OK, so a baby isn’t going to mount a two wheeler…not even a trike. But there are many activities that engage little ones so they’re all set to go once they get big enough to straddle a ride toy! I highlight bicycle riding not because it is a favorite of mine (which it is) but because there are so many great things about it. Here’s a short list:
- Develops balance.
- Great cardiovascular and body strengthener.
- The speed provides vestibular stimulation.
- Bumpy roads and pumping up hills activate the proprioceptors (brain organizers).
- Falls especially activate proprioceptors and increase body awareness so there is an up side to these little dramas
- Children learn to operate the bike (pumping) while balancing, while steering, while regulating the speed. This motor integration helps build motor planning ability.
- Since both hands simultaneously hold the handlebars and steer while the legs push and lift up on the pedal, bilateral motor coordination is enhanced.
- Cycling offers an opportunity for the whole family to go on an extended outing-pack a picnic lunch or head for the local ice cream shop.
Infants and Babies
Make sure the baby is comfortable with many forms of movement.
- Strengthen the trunk and legs.
- Straddle baby on a thigh, bouncing and shifting side to side to activate “equilibrium reactions” or balancing ability.
- Increase balance through reaching activities.
- Have toddler play with push toys, to encourage holding a bar with two hands.
- Play with ride toys. This helps the toddler become comfortable with straddling the vehicle and pushing with the feet to go backwards and forward.
- Keep working on all the activities listed in the Baby section!
General Resources about Cycling:
- Since riding has become more difficult due to fewer side walks, more traffic, fewer kid friendly neighborhoods, it is frequently important to find bike trails to provide adequate riding space for the child. Here are a few sources to check out:
Each state has information regarding the Greenway Project. This is an effort to link up bike trails across the state. Google Greenway Project for your state and you should get information regarding rail trails and the like in your area. The National Park Service also has many wonderful trails so if you are fortunate enough to live near or visit one of these locations, check out the wonderful cycling opportunities for families.
Family Fund Raising Rides: Introduce your children to philanthropy while enjoying a family ride. Here are some examples of philanthropic organizations that sponsor family or kid rides to raise awareness and funds for specific causes.
There are many more rides. Check with your Local Cycle Shop for information in your area. These shops frequently provide information about best pales to ride as well.
It is required by law that children where helmets. Refer to the be-safe link and you will see some interesting statistics. Childhood accidents and fatalities have been significantly reduced, directly attributable to wearing helmets. Look at the number of fatalities in adults, resulting from lack of helmet use (97%). Think about it. Parents diligently insist that their kids wear a helmet. Then they hop on a bike wearing a baseball cap or nothing. Besides setting a really bad example, it is just plain stupid. Do the math on the force incurred by a 50 pound child falling from a distance (height) of 30 inches, going 8 miles per hour. Now repeat the equation adding 100 or so more pounds, another 10 inches and let’s say 12 miles per hour. There is a huge increase in force (which would be applied to the head).
There are countless tragic stories of adults who suffer head injuries, needlessly. Two grownup members of my family, both experienced cyclist, would have had a serious head injury if they hadn’t been wearing helmets at the time of their falls. Head injuries are not as easy to fix as broken bones. Keep this in mind when you are purchasing the bike and helmet for your little cyclist. Slide over to the adult section. You can find helmets to match your bike or cycling outfit!