10 Things Cycling Teaches Kids

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.

1. Resilience

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’.

3.  Sharing

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.

4.  Adaptability

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.

5. Persistance

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.

6.  Independence

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?

 

 

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10 Reasons to bike with your kids

Do you need a bit of motivation, or some well reasoned selling points up your sleeve?  Here are my top 10 answers to the question of “Why cycle with kids?”:

  1. It is fun.  Kids know it, and just to convince the grown ups…. have you noticed how many bikes are used in advertising these days.  There is a reason for that: bikes are a symbol of fun, freedom and adventure.  Biking is about simple, un-rushed pleasure.
  2. It is slow.  Huh?  Aren’t we too busy to be slow? Well, yes, exactly!  Sometimes we just need to slow down and see what we are missing when we rush through our lives.  Biking with your kids means really experiencing the world around you, stopping to explore or chat, and moving at a more child friendly pace for a while.
  3. It is time.  Of all the gifts we give our children the ones they remember most are time and shared experiences.  Getting out on our bikes and sharing some time together, undistracted by chores, devices or interruptions is a precious gift indeed.
  4. It is learning.  Some of the best learning of all comes so well disguised that we don’t even realise it is happening.  Biking together is an opportunity to learn new skills, impart knowledge and tell family stories.  And not just about cycling: about the world around us, perseverance, courage, trying new things, respect, tolerance, navigation, self-management…. the list is huge.
  5. It is sharing.  Paths, tracks, footpaths, road space – when you are out on the bike you are sharing space with other people.  People on foot, cars, other bike users, farmers, disabled users, dog-walkers, etc.  Learning to share with care is a life skill worthy of it’s own mention.  Our kids will be much better and safer drivers from having been coached in this skill from an early age.
  6. It is healthy.  1 in 9 Kiwi kids are obese and plenty more are overweight.  We are not moving as much as we should, and are surrounded by lots of yummy treats that are just a little bit too easy to get hold of.  So have your cake (ice cream, chocolate…)  and eat it too: food is energy in, cycling is energy out.  My kind of maths!
  7. It is green.  Using a bike instead of a car for some of your trips is a worthy goal to have.  The vast majority of our car trips are less than 3km.  With kids that might seem to far to walk, but definitely not to far to cycle.  When you start out cycling for fun on the weekend, it may give you the confidence you need to use your bike for other trips too, and then we all win: you, your health, and our planet.
  8. It is outside.  ‘Nature deficit disorder’ is a term coined to describe the challenge that we are not spending enough time outdoors.  Research is increasingly showing just how much we benefit from time outside.  Beyond the exercise benefits, it is a great stress-reducer.  In our busy lives that sounds just the ticket!
  9. It is a life skill.  The world is changing, our lives are busier, our cities are more populous and congested.  The worlds best thinkers are struggling with these challenges.  Many agree that riding a bike is a good way to address some of those problems: encouraging us to live closer to where we work and play, and reducing the amount of traffic pollution and congestion.  Riding safely and confidently is a key to independent mobility later in life.  And it might even mean you aren’t signing up to be your kids taxi driver well into their teen years.
  10. It is fun.  Is it cheating to mention fun twice?  No surely not! ( I have many more reasons I could put in instead).  Fun gets a second mention because it is the top reason to bike with your kids.  And who doesn’t want more fun in their life!

There you have it, motivation sorted.  Just remember the saying “the hardest part of going for a run is getting your shoes on”.  Sometimes getting started is tricky, but we get going when we focus on just how great it will be once we are on our way and doing what we enjoy.  Now you’ve got 10 things to focus on, so grab your bikes and get out there!