What is a balance bike?
A balance bike looks like a regular two-wheel bike, except it doesn’t have pedals. A kid sits on the seat and then uses their feet to push off the ground to make the bike move. Eventually, a child will push with enough momentum and coordination to pick up both feet and glide on two wheels.
These new-age bike inventions are great for toddlers. As kids grow, developing gross motor skills is an important part of their overall development. Gross motor movements involve large, stabilizing muscles that allow kids to walk, run, jump, climb, etc. These movements allow kids to become independent with everyday routines like getting dressed and maybe putting away one of the things they threw onto the floor today.
Aside from the developmental benefits of a balance bike, let’s be real. With two toddlers at home, I’m often desperate for any excuse to get us out of the house. Because biking is fun, it’s a pretty easy sell when I need a quick win and a quicker exit.
Why choose the balance bike?
If you’re looking for a set of wheels for your aspiring biker, there are a few options to consider. These include a tricycle, a balance bike, a “traditional” bike with training wheels, or a two-wheel bike with no training wheels. If you’re trying to decide which is right for you, here are 3 reasons why a balance bike may be a good option.
1. Your kid can use the same balance bike for years.
Balance bikes cater to a relatively wide age range (typically around 18 months to 6 years) and are much more adjustable than either a tricycle or a pedal bike. My daughter has had the same balance bike for over a year and a half, and it still fits her well. The bike has grown with her in more ways than one and has continued to hold her interest over time.
2. Biking provides opportunities for safe risk-taking.
Young kids need opportunities to take risks. We spend a lot of time telling our kids what they aren’t allowed to do and play spaces these days tend to be highly controlled. Research shows that by allowing kids to take risks, they actually learn to manage those risks and ultimately make safer decisions. A balance bike provides opportunities for kids to navigate new situations, learn to make their own decisions, and develop confidence in themselves. (Note that risk does not mean danger; bikers should ALWAYS wear a helmet and only ride in traffic-safe areas. Check out Bike Easy for resources, including safety tips and recommended routes.)
3. Balance bikes prepare kids to skip the training wheels.
Around my daughter’s 4th birthday she was big enough for a two-wheel bike with pedals. Because she had become an expert balance biker, she was able to skip the training wheels stage. I honestly didn’t believe this would work, but with my husband’s steadfast optimism on the matter I figured it was worth a try. In no time at all she was pedaling, steering, and braking like a mini-pro.
As a parent, I’m always trying to find balance — balance between the chaos, the tantrums, the mess, the missed bedtimes, and the favorite foods that my kids suddenly hate. I’m sure I’m making decisions every day that my kids will resent when they’re in high school. But just sometimes, there are moments when I think this whole parenting adventure is going ok. When my cautious child, my observer, takes her bike up a “hill” to zoom down it, I definitely panic, but I also feel a sense of… elusive, fleeting balance.
If you’re looking for a balance bike with an awesome basket, this one is a great option. Make sure to find a well-fitting helmet to go with it. I’ve always had great experiences at our local bike stores, including Bayou Bicycles and GNO Cyclery, and both stores keep kids’ inventory in stock. As always, check out the New Orleans Mom Marketplace for great deals on pre-loved kid items.