Learning to ride a bicycle is one of life’s milestones, the first step to gaining true independence. And for parents there is no prouder moment than the sight of their own child pedalling away in the distance having mastered its art.
Children have an urge for movement and something as straightforward as a bicycle or scooter allows the child to develop their physical potential. It’s almost given that any child will love their first bike more than any other toy and it is something they will remember for the rest of their life. It’s their first independent form of transport and forms the basis to learn much more about co-ordination, balance, agility and the world around them.
Developing Motor Skills – and Confidence
The physical development of a child is as important as their educational progress. Between the ages of two and five years old they are learning how to move their bodies, how to balance and be self-aware. This in turn helps to build their confidence and develop their personality.
The skills they develop at this age are called gross motor skills – activities that involve the larger muscles in the arms, legs and torso. These help to improve the child’s body awareness, reaction speed, balance and strength through actions such as lifting, kicking, running and throwing. Developing gross motor skills gives a child a sense of achievement and feeling that they are really growing up.
Learner bikes, such as the LIKEaBIKE, are the perfect introduction to the world of cycling for youngsters and help to develop this early learning skill. They have been produced for children who are too young to ride a traditional bike. The simple, pedal-less design of learner bikes means children have to power them by pushing their feet against the ground, and use their feet to restore balance. By separating the steering and balance function from the pedalling, children can learn to balance without any other distractions.
Children are natural learners and constantly absorb new experiences. They love to make independent progress and by having a LIKEaBIKE, cycling is something they can learn how to master on their own. They will discover how it works, how to keep in equilibrium and how to make it move faster. Within a short time they will have more confidence about staying upright and will soon be coasting with their feet away from the ground.
Because learner bikes help children to acquire these skills at a younger age, the transition to a conventional bike is much quicker and more natural than those who are dependent on stabilisers or training wheels. Although stabilisers help children to get over their early fear of riding it is believed that they do more harm than good in developing the fundamental basics of riding. They offer a false sense of security and encourage dependency by forcing the bike to lean to one side while children are pedalling. This can still be the case once they are taken away.
The learner bike is also an easier method for parents who would otherwise teach their children to ride by holding the back of the saddle.
Since gross motor skills are improved with practice, children need plenty of opportunities to exercise these skills. Nowadays it is common for children to spend most of their leisure time watching television and playing on computer games, making outdoor play an endangered activity. Childhood obesity has become a growing concern for parents and experts agree that the decline in outdoor play has had a significant impact on this. Encouraging youngsters to undertake vigorous activities such as riding a bike will not only entertain them for hours but will also help their future health and physical development and allow them to explore a different environment.
Play is an integral part of children’s learning and is an important medium through which they develop skills, knowledge, concepts and attitudes. By playing outdoors children learn through what they do, through what they encounter and what they discover.
But most of all play is about having fun and getting the balance of play right can give children the best start in life.
John Stainthorpe is Sales Manager of LIKEaBIKE UK franchise