Dear Oprah, I think Mikey has almost learned to ride his bike! He just needs the confidence to keep going instead of steering toward the grass and then falling over in slow motion. Here is the timeline and process that we used to teach him. You may want to save this and forward it to all of your friends with small children, as I think it is a very efficient process.
Christmas of 2009: Grammy and Papa give Mikey his first bike. They thought since their three-year-old neighbor was zipping around on a two-wheeler, that their grandson would surely be able to, as well. I guess we all forgot that Mikey is an 80-year-old man when it comes to coördination and risk taking.
Fall of 2011: The squirt is in kindergarten and we both feel it’s time to try the bike on training wheels. He begins to get it—the riding with the help of stabilizers but definitely not the balancing part. He manages to fall even with four wheels…A LOT! He also manages to get frustrated and act like a bit of an ass, A LOT! I did a post called “Bike and Rider for Sale” that gives a little insight into this…
Winter of 2012: He gets a Big Wheel that is basically a low rider tricycle; which means, not only is it stable, but it’s close to the ground, so he can’t tip over. Who needs a bike when a big wheel will fit his body until he’s 7 or 8?
2012-2013: Occasional attempts to ride bike with training wheels. Then in early 2013 a friend of ours gave us a beautiful “big boy” bike, which sparked a little desire again. But—unfortunately, like his mother, if he can’t do it perfectly the first time, well, he’s probably never going to get it, so don’t even try. Honestly, Oprah, writing blog posts to you for the past two weeks is the most determination I have ever exercised in my life.
Summer 2013 (present day, if you were wondering): Dad decides that Mikey is going to learn how to ride a bike before he goes into second grade. They tried the big bike, but Mike’s feet couldn’t touch the ground when he was sitting on the seat, so he would have a difficult time catching himself if he started to tip. Back to the small bike with training wheels; then without training wheels and holding on to him; then frustration for all of us; then tearing off of knee and elbow pads; then exclamations about how “bike’s are stupid;” and finally, Greg google’s the best way to teach a child to ride a bike.
Turns out, that as long as a child’s feet can touch the ground when seated on the bicycle, you can remove the training wheels and the pedals and let the child push with their feet until they figure out how to balance while coasting. This seems to be the easiest starting point.
Naturally, our driveway is on a small grade so that water runs down toward the street. This was a great way to get Mikey started on coasting and balancing. Once he showed some understanding, we put the pedals back on so that he could maintain his momentum. After steering into the grass an infinite amount of times, he began to grasp the steering concept that keeps the bike balanced–the operative word being “began.” Our lawn still operated as breaks and land pad.
The kid is not begging to ride his bike, and we aren’t begging to argue with him, so we’ve only managed to get out and practice about every two or three days. Still, he shows improvement each time, like the brain is working even when he is not riding. He only has about five tries in him before he starts peeling off the pads and the helmet and “hating his stupid bike.” This makes his dad storm off to the house after throwing his hands up in frustration at his son for giving up too easily (hmmm…who’s giving up too easily?) Jeez, no wonder the kid hasn’t learned to ride—it’s such a rewarding and delightful process.
Last evening was no different, except that I stayed outside with him after dad surrendered and went inside. I talked him into getting back on his bike. How did I do this? Through lots of encouragement about how great he was doing, and also through threats of no video games. I’m not sure which was the defining moment for him, where he put the helmet back on; my expert confidence building skills or the impending doom of video game withdrawal, but he got back on the horse (the purple and green mongoose horse.)
After raising the seat a little bit so that he didn’t have to put his knees in his mouth to get his feet on the pedals, he seemed to find it easier. Next thing I know he’s pedaling and pedaling—teetering a bit, but still on two wheels—the neighbors are watching and cheering—then he steers off into the grass…He’s got it, though! It’s his for the taking! He just needs to own the bike. Freedom is within his grasp! Yay!!