Teaching my daughter to ride
This season I've decided it's time for my 6-year-old daughter to learn to ride a two-wheeler.
We bought her a kids' bike with training wheels a few years ago. Aside from a few short trips through the neighborhood, she never showed a lot of interest in it.
Last year, however, we got a trail-a-bike, and she and I did extensive riding together last summer, including a 40-mile organized ride together.
Now, my daughter is pretty timid when it comes to physical activity, and she was very afraid of falling off the bike while learning to ride. So I explained to her exactly how we were going to do it: remove the training wheels, remove the pedals, and lower the seat so her feet could be flat on the ground. I would not push her -- she would provide all the power by "scooting," and could go as fast or slow as she liked. I think the scooting idea appealed to her, and she agreed to give it a try.
So a week ago Saturday we tossed her bike in the back of my car and headed over to the elementary school, which has a large grassy field and a crushed-limestone running track. We got the bike set up, and started out first on the grass. The field was bumpy, and she couldn't get up any speed, but I think she felt reassured that she wasn't going to fall over easily.
Then we moved on to the track, which has lower rolling resistance. I actually got on her bike myself and did some scooting to show her how to push off and lift up her feet. She was reluctant to try this, but was willling to let me push her slowly around the track while she steered. I held on very loosely so that she could feel the side-to-side motion, and helped her steer through a few turns.
After a lap or two around the track, we moved to a grassy slope to try some free-rolling, but again, she was afraid to roll down with any speed. But she gave it a few tries, and managed again to stay upright. Her riding skills weren't really improving yet, but her confidence was growing by leaps and bounds.
Finally we moved to the parking lot, and I let her try scooting on the pavement. Wow, what a difference. Any fear of the hard surface was completely overruled by the ease of rolling on the smooth blacktop. So I just let her scoot around, pushing off and rolling for a bit, then dropping her feet and stopping whenever she felt like it. She didn't roll more than 5-10 feet at a time, but all the while she was gaining confidence. By the end of our training session she was really excited to tell her Mom about her progress.
That was the previous weekend. This past weekend we repeated the trip to the school, unloaded the bike, hooked up the helmet, and started out right on the pavement. She began again with very short scoots, just regaining the feel of the steering. Then I told her we were going to play a game, where I would start counting when she started rolling, and I would stop counting when she put her feet down. We would see how high a number we could reach.
The first few rolls she made it to a 2 count...then a 3 count...then up to a 5 count. After about 15 minutes of practice, she got up to a 30 count, which was taking her the entire length of the parking lot (which has a very gentle slope). She was so proud! And I'm really proud of her -- this is a kid who's afraid to try anything new, so to see her trying and succeeding is just huge. It was so cool to see her take off, steering to correct her leans, getting the feel of the bike. There's just no explaining how we ride a bike, but once a kid learns that feeling, they'll have it for life.
I figure one more session without pedals, and then she'll be ready for self-propulsion.