How to get your 3 year old confidently riding a bike… With no stabilisers!

If you’re asking yourself how to teach your child to ride a bike, or more specifically how to get your 3 year old confidently riding a bike without stabilisers, we will guide you through this process with some tips that should help. 
If you follow these recommendations, and stay positive and encouraging, your child is sure to be pedalling away in no time!
Remember each child is different and it may take longer for some children than others. This guide will give you an idea of the steps you need to work through, at your child’s own pace. 

Introducing a Balance Bike

The first step towards confident bike riding is to get your child familiar with a balance bike.
Children naturally have a good sense of balance but it’s important to develop this before adding in the complication of pedals.
Using a balance bike allows you to skip the stage of using a pedal bike with stabilisers, as once your child has the balance down due to using the balance bike, they can skip straight to pedalling.  
toddler on a balance bike on a bike ramp
Most balance bikes are suitable from about age 2. If your tot is keen to get going even earlier then you could try a Toddlebike.
We had the Toddlebike 2 from around 18 months old. This is a small and sturdy plastic ride on bike with thick wheels for added stability. 
Lena 07168 First, Blue and Black, sit Steel axles, Baby Scooter to Train Balance, Learn-to-Walk aid for Toddlers from 18 Months
Then, at age 2 years old we upgraded to a strider balance bike. We went for the Strider 12 sport balance bike – note this particular model doesn’t have brakes the top end ones will do, so it’s up to you which one you want to go for. 
Micro Balance Bike Deluxe Blue Boys, Girls, Unisex Ages 2-5 Years
For cheaper budgets you could try the banana bike which is fantastic value for money at around 39.99 and is also very good quality. 
Banana Bike LT - Lightweight Balance Bike for Toddlers, Kids - 2, 3 & 4 Year Olds (Blue)
If you want the absolute best and are happy to spend a pretty penny, try the Frog Tadpole (just like prince Louis!) or an Islabike.
It’s best to avoid the heavy wooden balance bikes. They do look cute and wooden toys are always popular but this is one case where it’s best to steer clear, as a lightweight aluminium bike will be much easier for your child to handle.
toddler on a balance bike strider bike

The process of learning with a balance bike

When your child first hops on the balance bike they will typically move around in a striding motion. Very soon, children start to lift their feet and glide. Once your child starts to glide, you can encourage them with fun practice. We liked drawing different tracks with chalk, such as follow the wiggly lines and lift your feet when you reach the spots. My daughter loved using her balance bike to get around, whether on a trip to the woods, country park or even just nipping to the shop. Balance bike classes and activities may be available where you live.
Once your child is comfortable on the balance bike, riding with feet up and can confidently turn a corner or ride 3/4 of the way around a circle with feet up, the balance is there and the child is ready to add pedals.

process of learning with a balance bike

Introducing Pedals

Pedalling may be a completely unfamiliar skill for your child and lots naturally try to pedal backwards first of all.  It’s worth getting your child on something like a trike or ride on pedal toy to get the pedalling under their belt without needing to balance at the same time before trying the pedal bike. Once the child has the pedalling and the balance you can try to combine these skills on a bike… No need for stabilisers and we would really encourage you not to use them as they will actually be detrimental to your child’s ability to cycle. It’s very easy to become reliant on the stabilisers and then the child may struggle when they come off. 

Best First Bike Recommendations for Children

The best type of bike for a new rider is a lightweight one rather than a cheap, heavy bike.
For good quality it may be best to avoid novelty bikes and character bikes and check out bikes from the brands we recommended below: 
  • Frog
  • Islabike 
  • Squish

For Lucy’s first pedal bike we went for the Frog 44 and would also recommend the Squish 16 or the Islabike Cnoc range but the exact size bike you want to go for will depend on your child’s height. 

Budget first bike options:

Halfords Carrera cosmos is one of the lightest out there if you don’t want to pay the hefty price tags
You can also look into a cycle club bike rental where you pay a small amount monthly for a new or second hand bike and then can swap it for a bigger model whenever your child grows.

Tools to help transition from Balance Bike to Peddle Bike

When getting on the bike for the first time we loved the bikybiky vest as a simple tool to help new riders feel safe and confident.

3 year old using bikybiky vest for learning to pedal a bike

This clever little jacket has a handle which the parent can hold during early rides. Do not hold on to the bike, as this means you are doing the balancing for the child.
A light hold on the handle of the jacket can assist the child, while ensuring they are doing the balancing themselves.
To get going, lightly hold the bike back wheel between your feet to keep it steady while the child gets their balance.
Their feet should be in the pedal ready position, the child can push off and go.
You can start off by holding the bikybiky vest and briefly take your hand off to see if the child is able to carry on once they are riding.
For very young children they sometimes concentrate so much on pedalling that they forget to look up, which will mean they start to wobble, so you may need to remind your rider to ” look up ” and “look where you’re going”! 
When a child has lots of balance bike experience the pedal bike usually clicks very quickly, often even within about an hour! If it takes longer don’t worry as it may just be a question of practice and confidence. Once the child is riding you can then practice starting themselves off and the all important brakes!

3 year old riding a bike

Find a Safe Place to Practise 

If you have a family cycling centre near you this type of place is brilliant for practice. Any flat open space can be used such as old athletic tracks, old air fields, parks with flat paths…
It’s also important to ensure your child uses a helmet. Lucy was often stopped and complimented on her rainbow helmet which she chose herself from halfords. 
3 year old riding a bike with helmet

We hope this guide helped and you feel more confident in the process of teaching your child how to ride a bike!

If you found this post helpful please feel free to share with friends and family.

How to teach your child to ride a bike without stabilisers a guide to the best first bikes and the stages of learning to pedal

Happy cycling!

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