Cycling is brilliant for boosting your child’s general confidence and independence. It’s also a great way to get the whole family outside together. Best of all, it’s an activity that can be started at a very early age, even toddlers on balance bikes can enjoy many of the benefits of riding. To make the most of family cycling time it is important to ensure it is relaxed and enjoyable for all involved.
Here are our 6 tips for helping your child build confidence and enjoy their cycling.
Cycling requires children to master a series of skills, then bring them together to balance, pedal and steer at the same time. As you develop as a cyclist there will be several new skills and techniques to adopt, such as changing gear or using drop handlebars. When children are learning it’s much less stressful to separate these skills and tackle them one at a time. Use our Teaching Your Child to Ride guide for further advice.
Make sure your child has mastered each skill before moving on to the next step. Give them plenty of time to practice by taking them outside to develop the skill they are focusing on. It is important to listen to and respect their feedback so you are aware when they are ready to make the next step. Pushing your child to do something they are not ready for could have a negative impact.
Regular constructive praise and encouragement can make a big difference to your child’s development on their bike. It is important to praise the effort they are putting in and recognise they are trying their best. If your child has a setback or a fall, don’t make an issue of it and sensitively encourage them to get back on and try again. Setbacks and falls will happen, but your response to them will have a huge impact on how your child reacts.
One of the best ways to improve a child’s cycling confidence is through practice and having fun. Why not take the whole family out for a picnic, cycling there and back? See our link on great cycling routes here.
Your local school, council or leisure centre may provide cycle-training courses for children. These courses teach basic bike handling skills and how to cycle safely on the road. Research suggests that 64% of children feel a lot more confident on their bikes after taking such a course. See if your child can access a cycle-training session at school or book onto a private course.
Your child might have gained enough confidence in their cycling ability to want to cycle to school, to the shops or to visit friends. That’s great, but your natural protective instincts as a parent may make you hesitate in letting them cycle completely alone. As a first step, when you feel your child is old enough for some independent cycling, go out riding together to find some agreed routes they can take to common destinations. That way you’ll know exactly where they are riding, but they can still feel independent. If your child can see and feel that you have confidence in them they are more likely to feel confident in themselves.