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  • Writer's pictureKK Mencke

How to Use Patience and Love to Encourage Street Savvy Tyke Cyclists

Practical tips from an experienced parent with three young kids on bikes, in a trailer, or in a toddler seat.

If you are an adult with children, perhaps you remember the challenge of teaching your children to ride their tricycles or bicycles. You may be so frustrated that you thought of quitting with a desire to never go down this road again. There are other parents that just roll with the punches, putting on their helmets as soon as they hear, “again,” from their children. If you are a parent that relates to one or both of these scenarios, keep reading. Below are four tips, that I have experienced, that may help you make this learning and bonding time with your child more fun, while you teach the love of cycling that could last a lifetime.

Our kids on bikes are active, mobile, street-savvy, and we taught them how to be safe, yet, have fun. Experts will reinforce how great this experience can be for you and your child, positively affecting their psychology and physiology. While this can be a tough journey, it is worthwhile and rewarding. I have a few parenting tips to help you along the way and a practical tool to pack on the ride.

I love to ride my bike on my Sunrise Rides, take bike gang rides through a city rich with bicycle history, and take my three children cycling. Sunrise Rides are when I bike by myself when the sun rises over the North Coast Inland Trail around 6:00 AM in the Summer. Bike Gang Rides are when I may bike, or I may bring my youngest children to ride on organized rides with Bike Elyria. My children are seven, four, and two. My oldest has been riding a bicycle for three years, having moved away from training wheels at four years old, despite learning to ride on a balance (strider) bike. My middle boy upgraded from his strider bike to a 12” bike with training wheels. He still loves to ride his tricycle along the driveway with his little sister, two years old, on her little trike. My two youngest kids sometimes ride along in a bike trailer. I also take my youngest for rides in her toddler seat.

We take on our neighborhood sidewalks, most often. On our last ride, my oldest son rode his bicycle, my second oldest son rode his bike with training wheels, and my youngest rode her little pink tricycle. Admittedly, I love bikes and my children enough to do this at least twice a week. If that is a typical day for you, please, share your tips about riding your bike with children! There is always room to learn more.

No matter how well and good your intentions are, it takes practice with any new activity to keep you cool. When you go for a walk while your child is riding a bike, play the supporting role. Learn from your little cyclist. On your rides, you will have the opportunity to share lessons, and even direction to temper tension, calm fears, keep everyone safe, and enjoy your family activity as much as possible.

The first practical mindset action I must share with you is to make a point, remember your child riding her bike. It is her experience. Her young mind focuses on a ride to the moon or the playground. Likely, she will also want to play on the moon or the playground. Then, she will have to cycle all the way home from the moon or the playground. What a big goal for her little legs! Be patient and learn from your child. You will see how strong her will is. Be prepared to help her when she tires.

The second practical mindset action is to be encouraging. Let your child know how much you believe in his ability to cycle. You may have to share the sidewalk with other pedestrians. Your child is conquering his bicycle and the world, let him know you are there to help and keep him safe. Try not to distract him or interfere with his ride. He is on a big, big, big bike ride to play at the park!

Here we are at the third leg of the trip. You packed snacks and drinks. Their little legs will run out of energy, yet their will power stays strong. Now, it is time to enforce limits and unpack your bag of tricks. The limits you set are the lines your draw in support of your values to keep your cyclist confident, comfortable, and safe. Strike a balance to help without interfering. Think about your experiences walking while your child is cycling. Where do they usually wear out? What kind of help do they yell at you to stop? Take frustration in stride. Be ready to enforce your limits and help where they need it. At most, they will need your strength to piggyback and carry a bike.

Sometimes words will not be enough to get your child moving on their bike. Your child throws a fit when you try to pull their handlebars or push forward at their seat. When you have all reached the limits, be practical. The number one tool I pack alongside the water bottles, snacks, and baby carrying wrap is a pull strap. The strap is like a rear anchor on a car seat or a ratchet strap. This tool will help you pull, haul, or attach small cycles. Wrap it around the bike’s stem for an assist that allows your child to pedal and steer. The strap will help you carry a bike. It will help you secure a small cycle to an active stroller, too. Honestly, this has saved my patience and helped to keep many cycling trips a success.

Feel prepared with practical actions to take more walks while your child bikes. The most helpful ways, in my experience, are to learn from your child, be encouraging, set limits, and pack a pull strap. You may find a need for each of these points in your family cycling adventures. When your children begin cycling at a young age, you will have years of practice to be safe, to strengthen their abilities, and to guide them to become conscientious cyclists. You will build your child’s love of cycling for a lifetime.

Kelly Kraus Mencke

Kelly KM Communications, LLC

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