Taking off the training wheels is a big day in any child’s life. Some kids are excited and really want the training wheels off but other kids use them as a crutch. My husband and I are convinced that our youngest child will go to college with training wheels on her bike. She loves the training wheels.
Before I get into the tips, let me just say that no matter what anyone tells you, there is no magic age for training wheels to come. My son had just turned four and he was ready. He rode like a champ and never looked back once those training wheels came off. My daughter was almost six.
You should not push a child. We wanted our children to be confident bike riders so we waited and watched for some of the signs below. Then when they were ready, those wheels came off.
To kick off National Bike Month (this May), here are 7 Tips for knowing when it’s time to take those training wheels off:
1. The wheels get in the way. “I wanted to ride on the grass and dirt but my training wheels would get caught in stuff so I knew it was time for them to go. You just feel like you are ready and you don’t need them anymore. It takes you like 4 or 3 days to get it. Of course it only took me 3.” – Huntly (my son), age 9.
2. They want to go fast. “It felt to easy for me after a while with the training wheels. The bike was going too slow and I wanted to go faster. Much faster. The only way to do that was to take off the training wheels.” -Annabella (my daughter), age 7.
3. Work up to it. We did a gradual step process with the training wheels. We took one off and left one on. That way my daughter could lean to the side if she needed that support. After a week, she asked us to take the other training wheel. My husband removed it and she rode off by herself without any assistance from us.
4. The kid tells you. My son wanted a bigger bike and he kept asking us to buy it for him. We told him that if we got him the bigger bike, we would not put training wheels on it. He agreed. We brought the bike home and off he rode right away.
5. Just do it. “Just take them off (and ride on the grass a lot)” Buzz Bishop shared. The grass can be a great safety net for the kids. Much more cushioning against falls can provide kids a confidence boost needed to really perfect their riding skills.
6. Watch your child as they ride. “You have to watch the bike from the back when they ride. See how well they balance without using those training wheels. The training wheels are actually a little higher than the regular wheels. When I saw my son riding and that the training wheels hardly ever touched the ground, I knew that he was ready. We took them off that day. ” ~ Jason, my husband
7. Tell them not to be afraid. “Our 7 year old just learned how to ride a bike about a week ago. We’d been practicing without the training wheels and he just couldn’t get it. He was too nervous. He wanted the trainers off, because all of his friends ride without them. A mom friend came by that afternoon and said, ‘I think I can help him get it.’ She whispered in his ear and helped him on his bike and they were off. She ran beside him maybe 5 feet and let go and he never looked back. He was riding. That night at dinner we asked what she said. He said, ‘Don’t be afraid. You can do this.’ We said (a bit indignantly), ‘We said that too!’ He replied, ‘No. You said, ‘You’re going to fall down a few times, but just get back on. You can do this.’ Huh. Here we thought we were being honest with him so he wouldn’t get discouraged when he fell and really he just needed to hear don’t be afraid. Now we know for the next one.” ~ Jen
As parents, we were guilty of the same thing that Jen did with her child. I call this being too honest. My husband and I were trying to prepare our kids for everything. Telling them skinned knees or bumps and bruises weren’t so bad and that was apparently scaring them. When really we should have just told them to do it and not be afraid.