Safety Tip? “Children Under Five Don’t Ride Bikes”

Hi sidadfkers
Readers!  Lisa, the mother of a 3-year-old, who lives in Atlanta and blogs at Organic Baby Atlanta found this “tip” at when she was researching bike safety for toddlers:

“Because they are not ready to ride bicycles, children under the age of five ride tricycles. “

Notes Lisa:


Wow. What a blanket statement. So there’s never been a single 4-year-old on a real bike? Not one? Funny, because I see kids under age five riding real bikes in my neighborhood all the time. And–oh, wait–isn’t my daughter under five? Yeah, that’s right: she’s three, and she’s been practicing on a pedal-less balance bike since she was 18 months old. She’s now riding it well and will soon graduate to a real bike with pedals. No training wheels. Even more shocking, she’s only had one or two falls (she’s a cautious kid). But I must just be seeing things when I think I see little kids on bikes, because, “Kids under the age of five ride tricycles.” Maybe those bikes actually have an invisible third wheel?
Or maybe there are just a lot of really short 5-year-olds in my neighborhood. — Lisa
Notes Lenore: The more we dangerize normal childhood activities, the less normal an active childhood becomes. Let’s hear it for sedentary kids, obesity and the great indoors!  

137 Responses to Safety Tip? “Children Under Five Don’t Ride Bikes”

  1. Danielle September 23, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    I purposely bought my son a small bike with training wheels rather than a tricycle. It looked a lot more fun and I thought he would transition better. Plus he likes to be a “big boy” He just turned 3 but I bought his bike when he was 2. What I hate more than the tricycle itself… most come with handles for the parent to hold while the child “rides”… isn’t the idea for the child to do the work, not me?

  2. magnuminsp September 23, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    I guess the logic being used is that no kids ever fall off of a tricycle! I know our son has…on numerous occasions!

    Just put all the kids in a plastic bubble until they are 18 and then..just let them go.

    “Dangerize” <—— I like that! 🙂

  3. Rich Wilson September 23, 2011 at 12:20 am #

    Ya. Sure. And my son NEVER played with any small parts when he was “3 and under”.

  4. Colleen September 23, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    My nephew learned to ride a two wheeler at age 3.5. He’s big for his age, so often mistaken for 5 or 6, but it can clearly be done. And when he falls down and scrapes a knee, he cries for a minute, gets a bandaid, and gets back on the bike. People are crazy. Siiiigh.

  5. Layne September 23, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    Both of my kids would have been in danger by riding a tricycle at the age of five, because their knees would have been black and blue from hitting the handlebars.

  6. Danielle September 23, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    magnuminsp — LOL my son falls off ON PURPOSE… how do I protect him from his own daredevil imagination?? LOL

  7. Bob September 23, 2011 at 12:31 am #

    It’s not bad enough that they want to keep them in rear-facing car seats until they’re three and booster seats until they’re in high school? Now they have to ride three-wheelers until they’re five? Sheesh…

    With every passing day, I hate the nanny state more.

  8. Kathryn September 23, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Hmmm. I swear my #2 child was riding two wheels without the trainers at 3….in fact I was there! 😉 And I know he didn’t gestate any longer than most kids, in fact, he was early. While my older brother fractured his skull flipping off of a tricycle in those helmet-less olden days. Go figure.

  9. magnuminsp September 23, 2011 at 12:41 am #

    @Danielle–We did that too! In fact, we used to “crash” into each other when we were 9-11.

    @Bob–Car seats? When we were kids, we all were lined up in the back seat of the Volvo wagon….no seat belts…..

    When I was young, I learned how to ride a bicycle on…a bicycle……no training wheels! I fell a few times, but like they say, once you learn how, you never forget.

  10. Rich Wilson September 23, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    Geez, there’s other bad cycling advice on there. They tell 5-9 year olds to wear knee and elbow pads, but don’t say anything about gloves. Ditch the pads, and wear gloves.

    And by 10-14 they should no longer be encouraged to ride on most sidewalks. Kids and situations are different, but by 10 kids have the attention span and motor skills to ride on the road, in particular if there’s a bike lane. Cycling on the sidewalk is MORE dangerous than riding on the road. For one, there are more points of conflict with cars (driveways) and more importantly, there are no rules on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are chaos with people going different directions, sudden stops, and no lanes. Roads have a set of rules, where everyone flows in the same direction, each in their own lane (even if not designated by painted lines).

    You can get better advice from real cycling experts here

  11. LauraL September 23, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    Crazy! I remember a set of twins I used to babysit; the boy twin taught himself to ride his bike at 3 years old, no training wheels (or helmets, back then…)

  12. submommy September 23, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    Uh oh. Will I get arrested? My four-year-old learned to ride his bike without training wheels early this summer.

    Are the kids’ bike police coming to get me?

  13. Sam September 23, 2011 at 1:12 am #

    It’s ridiculous to say that kids under 5 should NEVER have a bicycle, but to be fair, kids under 5 riding bikes IS a more modern trend. Back in the 50’s and 60’s kids rode tricyles at that age. I remember being 5 and riding my tricycle all over the street visiting with neighbors and playing with my friends. Have you ever seen the old 50’s show show, “Dennis the Menace”? He was 6 years old and ridng his tricycle all over the neighborhood, as well. Now I don’t even think you can find a tricycle to fit a 6 year old. They are all so teeny tiny. I find it kind of sad. What’s the rush? Wheels are wheels and as long as they get you around, who cares if there’s 2, 3, or 4? It wasn’t until recent years parents felt the need to train their kids to ride bicycles at 3 years old. It was unheard of in my days. Back then parents didn’t worry so much about teaching their kids to do things at younger and younger ages. They just let the develop at a more natural pace and didn’t try to “train” everyone early. Oh, well. Hope I didn’t offend anyone who have toddlers on two wheelers. Just my observation and opinion. 😉

  14. BeckyS September 23, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    Geez. My granddaughter is 6. She’s been riding a bike with training wheels since she was 4. Maybe I should tell my son he’s a lousy parent! NOT.

  15. Liz September 23, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    @Sam “What’s the rush?”

    Bragging rights for the paents. LOL Seriously though, I totally agree. My dad has an old black and white picture from 1957 of when he was 6 with his best friend who was also 6. They are both on tricycles, covered with dirt as they had been out playing in the neighborhood all morning, and grinning from ear to ear. It’s a darling picture. But you are right that kids today are trained to do everything earlier, except be able to play in their neighborhoods. Don’t even get me started on all the early academics and speech therapies. Why do SO many kids need speech therapy? It didn’t exist 50 years and yet virtually everybody learned to talk. Oh, well. That’s another topic for another day, LOL.

  16. Dolly September 23, 2011 at 1:35 am #

    hmm never heard that before. We are buying our boys their first bikes for Christmas this year. They are about 4 and a half by then.

  17. Dolly September 23, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    ps we plan on using training wheels and helmets. No elbow pads or knee pads.

  18. Lollipoplover September 23, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    If there is a minimum age now for two-wheel biking, shouldn’t there be a maximum age for strollers? Safety is in the eye of the rule maker.

    My personal experience is that my kids flipped their tricycles WAY more than they did their two wheelers.

  19. Emma September 23, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    When I worked at a daycare we would have bike day during the summer when kids, aged 3-5, could bring in their bikes and ride them, most of the kids were on big bikes with training wheels and a few of the 4-5 year olds were without training wheels.
    My almost 2 year old has a balance bike and has been on it almost 6 months now, and we ride it round the block and get loads of compliments.

  20. BMS September 23, 2011 at 1:54 am #

    What do you do when your kids take their tricycle, and tie a skateboard to it so that one of them can pull the other, and the one on the skateboard falls off and scrapes the heck out of his face right below the helmet?

    Oh yeah, I remember. You roll your eyes, get out the bandaids, and wait for the next brilliant idea they have.

  21. magnuminsp September 23, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    @BMS—-Next brilliant idea….when the ice-ream truck comes by, grab on to the hinges on the back door and wait for the truck to take off! 😉

    Or…jump your bike off of a bridge without first figuring out how you are going to “swim” yourself and your bike back to shore!

    Ahhh..the days of my youth…………………..

  22. becky September 23, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    Have those folks watch this video: Jackson bikes to kindergarten While they’ve passed out from the vapors, we can all have a biking party!

  23. Liz September 23, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    Here’s a site I found when I googled kids on tricycles in the 50’s.

    There a lot of old photos of kids on trikes and there are quite a few who look near 8 year old. I agree, though. What’s the rush? Why not ride tricycles until you are able to ride a bike? Parents buy bikes today for their 2 and 3 year olds and then they use training wheels for 3 years. What’s wrong with trikes? I think they are cute and all my kids have used them and loved them. And when they were ready they went strait to riding a bike. Dad took them out to the park and taught them in a day. No training wheels. (In my mind training wheels are like pull ups for potty training. Just wait until they are ready and go for it.) It’s the way kids have been learning to ride bikes for generations. (Except this last generation, of course.) sigh…..

  24. becky September 23, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    oops look like my link didn’t post:

  25. dmd September 23, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    Again, Europe must be laughing at us. We had a neighbor with a much younger child than ours. She was from Europe (a Scandinavian country, I believe) and her son had been on a balance bike since he was walking. He was a pro on a bicycle by the time we met them. My son (who had had a tricycle) was at this point struggling to learn to ride the 2-wheeler. I wished I had started him younger – and he was not even 4 at this point. The other kid was maybe 2.5 or 3.

  26. Liz September 23, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    “What do you do when your kids take their tricycle, and tie a skateboard to it so that one of them can pull the other, and the one on the skateboard falls off and scrapes the heck out of his face right below the helmet?

    Oh yeah, I remember. You roll your eyes, get out the bandaids, and wait for the next brilliant idea they have.”

    I love it!


  27. Jacqueline September 23, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Off topic slightly-@Bob-until high school for a booster seat? The rate it’s going, I’d probably still have to be in one (I’m 5 feet even on a good day)! The really sad part? I’m the only licensed driver in my household…

  28. Dave September 23, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Dmd, no need to rush. He’ll learn to ride just fine. There are devices and methods out there to train kids to do things earlier and earlier, but what’s the point? They all learn eventually. Best thing to do is relax, enjoy your son, and let him develop on his own time. 😉

  29. Ali September 23, 2011 at 2:27 am #

    I have to call shenanigans. Tricycles are far more “tippy” than bicycles, otherwise three wheel ATVs wouldn’t be outlawed while quads and motorcycles are still OK. Kids ride bikes when they’re good and ready and when they master it they’re much more stable than when they’re on tricycles.

    What a load of bad advice! Way to go nanny state.

  30. dmd September 23, 2011 at 2:32 am #

    Thanks, Dave…that was actually years ago. He is 9 now and a very accomplished bicycle rider!

  31. Wendy Constantinoff September 23, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    here in UK we had tricycles over the age of five in the 1950s and I don’t ever remember seeing two wheelers for little children. My children didn’t have 3 wheelers both had trainer wheels on their two wheelers. My son who has a disability manged to learn how to ride his chopper bike

  32. Lissa September 23, 2011 at 2:41 am #

    It’s not that anyone is “rushing” their kids off of a tricycle in the quest of some bizarre bragging rights. Frankly, I don’t care if my child wants to ride a tricycle for the rest of her life. I didn’t bring a child into the world to make myself look good.

    What bothers me is blanket statements that imply that if my daughter shows an interest in learning how to ride a “big girl” bike before the age of five, I am supposed to say no, lest I put her in some sort of danger.

    I can only speak for myself, but what I (and I do believe most of the people on this site) take issue with is the disappearance of the concept of “just trust your instincts” when it comes to parenting. We are constantly told that every child is different, yet when it comes to the law makers and “advice givers”, the trend seems to be to convince people that no, you do not in fact know your own child best, and lucky for you, we are here to save you from your own stupidity. I have no problem listening to advice, but I resent the fact that if I, as a relatively intelligent adult, step back, analyze how it applies to my own situation, weigh risks and rewards and ultimately decide not to follow it, I am somehow negligent.

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t ride a bike without training wheels until I was six and a half. Why? Because I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel ready. Alternately, my husband, at age four, decided he was ready, grabbed a wrench from the garage, and took his own training wheels off.

    Every. Kid. Is. Different.

  33. SKL September 23, 2011 at 3:03 am #

    Oh well, I guess I had better return the bikes I bought my kids when my eldest was just shy of 3. Took the training wheels off the following summer. Now one of my 4yos rides quite well and the other one is on her way. No training wheels, no helmets, no kneepads . . . .

    I gave away their trikes a while back, because they were using them as a crutch. They also looked ridiculous on them (they’d been riding the trikes since age 1.5) and I wasn’t about to buy bigger trikes. Ha!

    The reason to teach bike riding when the kids are younger is that they don’t have as much fear. On their little bikes, they don’t have far to fall, and so they really don’t get hurt. I was also 4 when I learned, as was my sister and a lot of other kids from my neighborhood. Some were 3, and I even know one kid who was 2.5 when he started riding.

    My eldest – the one who rides quite well, and will be 5 in October – is way behind her sister in reading. She is just starting to be able to blend the letters into words, and recognize a few sight words. She gained a lot of confidence from riding her bike, and I used it to encourage her in reading. I say: learning to read is like learning to ride your bike. It seemes really hard and almost impossible at first, but with lots of practice, it became possible and even easy.

    But yeah, bike-riding is terrible for a four-year-old. More bad mommy points for me.

  34. Wendy September 23, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    I had one of the big trikes when I was 5. To the best of my memory, no-one made bikes any smaller than a 20″, so of course small kids couldn’t ride them.

    My kids all had 16″ with training wheels for their first bikes, and had big tricycles before that. Personally, I detest training wheels. When the ground is a slant, like going across a hill instead of up or down, or even riding along the edge of the road, the training wheels force the kid into a lopsided position. The slopes at the bottoms of other people’s driveways caused more spills for my kids than any other single cause.

    I wish the pedal-less training bikes had existed at a reasonable price when my kids were little. I’ll be buying those for my future grandkids.

  35. SKL September 23, 2011 at 3:10 am #

    When I was a kid, my parents had bought a 16″ bike for my eldest brother, probably because he was a midget, LOL. I inherited that bike when I was 4, sans training wheels. My siblings and the neighbor kids helped me figure out how to ride it. That was in 1971.

    My niece was 8 or 9 when she learned. Because she hadn’t had the opportunity to learn on a little bike, she was afraid of falling from her 20″ (which had been fitted with training wheels).

  36. Go Dutch! September 23, 2011 at 3:10 am #

    Don’t tell the Dutch!!!
    It is normal for kids to be riding a bicycle at 3 or 4. Some learn to ride before they even walk well.

  37. Liz September 23, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    Lissa, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or make you feel defensive in any way. When I wrote about bragging rights I was only making a joke. I thought that was implied from the “LOL Seriously though…” after that statement. Sorry for the confusion. 🙂 As for the rest of my comment I was talking in general about how kids are doing certain things earlier and earlier nowadays. I don’t believe it is because kids today are naturally smarter or more talented then they were 50 years ago. I do believe that there is some pushing going on, even when it is viewed as being in the best interest of the child. You have to admit that parents are more competitive and anxiously compare their children to others of the same age to see how they are doing developmentally. And kids are pushed to do things developmentally earlier and earlier by these parents who want only the best for their children. (Which is why Kindergarten is what 1st grade used to be.) There are definitely kids who are ready for things earlier, but it does seem to be the trend to do things earlier and earlier. (Except playing freely in the neighborhood, which trend leans towards the opposite spectrum of holding them back.) I agree with you though that parental instinct is most important.

  38. bequirox September 23, 2011 at 3:15 am #

    I didn’t learn to ride a bike til I was 13.

    The End

  39. SKL September 23, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    Oh, and I agree about the accident-proneness of trikes. My kid scraped her face up quite nicely by tipping off her trike at 1.5. (Bring on the bad mommy points!) Of course, she only did that once!

  40. SKL September 23, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    “Which is why Kindergarten is what 1st grade used to be.”

    Well, not really. For a while, 1st grade was what Kindergarten used to be. Now the pendulum is swinging back – except for the “redshirting” that is going on.

  41. Phoenix Woman September 23, 2011 at 3:28 am #

    I know a six-year-old girl who for the past two years has been the stoker on her dad’s tandem. She’s done 60-mile rides with her dad — granted, dad was pulling most of the load, but she did her fair share and was eager to do so.

    I think she logged about a thousand miles last year and a similar amount this year.

  42. magnuminsp September 23, 2011 at 3:28 am #

    @Go Dutch–That would explain why I learned so young, Dutch!

    One other thing, I learned how to ride a bike in the grass. You can’t build up much speed and when you fall, it doesn’t hurt…as much as concrete anyway!

  43. SKL September 23, 2011 at 3:30 am #

    Phoenix, that reminds me of my kid sister. She joined a bike-a-thon at age 5. She rode 10 miles on her 16″ before deciding she was ready to go do something else (it was the same 2 miles over and over). She also used to ride her brother’s 24″ 5-speed bike, beginning shortly after her 5th birthday. She was quite petite, so it was a funny sight. To my knowledge, she never took a spill until she was much older.

    Kids are capable!

  44. Lissa September 23, 2011 at 3:32 am #


    No no! No offense taken or feelings hurt. I honestly didn’t even remember who it was that said it, and honestly, I’m sure I took it out of context. I was more responding to the “what’s the rush?” statements, because I felt like that was missing the point.

    And I do agree, there is definitely a lot more push going on from parents these days. There are plenty of people in the world that pin entirely too much of their self-worth on their children’s accomplishments. To me, that is just as bad as holding children back for fear of “danger”.

    My point, I guess, was that we need to get past, “My kid can ride a two wheeler at 3, look at how free-range I am!” or “Your kid doesn’t ride a two wheeler at 6? It must be because you are neurotic and won’t allow them out of fear!” and get to a place where we can say, “I felt my child was ready… so I let them” or “My child’s not quite there yet, but she’ll get there when she’s ready” and no one will feel the need to have an argument about it. THAT, I feel, is what the crux of the whole “free range” concept is.

  45. carriem September 23, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    My son has been riding without training wheels since age 4 (he doesn’t take after me!) I feel bad for him though, he doesn’t have the freedom at 8 that his father and I had on our bikes. Not because we don’t want him to, but because we don’t trust people not to call the police if they see a child under 12 on his own in our neighborhood. (already had a run in)

  46. Phoenix Woman September 23, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    SKL: Good for her (and your parents)!

    As for the six-year-old I know, my guess is that she’ll be leading AYH rides in another ten years or less. Assuming she doesn’t drop cycling when she’s touched by the Puberty Fairy.

  47. Marie September 23, 2011 at 3:56 am #

    I’ve done bikes and trikes with my kids. My older kids were pretty reluctant to give up the trike, and my youngest is having a blast figuring it out. I just can’t imagine telling a kid who wants to ride a bike and seems physically ready that he or she is too little.

  48. Coccinelle écolo September 23, 2011 at 4:10 am #

    To everybody talking about parents pushing their kids, while I believe it happens, did you not think about the fact that a kid could want to ride a bike at 3, and learn all by themselves? Do you mean that the parents are pushing their kids just because they bought them a bike?

    I know that my dad had to help me to learn (not teach) to ride but it was only because I was 8 years old and I wanted him to help me because I was frustated of not being able alone. But if your child is able to learn alone, I don’t think it’s pushing it.

    Also, I agree with SKL that said that it’s easier to learn when you are smaller because your bike is smaller and you don’t fall from very high. I believe it was one of the reasons I had problems learning it.

  49. Rich Wilson September 23, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    What is ‘redshirting’?

    I think ‘the actor who will be offed first on Star Trek”.

  50. Janis Meredith September 23, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    I love how people generalize things. My son was riding a two-wheeled bike at 3 and he turned out okay.

    What will they tell us next? No one under 10 should be throwing a baseball because their shoulder muscles are not fully developed?

  51. SKL September 23, 2011 at 4:32 am #

    Rich Wilson, “redshirting” is a term folks use for when parents start their normal kids in KG a year late, to give them an “advantage” by making them the oldest in the class.

    No offense to people who decide that their kids are truly not ready for KG. But many parents simply don’t want their kid to be the youngest. Some people do it so their kids will kick butt on the football team years later, for example. They can’t imagine that it might actually be good for the child to experience some challenge in school.

    I was the youngest in my class, so I think I have the right to an opinion on this. (Bet you can’t guess what my opinion is!)

  52. Katie September 23, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    My son got his second bike for his 5th birthday because he was way too big for his first bike.

  53. Stacey Jw September 23, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    Then I guess this is out, too:

    AMAZING 6yr old skateboarding like an adult:

    And an impressive 4yr old!:

    There are more, even some that are pro by 9yrs old. THESE kids will be enjoying life, making good money, and basically running shit while the bubble wrap kids mope indoors. Not everyone has talent, but you never know until you try!

  54. Mandy September 23, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    My oldest got his training wheels off at 4.5, and shortly afterwards, his little brother stole his bike and rode across the park (at 2.5) so we figured it was time to take his training wheels off. They wear helmets but no other gear, and have survived a few minor wrecks over the years.

  55. Beth September 23, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    My Brother-in-law owns a bike shop. We asked him if he could recommend a good trike for our 2-year-old and he said, “Nah, you don’t want a tricycle! You want a BALANCE BIKE!” He said that balance bikes are better for little ones because they teach balancing early, and it is much more difficult to learn how to balance than to pedal. Our son is a little too short to sit on the bike properly, but all his friends in the neighborhood (ages 3-4) adore the bike and they love taking turns to ride it. Because the other kids have been practicing on my son’s bike, they are now almost ready for real bikes of their own – without training wheels. A trike is fun, but it does not adequately prepare a child to ride an actual bike.

  56. backroadsem September 23, 2011 at 5:32 am #

    I figure if the kid can ride a bicycle, let ’em.

  57. Jeff September 23, 2011 at 5:44 am #


    “The reason to teach bike riding when the kids are younger is that they don’t have as much fear. On their little bikes, they don’t have far to fall, and so they really don’t get hurt.”

    Certainly you are not suggesting that we need to train our children to ride bikes at a younger age because they might be too scared or they might get hurt if you wait until they are older? Kids are VERY resilient and there is absolutely NO real pro or con either way as long as the kid is on board to want to learn. I think most people that were saying, “Why the rush?” were just reminding us that it wasn’t too long ago that kids older than 2 rode trikes everywhere and survived even though they may have tipped over, LOL. Also, have any of you read the balance bike website? I’m sure it’s a fun product, (not necessary whatsoever unless you are trying to get your child to ride earlier – and for what reason?), but fun. But I have to say I’m not a big fan of their advertisement:

    “It’s easy to move and control, increasing confidence and reducing fatigue as your child learns to ride. The Go Glider lets kids explore their ability to balance in a way that’s safer than a bike with training wheels because they always feel in control and never have to worry that the bike will wobble or flip. Your basic pedal bike sits too high off the ground, weighs too much and complicates the learning process. For many kids, that means learning to ride a bike is more about fear than fun and that’s no good.”

    It just seems to me more about how you NEED this product because learning to ride a bike is so complicated and hard and this keep your child from getting FATIGUED and enable them to not have to get so many scrapes. sigh……. Of course for the parents who for whatever reason feel it necessary for their 3 year old to learn to ride a 2 wheeler, go for it. I’m sure it will get them on that 2 wheeler sooner.

  58. SKL September 23, 2011 at 6:02 am #

    Well Jeff, 4-5 is the normal age for kids to ride a bike in my family history. It’s not like sending them to college in a diaper.

    In my experience, kids who had access to a bike without training wheels at an earlier age learned more quickly and with less fear than kids who didn’t get to try until they were older.

    And not being able to ride a bike, at least in communities I’ve lived in, would mean being left out of things. So traditionally we expect the bike riding to start before KG.

    The point is not that every kid needs to ride a bike by age 5. The point is that there is absolutely no foundation for a “safety” comment to the effect that “kids under 5 aren’t ready to ride bikes.”

  59. SKL September 23, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    As for balance bikes, I think they are fine and dandy, but I chose not to buy them. I felt their usefulness would be very short-lived – and they are too expensive if that is the case. If I’d heard of them before I bought the trikes, I might have skipped the trikes in favor of balance bikes. Maybe.

  60. Tara September 23, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    Comment on the “Parking Pals” hand magnets. From the time they are old enough to be trusted to obey simple instructions (usually 2-3 or younger if their holding hands with an older sib) I have my kids “line up” on the painted lines you park between in the parking lot. My four year old gets out of the van, heads to the end of the line, lines her toes up with the end of the paint and waits for me to get out whatever it is I need to get out. She has been doing this since she was about 2. My six, eight and eleven year olds do the same thing. (And I find it INCREDIBLY adorable when they line up in age/size order but that’s beside the point.)

    NEVER have I had a child run off. They know they are supposed to stand on the line until I tell them to come with me. (And in the winter when the parking lots are covered in snow and ice I tell them “pretend there is a line there and stand on it”.)

    Around here those magnets would just get stolen.

  61. Sarah September 23, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    “Which is why Kindergarten is what 1st grade used to be.”

    “Well, not really. For a while, 1st grade was what Kindergarten used to be. Now the pendulum is swinging back – except for the “redshirting” that is going on.”

    You might want to check your research on that. Here’s a short excerpt from a site that tells the history of Kindergarten:

    “The first kindergarten was founded by a man named Friedrich Froebel. Friedrich Froebel was known as the “Father of Kindergarten” because he developed the first kindergarten in Germany in 1837 (Colliers). His kindergarten developed theories and practices that are still being used today in kindergarten classrooms. His ideas were that children need to have play time in order to learn. Kindergarten should be a place for children to grow and learn from their social interaction with other children.”

    There’s much more research online about how Kindergarten originated, but basically it was started as a place for young children (some as old as 7, depending on the country) to attend because they were not ready for “formal” schooling. it was a place to learn through play and develop social skills with other children. This is vastly different from what we see in today’s classrooms. sure there is still play but there is a lot of formal learning going on, including teaching them to read, which up until recent years has always been a first grade skill. there’s actually a facsinating study done on children from finland who outscore our country by quite a bit on internation tests. Here’s a few quotes from the article:

    “Children here start school late on the theory that they will learn to love learning through play. Preschool for 6-year-olds is optional, although most attend.”

    “At first, the 7-year-olds lag behind their peers in other countries in reading, but they catch up almost immediately and then excel. Experts cite several reasons: reading to children, telling folk tales and going to the library are activities cherished in Finland. Lastly, children grow up watching television shows and movies (many in English) with subtitles. So they read while they watch TV.”

    It also stresses how teachers are HIGHLY valued in their country and must have masters degrees and there is much more free time for the kids in school and time for lots of outdoor play. Here’s the link for anyone interested:

  62. Stacey Jw September 23, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    And if they think normal bikes are scary, check THESE kids out!

    I don’t know how old this one is, but he can’t be much more than 5-6:

    This kid is 20 months old and learning to ride:

  63. Stacey Jw September 23, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    One last video, to show you what kids, un- bubbled wrapped- can do:

    A 3yr old on a BMX bike, racing!:

    I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did. Anytime you think the helicopters are taking over, just check out you tube for confirmation that you aren’t alone in allowing your kids freedom.

  64. Rich Wilson September 23, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    Balance bikes are great, and the recommended way to teach kids to ride a ‘real’ bike. Or take the pedals off the real bike, lower the seat, and let them treat it as a balance bike.

    We got a small bike at a yard sale for $2 and sawed the pedals off. He kicked around on it for quite a while. He has a bigger bike with pedals, but still has the training wheels on. And he has a couple of different trikes. To each their own. Let the kids dictate, not some stupid one-size-fits-all rule.

  65. Marion September 23, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Here in the Netherlands, we start them young:

  66. Maureen September 23, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Little kids ride tricycles for about a second. Then they RIDE their tricycles. Down the steepest hills they can find. At least that’s what we did. Big wheels weren’t really meant for flat surfaces. Peddling those things is a pain. Freefalls down steep slopes are where it’s at. 😉

  67. KD September 23, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    My kids have never had a tricycle, they have always had bikes. They are now 8 to 16, but my mom works for a large toy store and bought their first bikes for them around age 2 and we have upgraded as needed. They have also had skateboards since age 3 (we are very active, both my husband and I ride skateboards). My 9 year old daughter has gotten really good on the skateboard, although her siblings are less inclined. We also have forgone the training wheels past age 4 and instead use a training bar to teach riding without any help. The parent grabs the bar until the child is balanced and moving and then we let them go. We have had a few spills, but not anymore than anything else kids do. We use helmets, but that’s it for safety gear except on the skateboards, which our county requires knee and elbow pads.
    I think this is a parents choice as far as what outdoor equipment a child has. It is much more important that they are able to ride and learn than what they are learning on:)

  68. SusanOR September 23, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    We did the balance bike thing (although my husband argued strenuously to just purchase a small – 12″– bike & take the pedals off) because my husband is a cyclist and many of our friends are too. They stressed that training wheels actually teach children the wrong way to ride (for example, leaning the wrong way when turning) and then you have to unlearn the wrong ways.
    Whatever. I do know that my daughter rode her balance bike for more than a year, and when we noticed that she had really gotten the hang of balancing, gliding for long periods of time, and turning, we got her a 16″ bike. We took her down to the local HS track, and off she went, first time, just a few months shy of 5. There was another little boy at the track whose dad had just removed his training wheels. In the hour we were there, I saw lots of crying & fear on his face. Could it have been just different temperaments, sure (but my kid is in no way a daredevil!) and it could have been that my kid felt more ready than the little boy.

  69. MikeS September 23, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    There’s a neighbor effect at work here. My 4 y/o ride a bicycle because she saw the 4 y/o across the street riding one. And now they like riding together. When they’re older, they can even ride to the park together and play, if you can imagine such a thing.

  70. Roberta September 23, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    When I was teaching my then 5 YO to ride her 2-wheeler, I looked online for some tips. Several insisted that trikes are more dangerous because when older kids ride them they can get going really fast, and will flip easily when you turn. I completely agree.

    In San Diego, most kids under 3 ride trikes; 6 and under are on 4-wheelers (2-wheelers with training wheels) because they never get outside enough with mom or dad to learn to really ride. So if the article is considering a 4-wheeler a trike, then it’s more accurate. And I agree. A bike with training wheels is much more like a trike than a 2-wheeler.

    IMO, many 3 YOS can learn 2 wheels; not all, but some. My son has awesome balance and learned just before 4. My daughter didn’t have the balance, attention span, or desire until 5.5.

  71. Jen September 23, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    My daughter is 2 1/2, and she has a trike. She doesn’t like to push the pedals, though, so the only time she rides it is when one of the adults can let her take her trike onto the road in front of my sister’s house and coast down the hill to my mom’s house, about 100 feet away. She’s fallen more times on the trike than I can count, since 3 wheels aren’t very stable and she’s not good at steering. She also has a 2-wheeled scooter she rides around the house, yard, etc. Her balance on it is excellent, so a bike may be in the near future like Christmas or Easter.

    I don’t remember when I learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels, but I do remember being 4, climbing on my neighbor’s 10-speed and riding about 200 feet down the hill on the same road my daughter rides her trike on (NO sidewalks in the area!). I was doing fine until I had to stop, at which point I forgot what my friend had told me and pulled the front brake but not the back, which vaulted me over the handlebars and resulted in my 3rd concussion in 3 years… I was a clumsy kid who did stupid stuff, what can I say?

    While I did have training wheels on my first bike, my dad put them on so that the training wheels only touched the ground if I was tipping over. As long as I was upright and moving, the extra wheels never touched. It taught balance while giving me a safety net that kept me from falling TOO many times, although spills still happened, since I took forever to learn that fastest is not best.

  72. Dawn in Vancouver September 23, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    My son was 4 when he graduated from his balance bike to a pedal bike.

    What a silly thing to hear that it is dangerous to even let him try a ‘real bike’ at that age.

  73. Grace September 23, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    All three of my children ride bikes with no training wheels and they have for a year now. They are 6, 5 and 3. They also ride their bikes to and from school every day–one mile each way.

  74. Taradlion September 23, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    Training wheels/tricycles are a perfect analogy for helicopter vs free range parenting. Not that free range kids don’t ever ride tricycles or have training wheels, but they are allowed and encouraged to transition to a 2 wheeler when they are READY. Training wheels/trikes are not used for way too long while parents underestimate kids abilities or over estimate the risk of riding a 2 wheeler bike.

    Riding a two wheeler has less to do with age and more to do with readiness. A child’s temperament/risk aversion and experience (exposure to riding bikes, balance bikes, and their seeing older siblings or neighbor kids successfully riding bikes) factor into their readiness, just as temperament and experience factor into readiness to do many other free rangie things.

    I have two kids. My older child, was far more cautious and needed encouragement to ride without training wheels. In fact, at age 6.5 when I removed them she yelled, “what kind of a parent are you?”. She struggled, but gained such confidence when she mastered it. My younger, daredevil son, at 4 yelled, “Don’t hold on to me” …and off he went. I wasn’t about to hold him back b/c he was younger than his sister. He needed more discussions about safety (loved to intentionally crash) while she needed reassurance that she could do it. Free Range is providing support, but knowing when to let go.

  75. SKL September 23, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    I remember my first social studies lesson in 1st grade. There was a spread in the SS book with a picture of a boy dressed in too-small clothes and surrounded by all kinds of stuff little kids like, including a tricycle and a wading pool. The point of the lesson was that now we’re 1st graders, we have left all those “baby” things behind and moved onto things appropriate for kids – bicycles, etc. I was 5 at the time, and that sounded right to me.

    PS, Sarah, I know KG was invented in Germany by a person who wanted kids to have a gentle transition from home to school. Keep in mind that (a) that was a different country and different time; (b) the school they were transitioning to was a lot less gentle and more rigorous than our typical 1st grades; and (c) kindergarten in those days involved stuff we wouldn’t dream of seeing in a public elementary school now, such as using actual hammers and nails to build doll cribs. In the US, kindergartens and preschools varied as to how much academics they involved. Many, many kids were learning how to read and write by age 4. Maria Montessori worked with slum kids in Italy, and determined that the natural age of reading readiness is 4.5. Even in countries where the formal public school doesn’t introduce reading before age 7, parents and preschools generally do. Besides, I went to kindergarten in 1971 and I had to learn to read in order to graduate to 1st grade. My grandmother, who came from a non-English-speaking country at age 4 (around 1900), flunked KG because she could not decode words well enough.

  76. seamama75 September 23, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Both of my kids were on 2 wheelers at 3 years old! Never used training wheels. They wanted to do it and they did it. What planet are these folks on? Crazy!

  77. Orual September 23, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    I just want to say that those long handles for parents are wonderful when your 1 year old is too small to reach the pedals (our trike was a gift), and was great for getting out for walks. Now I am using it to help her get started (that initial push off is tough) and get the concept of peddling, so much easier on my back. The handle will detach before next summer and shes on her own. But those handles do a great deal of help to her pregnant mother. Oh they are abused, but they do serve a purpose.

  78. Amanda September 23, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    My 4.5 yr old has been riding a two-wheeler for 2 months now. Training wheel came off at his request. And he rides on the street from our house down into the cul-de-sac… alone. Sometimes other neighborhood boys are out there too. Adults peek out to check on them every so often. They all yell car and move to the sidewalk when they see one coming. And they know the boundaries for where they can play and they don’t cross the line. The boundaries have gradually been extended for my son as he proves to be responsible. Sad thing is that the my 4.5 yr old is allowed to roam farther than an 11 yr old neighbor boy. We live “kitty-corner” to that family, but he can’t cross the property-line to come to our yard. Sad.

  79. Cheryl W September 23, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Is the fact that kids are on bikes younger now due to the fact that manufactures are not making bigger trikes and are only making smaller bikes? I had one of those large trikes when I was a kid. I went and bought my own bike when I was 7 with birthday money, but it was actually too big, but was the smallest bike they had other than banana seat, which my parents thought was dangerous. (Maybe due to my brother and his “smart ideas” inspired by Evil Kenivil.

    My boys got bikes young, and the youngest was ready (and safe) to ride without training wheels at his second birthday. But his brother, (with some muscle delay issues) was just learning to ride without trainers at 5. I kept the youngest in trainers just so big brother could have his days of glory. And why were they in bikes so early? Because I couldn’t find anything other than crappy plastic big wheels in the trike department.

  80. TravellingTwo (@travellingtwo) September 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Here’s how they do it in the Netherlands…

  81. Andy September 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    I do not count 2 wheelers without pedals nor bike with training wheels as a bike. For me, if you took off the training wheels at around 5 years age, you followed the advice. I would count 4.5 as around 5.

    Anyway, this outrage got me thinking. Maybe the problem is not in most of the parenting advice itself. Maybe it is our approach to it. We as a society/generation assume that we have to follow it fully and to the letter. Where did such ‘fully and to the letter’ treatment of a random advice came from?

    Why do we take this so much seriously? That seriousness makes people unnecessary angry. Maybe that is partly where helicopter parents come from. They assume that they have to follow whatever random rules comes around.

    It should be seen as a general advice: the average kid living average lifestyle is ready to bike on a pedaled bicycle without training wheels around age of 5. If the bike is huge part of your lifestyle or the kid has above average balance, you should adjust the advice.

    People wonder when to start with a real bike. If you put it low so no one fret over “we did it sooner”, it is going to be too soon for average kid. If you put it high so no one fret over “we did it later and missed nothing”, it is going to be too high for average kid.

    Just like recommended age on books. The average kid will not like the book meant for older kids. If you kiddo likes it, you buy it anyway and no one cares.

  82. Leppi September 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    I was just reading the Safe kids page, about who they are, how you can share about a child injury (or near miss) so that other can learn from your mistake, or almost mistake.

    It is not a bad idea, but it a uncomfortable feeling remains, it gives me the feeling that security is the ultimate goal.

    And that lead me to the following idea and if somebody wants to put it into practice, please do:

    Safe Adults World,

    how to help adults (that were overly protected as children) to
    – grow up mentally (to be an independent, caring of other, self deciding person),
    – catch up on motor deficits (i.e riding 1 or 2 wheeled non-motorized vehicle, climbing stairs and non-stairs etc),
    – getting dirty and stay dirty for more than 30 minutes,
    – how to entertain yourself and others with a piece of yarn, 4 more or less dry sticks, 5-10 assorted stones from “who knows where!” for at least 30 minutes
    (not a comprehensive list)

    Because there is and will be a need for firefighters, army personal, police, construction workers, cleaning personal (I am eternally grateful for each clean public toilet that i visit, THERE IS SOMEBODY THAT MAKES THAT HAPPEN!”, inverter to help an increasing number of people in this world, movers and shakers that can estimate impact of decision and hopefully make the best and the lesser evil choice for humanity, and space still needs to be explored!

    Lets hope these adults will be out there, with sufficient support to make that and more happen!

  83. SKL September 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    I was doing a bit of googling tonight just for fun (because I am supposed to be working all night). I noticed that there is quite a range of “information” out there, depending on where you read. Some sites go on about how important it is to have 3 wheels / training wheels because kids so need the “stability.” Other sites warn of the dangers of using trikes or training wheels past the age when the child can go fairly quickly or wants to turn quickly, as the additional so-called “stability” causes accidents when the child tries to turn while going fast.

    Many sites list age 4-5 as the typical age for being able to start riding a bike without training wheels. But most acknowledge there are individuals who learn sooner or later than that.

  84. Nicole September 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    In our neighborhood, the KIDS challenged each other to take their training wheels off at four, and they did it!

  85. SKL September 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    And I forgot to mention, some of the sites note that training wheels which are even with the rear tire create risks by making the tire and brake fail to function properly.

  86. Kenny M Felder September 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    I want someone to do an “expose”…interview a ton of people who list themselves as “safety experts” and ask where they get their qualifications and where they get their facts. I’m picturing an article that could potentially sell to the New Yorker or something like that. I think it would have a wide audience and also do some real good.

  87. SKL September 23, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

    Kenny, that would be fun. You bring to mind a woman who puts herself out as an expert on car seat safety (on a popular mom site), yet she makes the most ridiculous claims that anyone with any real knowledge or brains would at least question such nonsense. (And when you question her, her followers say, “who are you to question this expert?”) She also pushes attachment parenting, and makes up stuff about babies dying because their parents swaddle, etc. Obviously some safety “experts” are just pushing their own personal agenda and happy to be paid for it. Maybe they should be sued when their safety recommendations lead to unwise decisions.

  88. Luciano September 23, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    My 2 older kids were riding without training wheels at age 5. My youngest was riding without training wheels at age 3.5. My brothers rode without training wheels from the beginning (around 3 or 4 ys old) (I rode at 4-5 yo).
    On the other hand, my friend can’t ride a bike. She’s 40ish. A girl friend of my oldest son cannot ride a bike. Nor a scooter. She’s 11.
    We should buy trycicles for them.

    Marta from Lisbon, Portugal

  89. oncefallendotcom September 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    When I was two or three, I decided I would experiment and see if strawberry shampoo tasted like strawberries. I learned that it didn’t taste good going down…. or coming back up. Lesson learned. I’m just wondering why shampoo hasn’t been banned yet 😉

  90. SKL September 23, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Oncefallen, I did exactly the same thing. My mom found out and laughed at me for being so foolish. Needless to say, I only did that once.

  91. Dave September 23, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    Why do people even report about what kids can and can’t do. Each parent knows their child’s limitations and opportunities. My grandson never uses a tricycle and road a bike early. He is no 7 and climbs on everything. He is a gymnast by nature. He knows what he can handle and I just need to be there when he feels unsure of himself.

    When we tell children or adults what they can’t do we stifle their creativity. We do so many things that were once thought impossible because someone didn’t believe the lie that it couldn’t be done.

    Just because some children can’t ride a bike before 3 doesn’t mean it can’t be done and no one should.

  92. Christina September 23, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    My kids never rode trikes. We got them bikes with training wheels at age 2.5. They recently turned 4 and we got them 16″ bikes. The guy selling us the bikes tried to talk us out of it because the bikes are a smidge too big at the moment and they are “heavy”. Seriously? Newsflash – kids GROW. As for the weight of the bikes – my kids carry each other around all the time and they weigh a heck of a lot more than a bike. Needless to say, it took a grand total of maybe 5 minutes for my guys to figure out their new bikes will go a LOT faster than their little kid bikes could. They’ve flown over the handlebars and keeled over when taking corners too fast, and they just hop up with looks of pure glee on their little faces and clamber right back on the bikes. We make sure they wear helmets and otherwise sit in the middle of the park and watch them whiz by because there is no keeping up with them.

  93. Tsu Dho Nimh September 23, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    Look at the size of the trikes compared to the adult men:

    I remember tricycles being large enough that a 5 or 6-year old child could ride them.

  94. Jenne September 23, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    Partly, the trike thing may be a size issue. Older trikes were larger than the ones they have now. My son has a trike AND a mini-big-wheel (I’m a yard sale freak) because the trike was too big for him when we got it — he was 18 months old, looked 2 and a half– and it bugged me to watch him patiently climbing onto it and scooting along with his toes, because he had no fear but he couldn’t even reach the seat. So for $1 we got him this little big wheels thingy which he scooted around on.

    The reciprocating motion of pedaling is something a lot of kids don’t learn until significantly after they walk. My son’s 2.5; he still doesn’t pedal consistently, but he LOVES bikes, and trikes– wheel-lu was one of his first words. If we had known about the combination push-trike-strollers they make for infants and up, we probably would have skipped the freecycled stroller and gotten one of those, simply because he would have loved it. (When we’re out at the zoo or something and see infants and toddlers in trike-strollers, the *yearning* looks my boy gives them!) These trike-shaped strollers convert to trikes later, but they are strollers in concept when the kids are pre-toddler.

    I don’t know what other people do with push trikes, but when it comes to walking around the block or down to the park with a kid on a riding toy, having a handle to use when the kid decides they’ve had enough (rather than either staying there indefinitely or carrying both kid and toy) would be cool. So in that way, having an optional handle on the trike would actually encourage free-ranging. My son has a scooter now, and loves it, but halfway around the block he leaves it behind! :

    I agree that keeping the training wheels on too long is not helpful: my stepdaughter was a little overprotected, and her parents didn’t make a point of taking her somewhere to teach her to ride (and getting the training wheels off) so by age 9 she’d decided she couldn’t ride a bike and didn’t want to learn. She has a Razor scooter but doesn’t ride it often because the small wheels make it hard to ride on sidewalk.

  95. Sarah September 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    “She also pushes attachment parenting.”

    SKL, I don’t think the way you said this is fair. You made it seem like attachment parenting is a bad thing. I practice AP and I am a free range parent. If you do a little research on AP (I recommend Dr. Sears books for a great start), you’ll find that it isn’t about locking your kids up and not allowing them freedoms, but rather a relationship you develop with your kids. In fact people who practice AP as it should be practiced I think have a better shot of being free range friendly because they know their kids so well and what they are capable of. It’s about developing a close bond with your baby/child. For example, when my kids were babies, I used a baby wrap to be able to carry them around so they could be with me interacting and viewing the world and interacting with others. (And no it wasn’t constant and they had lots of time to crawl around and explore on their own.) We coslept the first couple of years, responded to their needs when they cried rather than leaving them to cry it out, and basically spent a lot of time with them. Now that they are older we still spend a great deal of time together as a family. We go on family outings, eat meals together, have fun family nights at home, homeschool, and truly enjoy each others company. There is a mutual trust built between my kids and myself. Now for free range parenting, my kids go out and play in the neighborhood on a daily basis. They are friends with old and young. They ride their bikes to the park and to the library all the time. They not only play frequently with the other neighborhood children, but they are comfortable with people of all ages and are known in our neighborhood as very friendly, helpful kids who frequently volunteer to help out their neighbors if there is a need. (Right now they are 15, 13, 10, 8, 6, and 3). The 3 year old doesn’t roam the neighborhood unless one of the older two has taken charge of her to walk her to the park or something but the rest come and go and are quite free range. But we also spend lots of time with them and we are very close as a family. I don’t view this as a bad thing or as the opposite of free range. I don’t think you meant anything by your comment. You probably just didn’t understand AP, but I did feel I should clarify that you can do both! 🙂

  96. About Pediatrics September 23, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    The site gives pretty open-ended advice in that you should “Always purchase tricycles and bicycles that are the right size for the child.”

    That could be a bike with training wheels for a 4 year old or a tricycle for a five year old. It leaves it up to the parent to decide what the “right size” is.

    Anyway, shouldn’t you guys be on them for saying that you should “Always supervise your children” during riding?

  97. EricS September 24, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    The problem is there are too many “know-it-all experts” with holier than though attitudes, who don’t spout off all these “advice” without a lick of common sense, logic, and thinking about the development of the child. Their mentality is, “I feel uncomfortable with —-, because I’m fearful. Children should be protected at all costs. Even if it is to sacrifice their mental and emotional development at a critical time in their lives.” Idiots. Who’s to say who’s ready at a certain point? A person is ready when they have the knowledge, the training and the experience. But even then, none of us are always 100% ready. Children or adults. Sure some kids have a harder time in learning, while others excel very quickly. But no one will ever know until they actually teach their kids, and let them experience things. My nephew rode himself around in his mini-Big Wheel till he was 3. Then we got one of those 2 wheeled bikes with no pedals. Within 3 months he was riding down hills by himself (very little for us, might as well be a ski hill for him). Yes, he had a couple of spills. One he bruised his thigh. The other he scraped his chin. He didn’t cry on both occasions. We ask if he’s ok, and he just looks up at us with the look of “dang that was embarrassing, I’ll make sure not to that again.” Then he walked his bike back up and started all over again. He’s 5 now, and is asking for a real bicycle like the rest of us have. Christmas is right around the corner. 😉

    IMO, and how I raise my own, I think about what I did as a kid (all of it), teach them how to avoid the pitfalls I went through by trial and error experience, so that it doesn’t happen to them, or at least minimize it happening to them. As well as all the good times I had. I want them to experience ALL the positive things I experienced growing up. Why would I deny my kids what I was freely able to enjoy doing at their age. Sure we all fear for our kids, we worry about them more times than not. It’s a natural thing to feel. What isn’t natural is how many parents let this fear over power them, and their sense of logic and common sense. That they end up doing the dumbest things all for the “sake of the children”. Yeah, riiiiight. Does that help you sleep at night? I thought so. So it’s not about the kids, its about them.

    “Because they are not ready to ride bicycles, children under the age of five ride tricycles.” HA! Maybe the “experts'” kids are too slow to learn, and they don’t want to feel like having the only “slow” child in class, so they have to get others to follow a guideline that their own children can follow. Well, you can walk, my kids will just run by yours. See you at the finish line…whenever you decide it’s safe to get there. LOL!

  98. SKL September 24, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    Sarah, I think attachment parenting is wonderful. I didn’t want to go off on too much of a tangent, but let me give you an example of what this “expert” advised and you will see my problem. She didn’t want to swaddle her kids. Fine! She also doesn’t want anyone else to swaddle their kids. So she found an old study that linked crib death with, among other things, laying a swaddled baby ON ITS FACE to sleep. She then posted a “scholarly” article declaring that swaddling itself causes crib death. Readers in the know pointed out that she missed a key point that invalidated her advice (i.e., swaddling doesn’t increase crib death risk if the baby is lying face up), but she never did back down.

    I never said you can’t practice attachment parenting and still be free-range. What I was saying was that people shouldn’t feel so free to use junk advice / junk science to push their agenda onto other people.

  99. SKL September 24, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    What I found offensive about the “safety advice” was really what came before the sentence Lenore posted. Basically they are saying that even though kids under 5 may want to ride a bike, parents must tell them to wait, because they are not developmentally ready. Period. If they’d said “parents must first confirm they are developmentally ready,” vs. “wait until age 5,” that would have been fine.

    It’s funny, because when you go into the main page on the age group 1-4, the photo for “play” safety shows a kid getting ready to ride a training-wheel bike. Not a trike. Maybe it was just poor word choice – but the word is powerful. Some people do get easily led if they think an “expert” advises something.

  100. SKL September 24, 2011 at 12:48 am #

    Sarah, I should have added to my previous post: it’s no different from the way people who don’t believe in co-sleeping publish misleading information in order to “support” anti co-sleeping advice. It’s irresponsible and dishonest, regardless of which agenda is being pushed.

  101. Lelia Mander September 24, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    Thanks, Lisa and Lenore, for this story. There is something incredibly thrilling and symbolic about watching one’s child ride a 2-wheeler for the first time: the leap of faith, because the bike will ONLY stand up if it’s moving; the amazing discovery: “I did this on my own!”; the sense of freedom and liberation. It’s the first experience a person has of controlling movement on another vehicle using gravity and his/her own sense of balance and momentum. Sorry, but trikes and training wheels just don’t come close. It would be a shame to quash this spirit of daring and adventure.

  102. Beth September 24, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Wait. Is it possible to bond with your baby or have a positive relationship with your children without practicing Attachment Parenting?

  103. FrancesfromCanada September 24, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    Ok, it’s a stupid statement. The rest of the safety advice in the article is pretty reasonable given we are talking about 1-4 year olds: get a bike the right size? wear a helmet? supervise? Yes, please.

    My little guy, just 3, has both a trike (it adjusts, he can ride it until he’s 5 or 6, I think, thanks Germany for still making them) and a run bike. He vastly prefers his trike; and we live in a hilly area where I am very glad it has a (detachable) handle, or he would be shooting out into traffic at every intersection. Also I can push him back and don’t have to carry the darn thing. When we get to using the run bike (also adjustable) it will be less awkward for me. But I’m in no rush. Childhood is not a race.

    But, Andy, I think know why we take this stuff so seriously. Things that are published like this, from what looks like a reputable organization (whether it is or not) DO get treated like gospel by those of us unable to think critically — or who don’t know we’re supposed to. Now we can have a whole other discussion about the reasons for that…

  104. Gilraen September 24, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    Good grief, we think my 4-year old niece is late as she is not riding her bike yet without support wheels. My co-workers child was 3 and riding his bike alone without support wheels.

    Seriously this advice was certainly not given by a Dutch person.

  105. Andy September 24, 2011 at 3:04 am #

    @FrancesfromCanada …DO get treated like gospel by those of us unable to think critically — or who don’t know we’re supposed to. Now we can have a whole other discussion about the reasons for that…

    Actually, I would like to know why is that so. I have some theories, but nothing that I would be able to explain easily. I would like to know what other people think. I’m starting to think, that this is the root of a lot of problems we have.

  106. The Other Beth September 24, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    Anyone else think this comment section is fast becoming a contest over whose kid rode a 2-wheeler earliest? I’m dizzy reading all of it!

    As a 50ish mother of grown children I can attest that, like potty training and a myriad of other skills, eventually it just doesn’t matter at what age your kid did what. You’ll be lucky if you can even remember the applicable ages!!!

  107. Laura Earle September 24, 2011 at 4:07 am #

    My brother was not yet 3 when he dug a dirt circle around our house from riding his two-wheeler around and around and around and… while our mom was inside doing housewifey mom stuff.

  108. SKL September 24, 2011 at 4:13 am #

    Other Beth, I get what you mean, but I think it’s just us saying how ridiculous it is to hear someone say “can’t” when we’ve seen so much “can.”

    I was an education student, and it is amazing how many things they tell you children of a certain age “can’t” do. And it’s not presented as in “there’s a range, and this is the average.” Children can’t draw a picture before age 4. They can’t hold their pee before age 2. They can’t read before they are 7. They can’t understand “no” before . . . etc. If you see a kid who does any of these, he must be a genius; or more likely, his parents are beating him into it, and he’ll probably run away from home at 13 and ruin his life.

    I think a lot of times, these “benchmarks” are set because someone is afraid parents (or teachers) are going to expect too much, push too hard, and damage our kids’ psyches. When are we going to see debunked the theory that kids can’t take anything stressful or negative without growing up into psychos?

    Or more usefully, why can’t we trust parents to understand the concept of a “range of normal” and look for children’s developmental cues?

  109. FrancesfromCanada September 24, 2011 at 4:30 am #

    @Andy — it’s a complex question,.but at bottom I think we can blame it on a culture that sets us up to be consumers, not citizens,

  110. Tracy September 24, 2011 at 6:02 am #

    how about a unicycle?

  111. Christy Rachelle Ford September 24, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    I don’t think I had an actual bike until I was 6. Don’t quite remember why. But I think it was probably just a matter of what my sister and I were ready for and what my parents could buy us.

  112. Hineata September 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    All the talk about tricycles remnds me of when my 3 year old tied his 11 month old sister onto her plastic trike, and then tied a ‘towrope’ to his trike. They had a wonderful hour of shrieking laughter – until the baby canned off – under the horrified eye of my ‘Plunket’ volunteer friend, who was only pregnant with her second at the time, and who wasn’t yet au fait with the antics siblings get up to together! They’re both teens now, so antics on bikes can’t be that dangerous..:-).

  113. Vm September 24, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    My son started riding a bike without training wheels three weeks before his 4th birthday. He is probably not that unique.

  114. Dean September 25, 2011 at 3:08 am #

    I gave my godson a push bike recently when he was 19 months old, basically as soon as his legs were long enough to reach the ground. He might never have a trike; he loves his push bike and spends hours on it, he might be riding a pedal bike by next summer, probably as soon as he’s big enough for a 10″ wheeled bike. Every kid is different, but I think push bikes are going to get most kids riding two-wheels earlier, since they actually teach balance skills in a low risk way (kids can coast with their feet up as long as they are able to, but they don’t fall since their feet are only an inch off the ground ready to catch them). Here’s a pic of him and his Mom riding around the neighborhood on his first day on the bike; yes I know he wasn’t wearing a helmet that day but since then he always gets his helmet and puts it on before he picks up the bike!

  115. Cheryl W September 25, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    SKL, the “can’t” thing – you should read John Taylor Gatto’s “Underground History of American Education”. It has nothing to do with the kid’s feelings, and most everything to do with having a good compliant work force that is ready to step into the factory or burger shop without complaint, because we can’t have them expecting too much because then they will cause problems on the job.

    At least, according to him. But what I have read so far rings true with what I have seen in some school districts.

  116. Stacey Jw September 25, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    AP is annoying because it claims as its own everything that normal parents already do, like paying attention to babies needs. Then they add a whole bunch of stuff that is NOT proven to make any difference, and tell parents that not doing these things can make your kid damaged. I noticed AP parents tend to ignore these parts, but they are there!

    And Dr Sears (the one that wrote the Baby Book, I know there is a whole family of them) gives some of the most dangerous advice about PPD I have ever heard. His whole philosophy is pretty anti woman- unless you are a woman who strives to have a child physically attached to them for the first few years.

    The whole basis for this type of parenting is flawed- that attachment is so crucial and all types of things we do, or don’t do, can ruin it (like letting baby cry in a crib, oh heavens!). As if people are so delicate minded! Attachment theory was not derived from healthy normal kids, it was a theory based on severely neglected children from overseas orphanages. someone read this, and turned it into the AP we now know.

    Parenting is all about doing whats good for your family, and good for you. If AP works for you, fantastic! But don’t be surprised when other people find it annoying, as its the latest “do this or ruin you kid” fear pushing fad.

  117. SKL September 26, 2011 at 12:52 am #

    Stacey, some of the “AP” rhetoric is even more offensive to me as an adoptive mom. I didn’t take custody of my kids until they were 12mos/9mos. Before that I had zero control over their care; I’d spent 3 days with them; and horror of horrors, they were formula-fed. They should both be fat, diabetic, blithering idiots (given that they are alive at all). But, they are not. I’m quite proud of my kids and the efforts I’ve been blessed to be able to make toward their upbringing.

    Like I said, I am on board with “breast is [usually] best,” giving your child all the comfort she needs, etc. If I could have, I would have done some of those “AP” things; I have nothing against them per se. But AP parents need to understand the difference between a “nice-to-have” and a “need.” And also, they need to allow for a little variation among babies. Some babies do better with swaddling. Some end up sleeping a lot more and being a lot happier over time with CIO. If some parents didn’t feel the need to resort to these options, then they should feel blessed. Not superior.

  118. N September 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    I always wonder if people who say stuff like this actually know any 4-year-olds.

  119. An Onny September 27, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    I agree with the “What’s the rush?” people who posted on here. Back in the olden days, kids DID tend to ride tricycles up until the age of 6. I know I did (early 70s) and got my first bicycle as a hand-me-down from my cousin at age 6. WAY too big for me, ha ha, but I learned how to ride it by 7. Nevertheless, a next-door neighbor boy DID have his own tiny-sized bike and he was riding it around at age 4 and I remember feeling pretty jealous. But one thing that bugs me about tricycles THESE days is that kids are even forced to wear helmets on THEM! Come on. For one thing, you’re squestered in your safe little backyard while you’re riding them…nowhere near traffic. Whoever heard of a kid falling off his tricycle and getting a concussion? I’ve heard of more head injuries from kids falling off couches!

  120. Andy September 27, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    @An Onny they are force to wear helmets so they get used to it. They are mandatory on bikes. Parents want them to consider helmets “normal”.

    But mostly, helmets have nothing to do with traffic. They are not making you safer in traffic. Why does people assumes so? Not even helmet manufactures claims helmets protective in traffic. Helmets protects against fall in speed around 24 mph. Not the kind of fall that happens in car crash.

  121. Angela September 28, 2011 at 6:41 am #

    My daughter was riding her balance bike (pedal-less bike) as soon as she could stand over the seat and reach the ground (maybe 16 months?) and she was on a two-wheeler (with pedals) before she was 3 1/2. She was riding alongside her 6 YO brother to and from his school, on quiet neighbourhood roads (gasp!) with no sidewalks (gasp again!) – with me trotting behind them to keep up. She would go down (smallish) hills and stand up on her pedals. Yes, she wore a helmet (and still does) (and it’s the law here) but no other protective gear. She never even OWNED a trike!

  122. henryinamsterdam September 28, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    A couple commenters have added links to an article I wrote about teaching kids to ride bikes at a young age, which also includes an interesting discussion about kids learning to assess risk. Here’s the link again:

    Several commenters have posed the question “What’s the hurry?” as if this is only about ambitious parents pushing their children to do “adult” things early. But that utterly misses the point. I have two little ones myself and also run two popular bike shops that specialize in family transport. I see a lot of kids on bikes and scooters and mostly we see that kids just love riding bikes, and derive enormous satisfaction from the feeling of learning and mastery.

    My just barely three year old son has been riding a real bike with pedals and no training wheels for half a year already. He’d been riding a balance bike almost daily since he turned two and wanted nothing more than to ride a “real bike”. That was fortunately easy for me to oblige. Now he wants to ride his bike everywhere and when it’s practical and safe to do so we let him.

    He usually wears a helmet (it’s not required here in Holland nor do we push him to do so but he likes it) and yes, he falls periodically. Never has more than his ego been hurt in a fall. After all he’s only 90cm tall, riding at a walking pace and never riding on a car populated street. The helmet doesn’t do any harm but really the risks here are no greater than when he runs or climbs in the playground, or probably lower actually.

    It’s impossible to know whether our free-range attitude is an influence but this three year old already has an excellent understanding of where he should and shouldn’t be playing (on the bike but also in other situations). He knows that green means go and red means stop and that he has to wait for mama or papa to cross the street. People see him and think “little daredevil” but really he’s already a rather experienced cyclist (about a year of daily cycling) and actually rather reserved with respect to his abilities.

    So my vote is for giving kids the space to learn, explore and play and only intervening when there are good reasons to do so.

  123. Sarah September 29, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    Stacey and SKL, you will find parents who get too rigid on anything they believe in. I’ve seen many go overboard on this site when it comes to free ranging. I myself am rigid about a few of my beliefs as well. I think we all tend to get that way. Many people probably condider free range parenting to be something that is nice but not necessary, as well, since they have raised children under closer supervision that have turned out wonderfully, as well. I know many of these kids who are now very capable adults. And yet many scoff and say, “Well, can you imagine what these ‘helicopter’ parents’ children are going to turn out like. My bet is they will mostly be just fine. Just like I am very much against CIO in any form, and yet many people do it and their kids turn out just fine. I may not personally agree but it’s not my child and I have to trust that as a loving parent, they may have decided that this is what they can personally handle and feels is best in their situation. Sometimes we get so caught up in a good thing we forget there are variances and that we should not be judgmental of others who have to do things a bit different or believe differently and that no one is perfect. If you both look at AP you’ll find the basis’ that AP’s tends to believe in are just that. Basis. Nothing more. If you read AP books, they will say these things are wonderful but if they don’t work for you then there are other ways to attach and you shouldn’t give up on having a stong bond with your child. In fact most books/articles I have read tell you that if you have to formula feed you should try to hold your baby while doing so because it’s that close contact that helps with bonding – versus propping a bottle for them. None have these articles have EVER said that it’s the end of the world if you don’t breastfeed and that your child will be a sickly, diabetic, fat, idiot if you don’t breastfeed, SKL. If you read the studies carefully they say that OVERALL, breastfed kids tend to be healthier with fewer doctor visits and medications, less chance of being overweight in the future as adults, developing diabetes as adults, and they tend to have a bit higher IQ. But it’s not a HUGE difference and certainly it isn’t EVERY formula fed child who will have these increased risks. In some instances we can’t even properly judge. For example, my children were all breastfed. But I have no clue what their IQ’s would be if they were formula fed. Likewise, you do not know what your children’s IQ would be if they had been breastfed. I also know for a fact Dr. Sears, (who is a huge proponent for AP), DEFINITELY has said over and over that you do not have to do all these things to AP and there are different circumstances for different people. These are simply the natural things most parents who naturally are AP tend to do. I’m sorry you have both come across such rigid people who tell you certain practices are the ONLY way to raise a baby. 🙁 No one who really understands and practices AP is that rigid because that would make them the opposite of the whole purpose of AP, which is to raise loving, understanding, sensitive people who will care for and help others.

  124. John Lee (@twitajohn) September 29, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    My kindergartener could ride his bike w/o training wheels when he was 4, but get this, his elementary school only allows kids above 3rd grade to ride to school. I don’t understand the purpose of that policy. :S

    Sorry, I didn’t read through all the comments, so I hope I’m not being redundant.

  125. Uly September 29, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    get this, his elementary school only allows kids above 3rd grade to ride to school. I don’t understand the purpose of that policy. :S

    They don’t have enough bike racks, nor enough room for bike racks?

  126. An Onny October 3, 2011 at 4:47 am #

    “@An Onny they are force to wear helmets so they get used to it. They are mandatory on bikes. Parents want them to consider helmets “normal”.”

    Kids will do what they have to when the time comes, whether or not they’re “used” to it. They want to ride a bike out on the sidewalks or streets, they have to wear one, period. Regardless of if they “got used to it” by wearing one since they pedaled their first tricycle. My son would have absolutely refused to ride a tricycle at all had I made him wear one. Now, age 8, he wears one with his bicycle, no protest at all.

  127. Lisa October 4, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    My boys were both riding BMX bikes at age 4, they were in the Sprokets section (very cute) – helmuts are mandatory here yet I see too many kids riding around with them.

  128. Abogado de Accidentes October 12, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    Really very significant information, it is very important to keep security measures such as wearing a helmet, good informative article.

  129. henryinamsterdam October 12, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    I suppose that comment is just spam?

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  131. Dinessa February 26, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    I’ve always been the clumsy sort, so my training wheels weren’t removed from my bike until I was maybe 5 1/2, but guess who taught me to balance? My younger brother!

    When he was 2 years old, he got a little Schwinn bike with training wheels, and insisted upon having them removed less than a month later.

    This was 25 years ago, so perhaps we just measured time differently back then (before the advent of the modern safety calendar).

  132. Sally February 26, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    How do you do it FreeRangeKids? How do you so often post an entry that makes me go: OMG, that’s (kinda like) my life!

    Last night was parents’ evening in my child’s forth grade class. One of the topics covered was the ‘Bicycle Riders’ License’ all the children will be receiving (if they pass, of course, but something tells me they all will) from the school’s police liaison safety-officer. The teacher wanted to remind everyone that the children would need to have their bicycles at the school on that day. Fine. A bicycle riders’ ‘license’ sounds like a cute, harmless trifle doesn’t it? They also had a ‘multiplication-table license’ and I think even a ‘penmanship license’ in earlier grades. So, some more fluff. Sweet. So far, I’m good.

    But then one mother starts blathering on, asking the teacher if it would be okay if her daughter, her son’s three year older sister, took him to school on his bike that day, since she herself won’t be able to accompany him. The reason why she is so concerned? She states it and the teacher confirms it as true: Because the children aren’t actually allowed to ride their bikes alone to school until they receive the Bicycle Riders’ License.

    Excuse me? Now we’re supposed to have an official stamp of approval before our children can ride their bikes where they want to?

    Firstly, my child has been riding her bike to school since the third grade (though not in winter, so not currently), this seems to be somewhat famous with her classmates (and their parents). I know because we get a lot of comments. I was sitting directly next to this woman and yes, I felt personally attacked, rightly or wrongly, by what I perceived to be the typical ‘I care about my child’s safety!!’ hysterics, which always seem somehow to include the premise — ‘And you don’t!’ Specifically in this case: ‘I know very well your child rides her bike to school on her own! And she shouldn’t be doing so!!!’

    Well admittedly, I find this woman trying anyway (And I mean seriously, are you actually asking the teacher’s permission for how to get your child to school? Time to start wearing some big-girl pants, lady.) But more important than my bruised ego is the the inherent danger of rolling over and relinquishing what should, without a doubt, be a parental decision: No one is in a better position than a parent to say when a child is capable of riding his bike to school. But folks are only too happy (I care about my child’s safety, see everyone !!!) to let ‘officialdom’ determine this. Outrageous.

    Seethed about it the rest of the evening. How’s that for serendipity that I found this entry the morning after? Thanks, FRKs!

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