When my 6-year-old niece told me about how she had wanted to try cycling, I was equally excited and worried. Doing outdoor activities with a kid is an uncharted territory for me, and there were a lot of things to unpack before actually having a tiny cycle buddy. After a while, though, I have certainly earned more experiences, enough to introduce to you how to cycle with kids, from A to Z.
Why should you cycle with your kids?
Like any other activities which requires moving, being on a bike is extra beneficial in terms of health, efficiency and relationships. By cycling, you can avoid having heart attacks, strengthens your bones and decreases the possibility of having obesity and diabetes. It also helps to build a stronger immune system and improve mental health. Using a bicycle to travel also contributes to reducing carbon footprint and, overall, is a really enjoyable, time-saving way to bond with children.
How to make it more convincing for them?
The easiest way would be to set goals. Example: For every five rides, you can reward your kids with something they enjoy like cookies or cash. If your family already has a point system, you can integrate things easily.
For competitive ones, make it your own Olympics. Race through routes and let your kid beat you sometimes for entertainment. Ask your bike group or neighbours to team up as well – This might even become a relatively good thing to do within the community. There are also cycling competitions hosted every year, ask your kid if they are comfortable enough to sign up for one of those, too.
It is relatively nicer to naturally convince them to follow you, though. What I do with my niece is to cycle to places that we need to go or enjoy being at in our free time. Twice a week, we would go to the market to get groceries, Tuesdays afternoons are reserved for our café hunt around the town, etc. Teaching her how to multitask brings me great joy and I sometimes get dragged into her secret schemes too, which is a sweet bonus.
Of course, your kid has to know how to ride a bike before we get into the fun. I did not have to teach mine (Thank God!) so I cannot give a helpful tip, but a very common way I see would be to give them a tricycle first.
Supposing that you have already passed that step, a good bike and good gears come next. Are you planning to do this as a fun past-time or are you training for sports? Based on the intention, you can choose to rent or buy a road, hybrid or mountain bike. Gears like helmets, water bottles or knee pads are also really important and can be found in almost any sports shop. Bring a first-aid kit with you as well – you never know what’s gonna happen on the way.
Lastly, mental preparation. It is cool if your kids are an active little one but if they are not, do not try to coerce them. Instead, explain to your kids that being healthy and fit can bring a lot of long-term benefits for them and it would be a fun parent-kid time.
For the first few times, plan the route beforehand. It doesn’t matter if it’s out of the town or just lazy strolls in the neighbourhood – bear in mind to choose safe ones, avoid off-limits or rocky places and steer away from construction sites. Use this occasion to introduce your kids to traffic rules and how to deal with crazy drivers as well.
When the kiddo is ready for more challenging routes, keep doing all of the aforementioned tips! Set up a GPS device for easy tracking and have designated stops on the way. Inform at least two people if you are planning to camp out or going to explore wild places.
Things are going to be slow for the first few rides. It’s totally fine. At the end of the day, this is not a competition. Allow children, as well as yourself, to make a stop or go home if you are not feeling well. Don’t ever let your child finish their ride if they show any signs of fatigue. Don’t ever let them go anywhere without you, or if you do, not without their phone next to them.
Kids are insane. They are fierce, honest, naughty, borderline energetic. Cycling is a great way to tame them down without tying them to a certain thing and it can also do them really good in the long run. As I am finishing this article, my little niece is starting to plan a daily five-kilometre cycling routine for us and being the children’s person I am, I will dutifully indulge in this ambition of hers.