If you’re patient, can spare a little time, and have an-eager-to-learn trainee, you can teach your kid to ride a balance bike in 10 days. Or up to 12 months if they’re too young.
Riding a balance bike is a great way to master balance and coordination skills. And these two skills transfer nicely to real pedal-bike cycling.
Kids as young as 2 can safely learn to ride a balance bike. But older kids generally pick up this skill sooner than their younger counterparts.
Before we proceed, here’s a little project we need to take care of: adding slime into the bike’s tires to prevent frequent flats.
Playful kids get flat tires frequently. And fixing punctured tires isn’t super exciting. If you want to keep flat tires to a minimum, follow the 3 simple steps below to add sealant/slime into the tires of your kid’s balance bike. Doing this gives the tires a self-healing ability and drastically reduces punctures.
1. Take the valve core out. You need a tool to get the valve out. If you get the All-Tires Slim from Walmart, Target, or Amazon, you can use the black cap on the bottle to unscrew the valve and release the air. Repeat this process for the other tire.
2. Add in the tire sealant: Read the instructions and chart on the side of the bottle to learn how much slime you need to pour in. For 12″ tires, a quarter cup is sufficient.
3. Put the core valve back on and inflate the tires: Use the the same tool you used to unscrew the valve to screw it back on and air up the tires. Make sure to give each tire a few spins so that the slime distributes evenly.
Your kiddo can mount their balance bike and ride off as soon as the above process completes. There’s no waiting period needed at all.
If you’re interested, here’s a post on how to convert regular tires to a tubeless set up.
Kids Can Figure Out How to Ride a Balance Bike On Their Own
You probably won’t like what I have to say now…your kiddo doesn’t need much help from you or anyone else to learn to ride a balance bike.
Given time, a safe riding area, a properly fitted balance bike, and lots of encouragement, they’re smart enough to figure it out on their own. That said, there are little things you can do to help your little one master balance bike riding sooner and safely.
How Fast Do Kids Learn to Ride a Balance Bike?
How long do kids take to learn to ride a balance bike? Balance bikes aren’t hard to learn at all. But truth be told: learning to ride a balance bike is harder than learning to ride a skateboard, a kick scooter, a hoverboard, or a bike with training wheels.
How long your kid will take to master a balance bike will depend on what kind of a personality they are and where they are development-wise. If they’re a driven child aged 3 or older with a go-getter’s heart beating inside of them, it’s possible to learn to ride a balance bike in 10 days tops.
If they’re a quick learner and an athletic build with really strong muscles, they could figure out the entire learning process in 3-4 days.
But if they’re a laid-back personality who takes their sweet time before completing anything no matter how important, mastering a balance bike might take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
Younger Kids Take Longer to Master a Balance Bike Than Older Ones
Younger kids tend to take longer to learn compare to older kids. If you introduce a 2 year old to a balance bike and expect them to master it in a month, it just won’t happen. Expect the process to take anywhere between 9-12 months.
In the end, you don’t want to waste time worrying about how fast or slowly your kiddo is progressing. Focus on helping them where you can as well as encouraging them instead. You’ll learn a few tips toward the end of this post on how to help your kiddo master a balance bike.
Do This First : Get a Decent Balance Bike for Your Kiddo
The first thing to do is to get a good balance bike for your child. Not all balance bikes are created equal, but I’m not saying to go buy the priciest deal out there. I saying you need to research and read parents’ reviews to learn which options are the best for the money.
And if you’re wondering which the best kids’ balance bikes are, I’ve heard tons of good things about the 12″ Strider Sport Balance Bike. This is a lightweight bike that works well for most 18 month olds all the way through age 5. This bike is tough and stands up well to wear.
Whether your kiddo will hurtle through the woods around your neighborhood, mostly tackle dirt paths or gravel roads, or roll over rocks, the Strider should survive all that.
In terms of sizing, make sure that your baby can comfortably sit on the bike with the feet flat on the ground. They need to sit at a saddle height that allows them to lower down a foot or feet to push or brake to reduce speed. If you pick the wrong size balance bike, your kiddo likely won’t want to ride it very much.
And since your kiddo’s growing up fast, choose a balance bike designed to evolve as your LO does. Get a bike with an adjustable seat, one you can raise or lower to the most comfortable sitting position.
Set Saddle Height at the Right Height Above the Ground
One way to discourage a kid from learning to learn a balance bike is to set the saddle at the correct height. If the saddle is adjustable (get a bike with adjustable seat height), move it up or down until you find that sweet spot where comfort lives.
Saddle height shouldn’t be too high that the legs dangle the way they would if you carried a toddler with a backpack hiking carrier without stirrups. If only the toes are in contact with the ground, it’s time to lower the seat.
if the aspiring rider’s knees are bent as though they were sitting on a chair, it means the seat is sitting too low. You need to adjust it so it sits a little higher.
The correct stance on a kid’s balance bike is where the child stands with the feet flat on the ground, bum on the saddle, and the knees slightly bent.
See the image below to learn how a good fit on a balance bike looks like.
When you fit a child correctly on a balance bike, the saddle’s height is roughly 1″ and 1.5″ less than the distance between the crotch and ground (inseam length). When you measure the inseam length, the child shouldn’t have shoes on and both feet should be sitting securely flat on the ground.
Determine Where Your Kid Currently is Ability-wise
A 15-month toddler won’t learn to balance a bike in exactly the same way as say a 5-year-old child. Children at different points on the developmental journey do different things when you hand them a balance bike to glide around on.
There are 4 easy-to-identify riding levels when it comes to riding a balance bike. These 4 phases include the following:
1.Balance Bike Riding Level #1: Standing Over and Walking Phase
Parents observe this riding ability with kids in the 18months-36 months range. Many kids in this young age range don’t seem to like the idea of actually sitting on the saddle and hurtling down some dusty street. Instead, they prefer to stand over the bike and just walk along as the wheels roll forward.
If you’re child is at this riding ability, just be patient. Keep encouraging the kid so they won’t quit. Reward them if you can when they stick to it and refuse to give up.
Courageous, ambitious kids don’t last very long in this riding stage. Such kids sit and walk right from day one. But for most kids, this is a pretty long learning period. It can take months for most children to walk on the bike while seated. Generally, the younger the kid, the likelier they’ll spend a longer time practicing in this riding stage.
There’s two things you MUST NOT do during this learning phase. #1: don’t allow that tyke to ride any kind of tricycle. If you let them do this, all the comfort this bike type offers will get in the way and cause stagnation of sorts. #2: Stay away from pedal bikes with training wheels.
Training wheels are nice because they stabilize the bike and assure the child of falls-free rides. But while stabilizers are great for teaching the pedaling technique, they do very little in the balancing department.
2 .Riding Level #2: Sitting and Walking Riding Level
This learning phase/riding ability typically happens between the ages 2 and 3. So what happens here? The little rider can now comfortably seat on the saddle, but they’ve not yet learned to walk while seated. They sit but continue to walk on the bike for some time.
The budding bicyclist gets a glimpse of what riding a balance bike is capable of in terms of fun and excitement. They’re unlikely to quit at this point. Instead, they’ll hang in there and learn until they eventually master the balance bike.
For the most part, children don’t remain in this learning phase for very long. The older and physically stronger the kid is, the sooner they’re likely to transition to sitting and running. Because they realize there’s much more fun to be had when you sit and run compared to sitting and walking. With most children, this period lasts weeks, but don’t fret if your LO needs a little longer to master this level’s riding skills.
As a parent, you shouldn’t just sit and watch. Get a bunch of balance bike riders in your neighborhood to ride with your son or daughter.
Adults and kids alike tend to develop belief in themselves around a particular pursuit when they see others doing the thing they’re trying to master. Your kiddo will mutter, “if all these kids can ride a balance bike without falling over the whole time, I CAN and I WILL.”
And if your little angel likes winning, they’ll push harder than they would without anyone competing with them. Soon, they’ll be romping down the neighborhood’s streets like riding a balance bike is the easiest outdoor fun activity ever.
What if your kiddo isn’t super ambitious? There’s a chance seeing other kids ride better and easier might discourage them. In this situation, it’d be best to have your LO learn with complete beginners rather than pro balance bike rippers. Whatever you do, keep giving a little pep talk to the youngster as they learn and get better.
3. Riding Level #3: Sitting, Running, and Learning to Balance
Kids can develop this riding ability anywhere between ages 3 and 4. During this learning phase, the child can sit and run. And the daredevils among them will outrun you! I run some of the time, which means I didn’t struggle running along.
The kid also learns to balance on a balance bike. You won’t need to do a thing here. It’s a natural learning process, and kids have what it takes to transition through this phase on their own. But there’s no harm if you and your kid watch a few experienced kids doing their thing on YT.
Some kids need a couple of weeks to master the sit-run-balance riding level. But fast learners can transition into the final learning phase (below) in a matter of days.
Your kiddo suddenly realizes they can ride really fast and reach places they initially couldn’t. As a parent, you need to take steps to make sure the tyke doesn’t hurtle through the block and end up on the street. There’s vehicular traffic on the other end of the driveway, and you don’t want a 3-year-old balance biker riding there, especially when unsupervised.
This is where parent-formulated balance bike riding rules come into play. Let the know they can’t go anywhere they like any time they like. They can ride the driveway or around the neighborhood all they want, but the street or road is off limits.
4. Riding Level #4: Sitting, Running, and Gliding
When your kiddo finally transitions to this final learning phase, nothing can stop them, barring a life-threatening fall off the balance bike. Have them wear a good kid-specific bike helmet and knee pads before heading out the door.
During the final learning-to-ride-a-balance-bike stage, the kid fully evolves into a little adrenaline-packed ripper who tears down the bike path and dominates the skate park, bike park, and pump track. You could even get a ramp for your young rider. And why not have them accompany you as you explore the trails on your recreational MTB?
They’re able to walk (they won’t want to walk at all!), run, and glide while seated. This is the most fun part of the learning experience. All that happens in this phase is happiness and exercise. And it’s real exercise that gives your son or daughter a nice burn each time.
BTW, gliding means pushing off the ground at a fast pace and them lifting the feet off the ground so they can…fly. This is a balance bike kid’s idea of what heaven’s like. If you didn’t ride a balance as a kid, you may not fully grasp how I mean here. Let’s just say it’s a thrilling bicycling experience.
But how long should kids remain in the gliding phase? Well, don’t overthink this. If they want to ride a balance bike until they’re 7, that’s perfectly OK.
Remember: having fun riding a balance bike is the main thing. So, don’t try to introduce the kid to any kind of pedal bike unless they’re ready for it. And the only time they’re ready for a pedal bike is when they say they are and actually ask you to get one for them.
When ready, get your kiddo a good mountain bike or BMX bike for kids. Then come back to this baby gear site to read about how to teach a kid to ride a pedal bike with/without training wheels.
How to Stop on a Balance Bike: 3 Ways to Come to a Safe Stop
Being able to come a smooth stop when riding a balance bike or anything else for that matter is super important. And there are two ways to stop a balance bike namely:
- Using friction on the front tire
- Squeezing hand brakes
- Using the feet to stop the bike (it works great, but it’s not the best stopping method*)
1.Using a Foot Brake to Stop a Balance Bike
Nobody ever taught me to press my feet against the front tire to stop a balance bike. Likewise, your child doesn’t need a teacher to do the same. Children naturally learn to lift their feet off the ground to apply friction on the front tire to slow down and finally stop the bike. It’s easy to do, safe, and effective.
2. Using a Foot Brake to Stop a Balance Bike
Some creative (these ones prefer the easiest solutions to problems all the time!) kids choose to drop a pair of small feet onto the ground and drag them to stop the bike.
The drag-your-feet-on-against-the-ground stops the bikes powerfully and safely. But your kid’s shoes won’t like this method very much.
But if you have a fat bank account and like buying expensive kids’ shoes every two weeks, then go ahead and encourage your kiddo to brake with their shoes. And no, don’t purchase open-toed shoes…because toes are pretty delicate, right?
3. Use Hand Brakes to Stop a Balance Bike
Hand brakes are a highly effective way to stop a balance bike. But there’s one little problem: very young children (under the age 3) lack the eye-hand coordination needed to grab the brakes and squeeze to stop. Most kids aged 3 and above are able to reach for the hand brakes and apply a reasonable amount of force to stop.
If you’re planning on buying a balance bike for your kiddo and you live in a rather hilly region, it’s best to pick an option with good hand brakes. You want your LO to be able to stop any time they need to without burning holes in their shoes.
Where Should My Child Place their Feet While Gliding?
Some balance bikes for kids come with a place where the rider can rest their feet as they glide down the driveway. This feature is called a footrest but you know what? The question whether a balance bike needs to have a footrest or not never ever bothers kids, only parents LOL.
Here’s the thing: kids can and do naturally figure out where to keep their feet while gliding regardless of whether the bike has a footrest or not. That said, it’s OK to choose a balance bike with a footrest. Don’t worry; having this comfort-boosting feature won’t impede learning in anyway. But it’s not an absolute necessity either.
The 12″ Strider Kids’ Balance Bike comes with a footrest located just below the saddle and right in front of the rear tire. This bike’s footrest is very well designed.
It (the footrest) doesn’t stick too far out. Nor does it get in the way out riding. Unlike other bikes I’ve seen, our sons didn’t strike their calves against the footrest when riding the Strider.
Your Child Will Definitely Fall Over While Learning
You knew this was coming. Your kid will fall off the bike some of the time. This is why wearing protective gloves, a helmet, and knee pads is super important.
Generally, younger kids or inexperienced ones fall often, but the tumble tends to not be too hard. And injuries don’t happen that often, at least not severe ones. But as the child advances in their riding and becomes a speed daredevil, the falls are harder and injuries aren’t uncommon.
One reason balance bike injuries aren’t typically severe is that these bikes are designed to stay pretty close to the ground. If and when the little rider falls off the bike, they have less distance to travel before connecting with the ground than they have riding a pedal bike with stabilizers.
How to Ride a Balance Bike Wrap-up
Riding a balance bike isn’t too hard for young children, and it’s even easier for older kids. But it’s not as easy as mastering a pedal bike with training wheels, a kick scooter, a self-balancing scooter, or even a skateboard.
It’s a much steeper learning curve than all these activities, but it’s tons of fun once the process completes successfully.
Depending on how fast your kiddo learns new things, how old they are, and how hard they practice, learning to ride a balance bike can take anywhere between 10 days and 1 year.