Do you remember learning to ride a bike? Chances are you do: it was scary, exciting and a big deal. Mastering your first two-wheeler is a big milestone. Teaching your kid to ride a bike is a huge gift that lasts a lifetime. When you ride with them, you get to teach them so much more than the technical skill and physical coordination needed to avoid falling off…. in fact without even realising it you are teaching them some great life skills.
Put simply, our resilience is our ability to bounce back and persist even when things go wrong. It is the ability to get back on and keep riding, even in you fall off.
2. Overcoming Fears
When you’ve had the security of a trike or training wheels, it can be a scary experience to try and balance on two wheels. Other challenges along the way might be a bigger bike, a particular trail or hill, or learning to ride on the road. Providing the challenges are age appropriate and the child is ready for them, they can be a positive experience of overcoming fears, and enjoying the satisfaction of ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’.
Whether it is passing a too-small bike onto a younger child, or sharing a path or trail with other users, using a bike is all about sharing. Especially about sharing space safely. That means learning about other peoples different needs and about respect. Wouldn’t our communities be even better places if we all learned these lessons well when we were young.
Going on a bike ride, whether it is around the block or bigger adventure, will toss up some surprises along the way. We can’t control the weather, the roadworks, or the odd tumble. Chances to practice adapting to life’s curve-balls helps adults stay mentally flexible. For kids, it gives them a chance to see that even when things don’t go as expected, we can modify our plans and approach to make the most of the situation.
Falling off and getting back on; again and again. That’s how we learn to ride a bike right? And unless you’ve got an e-bike, you can’t get to the top of a hill without a fair does of persistence too.
As kids our parents do so much for us. Being able to safely and confidently ride a bike opens up a world of independent mobility for a child. If you can also teach them basic repairs and maintenance then they are literally ‘set for life’: a lifetime of active transport, adventure and fun. And you won’t be playing ‘taxi’ to your teens for years. Increasingly, young adults are turning their backs on car ownership, and fewer are gaining their drivers licenses. They’ll love being able to ‘cycle instead’.
7. Road Sense
Even as bike passengers, kids are exposed to the world of roads and traffic. They learn by observation. As you add in age appropriate instruction, their knowledge of road safety, etiquette and ability to keep themselves safe around traffic will continue to grow. It is no coincidence that a survey of Auckland driving instructors found that kids who cycle regularly make better drivers.
8. Self Confidence
When I wanted to know more about how kids feel about riding a bike, I asked teachers at my kids school if the students could do some writing on the topic. The results were awesome, and one of the repeating themes was the sense of mastery and accomplishment they felt when they pushed their limits, such as tackling a tough hill or track, or just keeping up with Dad. Biking is an activity where kids can participate on a fairly equal footing with Mum and Dad, especially as they get older. And because you can tailor it to their age and abilities, they can enjoy the thrill of achievement and the resulting boost to their self confidence.
9. Self care
Using bikes for everyday trips help develop healthy habits of regular physical activity. Longer rides emphasise the importance of good food and adequate sleep. And on all rides, taking proactive personal responsibility for staying safe is a skill we want our kids to have.
10. Risk Taking / Consequences
More and more we are realising that we don’t do our kids any favours by ‘wrapping them in cotton wool’. Put it this way, would you rather a seven year old experience the consequences of riding at speed and losing control; or a seventeen year old experience it behind the wheel of a car? So much of learning is experiential, and as parents we have the balancing act of keeping our kids safe whilst teaching them how to keep themselves safe (so they can do the job when we aren’t around). I’m not talking about putting your 7 year old on the main road to learn to ride; but am suggesting that blatting around the local school bike track at break-neck speed will soon teach them a thing or two about the laws of physics and the consequences.
What would you add to the list?