Your kiddo has given you every indication they want to be like every other kid in the neighborhood. They’re now mature enough to wheel around on some two-wheeled contraption. But what will it be, a balance bike or a kick scooter? Is a balance bike better than a scooter for kids? This the main question this post endeavors to address plus a few others that parents keep asking.
Related: Kick Scooter vs. Electric Scooter
What’s a Balance Bike?
A balance bike is a small bicycle for young children, and one thing that differentiates it from regular pedal bikes is that it lacks pedals. It doesn’t have a drivetrain, and it doesn’t always have hand brakes. It provides kids with the opportunity to learn balance and eye-hand coordination skills and prepares them for the exciting world of riding a real pedal bike without training wheels.
On a balance bike, the young rider sits on a properly positioned saddle, drops the feet down onto the ground and pushes against the ground to propel the bicycle forward.
To stop the bike, the rider reaches for the hand brakes and squeezes them or puts the heels on the front tire to create enough friction to stop the two wheeler. Some kids also put the feet on the ground and drag them to build up the resistance needed to bring the bicycle to a stop. BTW, the first balance bikes to come on the scene didn’t have any kind of braking system. Kids had to solely rely on creativity to safely stop the bike.
What’s a Kick Scooter?
A kick scooter is a two-wheeled human-powered vehicle with a metal deck where the small feet stay during gliding. Most of the time, one foot is on the ground pushing while the other foot remains on the platform. The deck stays close to the ground, and the height above the ground is about 3″. The closer to the ground, the better the stability and overall scooter control.
To stop a kick scooter, the small rider either puts a foot on the rear fender and exerts pressure or squeezes hand brakes.
Balance Bike vs Kick Scooter: Which is Better for Kids?
Both devices enable kids to get out and have fun while burning excess calories, building up gross motor skills, and developing spatial awareness. But a kick scooter is easier to get on and off compared to a balance bike. On a balance bike, the child concentrates on pushing, balancing, and steering. These are the exact same movements that happen on kick scooters, but the rider enjoys better device control since they ride standing.
Because mounting and dismounting a kick scooter is easier, mastering it is easier than a balance bike. However, the skills learned riding a balance bike transfer better to pedal bike riding vs. the skills learned scooting.
While the rider on a balance bike stays closer to the ground compared to regular pedal bikes, the rider on a kick scooter stays even closer to the ground. If they fall they have a much smaller distance to travel before finally hitting the hard ground below.
Additionally, a balance bike is sturdier and heavier, but neither device is too heavy as to cause kids to avoid riding it. However, a kick scooter is easier to store and transport.
Cost-wise, both kick scooters and balance bikes live in a similar price range of $50-$60 for budget options, $150-$300 for the better ones, and up to $1000 or more for top-of-the-range models. But balance bikes tend to hold their value better than kick scooters.
Reasons to Choose a Balance Bike Instead of a Kick Scooter
1. Balance bikes are simple to learn and use, but more difficult to master than kick scooters.
2. It’s the better option when you want to prepare your child for learning on a pedal bike down the road.
3. Riding a balance bike teaches child how to lean and steer as well as use hand brakes, skills that transfer over to cycling really well.
4. The child’s core strength improves significantly as they learn to balance the bike.
5. A balance bike lacks a drivetrain, so there’s no pedals to hurt them or get in the way in the event of a fall.
6. Even though the seat stays higher above the ground a scooter’s deck does, kids have an easy time getting on and off a balance bike.
7. The child’s spatial awareness increases substantially, which helps keep the child safe when out riding.
8. Since the rider walks and runs using both feet (alternates between right and left foot when pushing), both feet get a decent amount of balanced workout.
9. Balance bikes tend to hold value better than kick scooters. If you choose a good quality balance bike and take good care of it, there’s a very good chance you might hand it down to future kids or even sell it used online. Kick scooters (aside from stunt scooters, which tend to be pretty sturdy) tend to break sooner than balance bikes (they’re not as durable).
10. Greatly improves gross motor skills.
11. Kids can start riding a balance bike from as early as 18 months, but it can take many months before they can learn to ride a real pedal bike.
Reasons to Choose a Kick Scooter Instead of a Kick Scooter
1.Many toddler scooters have 3 wheels, which makes them more stable and safer than balance bikes. But having three wheels can be more of an impediment to skills acquisition.
2. Kick scooters are pretty easy/straightforward to learn.
3. While sizing the scooter properly is important, it’s not as important as it is when buying a balance bike. Here’s how to size a balance bike correctly. You’ll also learn how to properly set saddle height for a comfortable, safe ride.
4. Since the child rides the scooter while standing rather than seated, they’re better able to react or correct errors.
5. The young rider usually pushes with one foot while the other one (usually the dominant one) stays on the deck. Kick scooting does a great job of improving the rider’s core strength as well as lower limb strength. And no, there’s no risk of one leg ending up more muscular than the other.
6. Kick scooters are easier to transport and store compared to a balance bike because most come in a foldable design and don’t take up much space.
7. Really helps a child’s gross motor skills.
It appears that a balance bike is the better buy, but there’s no reason you can’t get a scooter instead if that’s what your little one wants.
8. There are many toddler scooters with a transition seat that allow toddlers as young as 12 months to learn to ride.
Size is Less Important When Buying Kick Scooters
While sizing is important when buying kick scooters and balance bikes, it’s somewhat less critical when shopping for a kick scooter.
Most toddler’s kick scooters come with highly adjustable handlebars, some of which adjust a full 4 different heights. It’s harder to get the sizing wrong when buying a scooter compared to when buying a balance bike or any bike type for that matter. With scooters, it’s pretty simple to set the handlebars at a comfortable height for your LO.
When choosing a balance bike, you have to measure inseam length and use this figure to calculate the correct bike size for your child. And when the bike finally arrives, you have to make sure the saddle seats at a comfortable height for the young rider.
What Muscles Do the Job in Scooting vs. Balance Bike Riding?
In both outdoor activities, the young rider needs to exert a certain amount of core strength when out riding. But scooting tends to require a greater exertion of this strength since the younger rides while standing vs. seated on a balance bike. When they lean forward on a balance bike to balance and steer it, they need a certain level of core strength for this maneuver.
As for the leg muscles, both legs get about the same amount of workout when riding a balance bike since the child uses alternates the legs during striding. On a kick scooter, the dominant leg (the one the child likes to kick a ball with) stays on the deck while the weaker leg mostly stays on the ground pushing. But don’t worry; while it may seem like kick scooting might lead to an uneven muscle development, this doesn’t happen.
Balance Bikes are More Popular Than Kick Scooters
Even though these two outdoor fun activities are popular among kids, balance bikes are a little more popular. One reason balance bikes are super popular is that they get kids ready for cycling better than scooting or any other activity does.
With balance bike riding, pedaling is absent, which means that the child focuses the majority of their attention on balancing, coordinating, and balancing. And where there’s concentration, mastery eventually happens. Aside from this, balance bike riding can readies kids for junior cycling events and boosts personal confidently immensely.
A kid who rides a balance bike takes to other sports like a duck takes to water. Balance bike riding makes transition to real cycling and other sports easier compared to kick scooting. But this isn’t to say that kick scooting skills amount to nothing in the scheme of things.
Balance Bikes Generally Hold Value Better
Kick scooters tend to be slightly cheaper than balance bikes, but balance bikes tend to outlast kick scooters. Many parents buy one good balance bike and pass it to the rider’s siblings down the road when the time comes. While you may do the same with kick scooters, they’re not as great as balance bikes in terms of holding value.
All that said, kids are increasingly choosing to ask for a scooter instead of a balance bike as their first-ever toy. But who says you can’t get your little one a kick scooter as well as a balance bike? Multi-talented players don’t always happen naturally; they’re sometimes made and nurtured by others.
Well, neither device is a real investment. At least not in the same way gold and stocks are. But being able to sell a balance bike down the road to a stranger online can help you recover some of the cost. The best kick scooters may last long enough to fetch some money as used items, but many cheap scooters tend to fall apart sooner than that.
Balance Bike vs. Scooter, Which is Safer?
Let’s face it: falls are normal and common whether a kiddo rides a scooter or a balance bike. But since a scooter travels slower than a balance bike and it’s easier to get off from, a scooter might be safer than a bike. That said, balance bikes are pretty safe, safer than regular pedal bikes since there’s no pedal to get in the way or to fall on. But in reality, the safety of either device depends on your kid’s actual riding skills and the presence or absence of safety features such as brakes.
Whether you end up choosing a scooter or balance bike or scooter, make sure that your little one helmets up and pads up before hopping on either device. If your kiddo rides a skateboard or roller skates/rollerblades as well, they can use the same helmet for riding a scooter.
The helmet needs to be properly certified for the sport. Most skating helmets these days are dual certified. Meaning they’re good for multiple small impacts encountered at relatively slow speeds. Here’s a list of dual -certified skating helmets that may also be safely used for riding a scooter.
For riding a balance bike, you can use a dual-certified helmet or a bike-certified-only helmet. A dual certified helmet satisfies the requirements of both the CPSC Bike Safety Standard and the ASTM F1492 Skate Safety Standard.
Doing Things Together As a Family is Super Important
Before choosing either a balance bike or scooter for your kiddo, it helps to consider what most family members do outdoors. If they ride bikes, buying a balance bike instead of a kick scooter might be best. There’s no better way of instilling a sense of belonging into your kid than having them accompany the rest of the family on family fun day outdoors. Of course, if your family is into kick scooting, definitely pick a kick scooter for your angel.
Bonding should be the main thing. A family that plays together tends to develop into a safe place where everyone can freely express themselves and be loved unreservedly. Some of the cycling pros you see around became that way because a parent, grandparent, or someone else cared enough to ride with them as a child.
Portability: Which is Easier to Carry?
Kick scooters are definitely easier to store and transport compared to balance bikes. Most kids’ kick scooters are highly foldable and collapse to really lightweight and compact dimensions.
It’s possible to carry a kid’s scooter in a stroller when out and about, but you’ll have to carry the balance bike while also pushing the stroller. And not all baby strollers are easy to push with one hand.
Putting it All Together
Balance bikes are the better option if you want your LO to master skills that’ll transfer over to real cycling in the future. For the youngest toddlers, it’s probably better to get a 3-wheeled scooter, but they won’t learn much balance and coordination skills.
Also, balance bikes are sturdier and more durable and hold value better than scooters. But scooters are better to learn and could be safer and easier to control.
In the end, what you choose to buy is up to you. I can only shine some light on the similarities and differences between balance bikes and scooters for toddlers, something I believe I’ve done a good job of.
I'm Esther Moni, a proud stay-at-home mom and a psychology graduate of the United States International University (USIU) . I hate it when anyone calls me a housewife, because what does housewife even mean? Being a mother of two babies and a pup, Bailey, as well as being Ricky's wife tires me to no end, but I still manage a smile at the end of it all. And when my boys aren't done doing mischief, I juggle writing a post on parenting or baby gear performance for this blog and running my little counselling office based out in Nairobi. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/esther.moni/">Visit my Facebook profile here</a>, and this is my <a href="https://ke.linkedin.com/in/esther-moni-3841b573/">LinkedIn profile</a>, and here's my <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKcVb3NNDrURDH8C0KiAE1g/">nascent youtube channel.