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Toddler Cycling

Teaching Your Toddler How To Use A Balance Bike

Teaching Your Toddler How To Use A Balance Bike

Spring is the perfect time to teach your child how to ride a bike, making sure they are ready to enjoy the great outdoors during the summer holidays! Long gone are the days where kids would learn to ride a bike using a set of stabilisers, then learn again to go without stabilisers.

These days, children are able to learn how to balance themselves and steer their bike using a balance bike, two important skills for mastering riding a regular bike, making the transition from starter bike to regular bike much smoother.

In today’s blog we cover the basics of teaching your child how to ride a balance bike. If you have any experience of teaching your child to ride a bike and want to share any tips with us, please tag us @cameronlodges on Twitter or leave us a message on our Facebook page.

What is a balance bike?

So what is a balance bike and how does it differ from a normal bike? Side-by-side, the main difference is that a balance bike doesn’t have pedals or a chain set, two mainstays of any regular bike.

Balance bikes are a replacement for tricycles and bikes with stabilisers. As they’re meant for toddlers, they’re smaller than regular bikes and have fatter tyres which help stabilise the bike. Most balance bikes have at least one brake, however, at first most kids will try and stop themselves using their feet. So top tip number one, choose their footwear wisely! We don’t want their brand new trainers getting ruined on their first outing! You should also consider safety, so stay away from open-toed sandals, crocs, or any other kind of footwear where part of the foot is exposed.

How do they work?

Pedalling, steering, balancing, braking…cycling requires a lot of different skills and a lot of coordination to master! Balance bikes focus on teaching kids the two most important of these skills – balance and steering.

Balance bikes allow children to push the bike along with their feet at first, before learning to push off and glide along with their feet off the ground.

Is a balance bike better than a regular bike with stabilisers?

Isla Rowntree, triple British cyclo-cross champion and founder of Islabikes, a leading manufacturer of balance bikes, summarises in an interview with Cycling Weekly why balance bikes are better than stabilisers at teaching kids how to ride a bike:

“[Stabilisers] are not actually a great way to learn to ride. A bicycle steers by leaning, you lean it to the right and the handlebars fall to the right, you lean it to the left and they fall to the left. Stabilisers hold the bike in a rigid, upright position – so when a child learns to steer with stabilisers on the bike, they’re actually learning to steer a tricycle.

Instead of learning to steer by leaning, they learn to steer by turning the handlebars, and pushing their bodyweight away from the bike, to stop it toppling over. When they come to ride without the stabilisers, they’ve then got to un-learn what they’ve been doing and learn something different.”

What age is a balance bike suitable for?

Balance bikes are suitable from toddler age upwards. As long as your child can walk, there’s no reason why they can’t begin to learn a balance bike, however most bike manufacturers state from age 2+. Brands including Yvolution have designed a balance bike that’s suitable for younger kids aged 18 months +. Their Y Velo Junior Balance Bike has a double rear wheel for added stability when the child is younger, but the second wheel can then be removed when they gain confidence.

Is there an upper age limit to using a balance bike? In general, kids up to 5 years old can enjoy riding a balance bike, however most children will move on to a regular bike by age 4.

How to choose a balance bike

With so many options on the market, how do you choose a bike that’s right for your child?

Given that your little ones will likely use the bike over a two year period and they will grow a lot in that time, adjustability is key. Most bikes come with adjustable seat and handle bar heights and most bike manufacturers measure using a minimum inside leg measurement, as opposed to age. As well as height, you should find a bike that is no more than a third of your child’s weight.

Safety is key and some bikes offer a steering limiter, which means that the front wheel and handlebars won’t be able to spin fully round. Another important safety factor is whether or not your child can reach, and pull on, the brake.

How much does a balance bike cost?

Like any other product, you can get low (<£50), mid (£50-£100) and high-end (>£100) price points. Factors which affect the cost of the bike include its features e.g. weight, material and tyre type, whether it comes pre-assembled or needs to be built at home, and the brand itself.

The Independent wrote a great balance bike review in October 2018 which ranks the UK’s most popular balance bikes in a top 10 list, taking into account factors such as price, brand and features.

How do I teach my child to ride a balance bike?

As with any bike, before you begin, make sure the tyres are firm, the saddle is stable and the brake works. Teaching your child to ride a balance bike can be split into five main areas –

  1. Getting on / off the bike
  2. Braking
  3. Moving
  4. Balancing
  5. Steering

 

  1. Braking

Before your child gets on to the bike, it’s useful to teach them how to use the brake (if, of course, your chosen balance bike has a brake) so that they know how they can stop themselves if they feel they are going too fast (plus it will save those shoes!).

Start by having them walk alongside the bike, hands on the handlebars. Ask them to gently pull the brake lever until the bike starts to stop. Repeat this exercise as many times as possible for your little one to become comfortable with braking.

  1. Getting on and off the bike

It may be tempting to just lift your toddler on to the bike, however it’s worth spending some time teaching them how to get on and off properly. Getting on and off a balance bike is very similar to getting on and off a regular bike. The key skills to master are leaning the bike and swinging the leg over. Once they have swung their leg over, they should place it on the ground. At this stage, both feet should be flat on the ground, their bottom should be on the saddle and their hands should easily reach the handlebars. If at this stage you think your child looks uncomfortable, consider adjusting the seat / handle bar height.

  1. Moving

Once safely seated on the saddle, hands on handle bars, ask them to walk slowly in a straight line to allow them to get used to the bike and the movement required. While they’re walking, encourage them to look ahead. Top tip: kids can be easily distracted, so it’s useful to have someone up ahead that they can focus on. Your child will naturally go faster as they get used to the bike.

  1. Balancing

Once your child can confidently walk with the bike, encourage them to take longer steps, pushing themselves forward. The aim is to get them to lift their feet off the ground and glide along. Push with the left foot, push with the right foot, then glide! Top tip: a gentle downward slope will encourage them to lift their feet. Once your child has mastered the movements of cycling, re-introduce the brakes. To make it more fun, try playing games where you shout out words like Go / Slow / Fast and Stop!

  1. Steering

Once your child is comfortable with being on the bike and moving forward, it’s time to teach them how to steer. A bike steers by leaning on the handle bars. To help them steer, ask them to lean to the right / left while slightly turning the handle bars. Avoid sharp corners until they’ve built up confidence with gentle curves.

How long will it take to teach my child to ride a balance bike?

Little and often is key, as toddlers will generally only be able to do 30 mins of cycle practice at a time before getting tired, hungry or distracted. All kids learn at their own pace and some may take longer than others to pick up these new skills, but the important thing is that they are enjoying what they are doing!

Here are some tips from some one of our favourite parenting bloggers…

Sam Rickelton from North East Family Fun

“We found taking the kids to a cycle path with a very slight incline worked really well as it helped to give them a little momentum as they were getting started. Also, when you’re moving from a balance bike to their first proper bike, if you remove the pedals and lower the seats for the first few days it will help your children get used to a bigger bike and make the transition from balance to ‘proper’ bike.”

What are the next steps once they’ve mastered the balance bike?

Children usually use a balance bike up until the age of 4 or 5, but again, some kids will progress quicker than others and will be ready to ride a regular bike before their 4th birthday. With the skills they’ve picked up using a balance bike, the transition between riding a balance bike and riding a regular bike will mainly be teaching your kids how to pedal.

Enjoy a Family Cycling Break In Loch Lomond 

Loch Lomond is a fantastic location for all the family to get outdoors and enjoy cycling. Whatever your ability, Loch Lomond has a cycle path to suit! Starting in Balloch and ending in Tarbet, the West Loch Lomond Cycle Path is a 17 mile route which has access to some amazing beaches and picnic spots along the way.

Download the route card from Loch Lomond & The Trossachs

There are other, shorter routes, some of which can be found within the ground of our resort, making Cameron Lodges the perfect base for a family cycling holiday in Scotland.

 

 


Family Holding Hands

February Half Term

February Half Term Activities

If you’re looking for Half Term break inspiration that avoids the airport then you have come to the right place. The best family breaks are only a bus, car or train journey away when you visit the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

No matter what kind of self-catering break you’ve chosen to embark on, there are some great family friendly activities available and breath-taking scenery to explore within our resort grounds and the surrounding area.

We’ve put together a list of our Top 6 2019 Half Term activities in and around our luxury resort below. Let us know if you have any activities we should add to the list – tweet us @CameronLodges or leave us a comment on Facebook, we’d love to hear all about your Half Term itinerary.

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail in Luss

Scottish faeries have lived on the banks of Loch Lomond for as long as we can remember, happily inhabiting the forest and woodlands, living at peace with nature in their magical faerie houses. Luss is one of the most picturesque villages in Loch Lomond and is perfect for exploring with your little ones. Take the whole family on a fairy-tale journey where the faeries fly and explore the forest in which they call home. But beware and take care on your explorations as when the Vikings attacked Scotland many years ago, they brought along some troublesome trolls who still roam the hills within the Scottish Highlands. An enjoyable walk for all the family, Luss is a 10 minute drive from the Cameron Lodges resort.

Treezone

High in the treetops lies the ultimate aerial adventure course in Loch Lomond. Let your little ones bring out their inner monkey and swing through the trees, tackling a challenging and adrenaline-filled adventure course. The course includes fun zip wires, balance beams, hanging platforms, tight ropes, scramble nets, bridges and gap jumps. Make unforgettable memories with the family high up in the sky, hidden in an enchanted forest this February break. Treezone is located at Loch Lomond Shores, which is a 30 minute walk from Cameron House Lodges.

Celtic Warrior Cruise

Take to the waters of Loch Lomond and appreciate some of the most beautiful scenery Scotland has to offer on-board our luxury 46ft yacht, the Celtic Warrior. One of our family friendly cruises is the perfect opportunity for you to enjoy some quality family time. Let the little ones feel the wind in their hair as the captain regales them with tales from the high seas, while the adults sip on an indulgent glass of champagne on the upper deck. The scenery you will be rewarded with will truly take your breath away.

Book your Celtic Warrior cruise please call 01389 722 508 or email themarina@cameronhouse.co.uk

Wildlife Walks at The Carrick

Loch Lomond is not only home to us humans but also a magnificent array of wildlife. There’s no better place to explore the local wildlife than The Carrick. When Doug Carrick designed The Carrick golf course he respected the natural habitat of the animals and birds that called this land home, ensuring the course was respectful of their needs. Over the years these animals have thrived, and multiplied, helped by our hard-working resort ranger, groundsmen and green keepers who all ensure the preservation of their natural habitats.

Download our Wildlife Tour of The Carrick guide. There are also copies available from Lodge Reception. And as you explore our grounds don’t forget to take a pen and paper as we like to hear about how many different species you came across on your travels.

Resort Activities

From an exhilarating Segway Safari of the resort and surrounding area to mountain bike hire, we have plenty of options for you to get out and explore the great outdoors this February Half Term. Hop on an adventurous Segway safari through the woodlands and off-road tracks and appreciate picturesque views of both the loch and surrounding landscapes. Our expert guides will teach you the basics before setting off on an off road adventure.

Our resort lies on Regional Route 40 of the National Cycle Network which takes you from the resort along the west bank of Loch Lomond to Arrochar. Hiring bikes for the day could be the perfect family activity for a crisp February day. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and make the most of the various picnic spots along the loch shore.

Test the whole family’s aim with an archery session with one of our qualified instructors. Learn the ancient art of archery within a safe environment. For kids aged 8 and over only, we have bows to suit all ages.

Find out more about our resort activities.

Jawsome Sharks

At SEALIFE Loch Lomond you can all discover a range of over 1,500 strange, fascinating and beautiful creatures that live in the deep blue sea. The aquarium is hosting an unmissable event called Jawsome Sharks this February. Educational and fun, your little one will become the newest recruit of the Jawsome Rangers and fulfil the mission of locating some missing shark teeth. Whilst searching for the hidden teeth, they will uncover fascinating facts about different species of sharks. And once they’ve found all the missing teeth, your little ranger will get a special play-doh gift to take home. Don’t miss out on this family fun day out and book your tickets to become the next Jawsome Ranger!

Book your SEALIFE tickets online.

 

An activity-filled Half Term Break at Cameron Lodges will tire the kids out so evenings can be spent enjoying our two resort restaurants and bars, or enjoying some quality time back in the lodge. Explore our range of accommodation options here: