by how long your kid enjoys it. For us, this worked out to about 45 minutes in length, with breaks every 20 minutes to 30-minutes to stop at a park or store for some running around.

The Trek Little Dipper Helmet.
This was the best-fitting helmet we found for children when they were smaller. This one is primarily sold through local bike shops.
Giro Kid’s Rascal Bike Helmet (Red/Black Flames, Universal Child Medium/Large)
This is the helmet we got when my daughter was around 4. It has some neat flashing LEDs in the back – although the batteries will probably run out after a few weeks because your kid will forget to turn them off.

See our other posts on bicycle trailers, trailercycles, balance bikes, and teaching your child to ride without training wheels!

Bicycle trailers for kids

One of the best things about being a parent is sharing the joy of a hobby or activity that you  love with your kids. In my family, we enjoy cycling together, and having our kids ride with us has only made it more fun. In this series of posts, we’ll describe how we gradually went from having the kids in a bicycle trailer to riding a strider bike, then to riding on a trailer bike, and finally to riding on their own bike.

Bicycle Trailers

Riding in a bike trailer is the first step. We started off with a Chariot Cougar 1, and then when we had our second child, we moved up to the Chariot Cougar 2. The Chariot series of trailers are very well made, and I really appreciate how they attach to the bicycle. The ball-joint hitch makes it really easy to connect and disconnect. Chariot makes a bunch of models in its “sport series” – the Cheetah is the basic one, the Cougar adds a suspension, and the highest-end CX series adds drum brakes. I think the suspension is worthwhile because we often ride on dedicated bike paths, and every now and then we’ll encounter a section of unpaved gravel or dirt trail. With the Chariot you need to purchase the bike trailer attachment separately. They also have a ton of other attachments – jogging, stroller, XC ski.

The Burley makes a couple of nice models as well, including the D’lite and the Bee. I like the D’lite because of the suspension.

chariot cougar 1

Chariot Deluxe Cougar 1 CTS Adventure Carrier (Chassis Only) – Red/Silver/Grey
This is the 1-persion version of the Chariot Cougar. Don’t forget to buy the bicycle kit too!
Chariot Cougar 2 Chassis
Chariot Deluxe Cougar 2 CTS Adventure Carrier (Chassis Only)
This is the 2-persion version of the Chariot Cougar. Don’t forget to buy the bicycle kit too!
chariot cougar cycling kit Chariot Cycling Kit for CTS Adventure Carriers Compatible with Cheetah 1, 2/Cougar 1, 2 and CX 1, 2 (2003 or newer)
Burley D’Lite Bike Trailer, Orange

See our other posts on trailercycles, balance bikes, children’s bike helmets, and teaching your child to ride without training wheels!

Best Birthday Gifts

Kids these days have so many toys! When I give a child a gift, I want it to be something that the child and their parents appreciate. I try to think of something fun, but also a little off-the-beaten path and with educational value. I try to avoid toys from Toys R Us or Target, since those are easier to find and they might have it already. Here is my list of gift ideas that I use when my daughter is going to a birthday party. This is my list for 1 year olds, I’ll post more ages in future posts.

1 Year Old Birthday Gifts

Shades of People
Kids love looking at all the faces of children in this book. The photographs are beautiful and engaging with simple text about the different shades that people come in.
Good Night, Gorilla
The illustrations of this book are playful and colorful. There’s very little text, but the pictures tell the story on their own. Both of my kids loved the page where the zookeeper’s wife discovers the gorilla in her bedroom. When they first started to look through books on their own, they would always stop on this page and look around with cute expressions of surprise! Get the board book version for 18 months and younger.

Zoo Mix ‘N Match Peg Puzzle By Melissa & Doug
These puzzles are cute since the pieces can fit in multiple positions. This makes it easier for little ones to feel success, but also allows them some creativity and opportunity to experiment. Melissa & Doug makes several different versions of these puzzles.
Kidoozie Press N Go Inchworm
I like this toy since it doesn’t need batteries. The child presses down on it, and it moves which encourages crawling. Crawling is good for their muscle development even if they are already walking.

Add a comment to share your favorite gift ideas. I would love to have more ideas to choose from!