A First Bike (the Balance Bike)

When Hudson turned two, we decided that our gift to him would be his first bike—something called a “balance bike.” They’re pretty common these days, so you’ve likely seen one: sitting low to the ground, it’s a tiny bicycle with no pedals. Basically, as this Slate article discusses, there are two obstacles to learning to ride a bike: First, pedaling. And second, balancing. Training wheels helps you learn to do the first—which is actually the easier of the two to overcome. Taking away the pedals helps you learn to do the second—which will make learning to ride an actual bike much easier than training wheels would. (We’re still on the balance bike phase, so stay tuned, but I have a feeling the skill will come quickly.)

The memory of giving him the bike is a favorite one. Aron and I brought it out to one of Davis’s greenways and hid it behind a tree. Ridiculously we had this sort of image of him spotting it and being, like, “wow!” “thank you!” the way we might if you parked a car in the driveway and surprised us with it and a big, red bow.

But in perfect toddler fashion, Hudson just walked right over to the bike and picked it up. Um, of course it was his. What’s the big surprise? Duh! Everything a toddler finds may as well be his, right? I still laugh at the—head-smack—obviousness.

Once he found it, he pushed it around by the handlebars but had no idea what to do with it. I demonstrated waddling over the seat while pushing it, and he was a good sport and imitated me. But it still wasn’t very clear and he much preferred to just push it around.

What finally made the difference? Seeing other kids do it. First, we watched some on YouTube—and that helped. But it really clicked when he saw a friend demonstrate. She rode it around in front of the house and I’d say he was up and going the very next day.


Since then, he’s been unstoppable! He’s so fast and, just the other day, he rode two miles—to downtown and back.

Here are a couple of favorite videos of him riding, on Instagram: last August and last month. (You can show your kids, if you need an example!)

Choosing a Balance Bike

And here are some of the balance-bike options you might seek out online from Amazon’s list of best-selling balance bikes

. We have the “Classic Balance Bike
” by Smart Gear, modeled on the more-expensive German-made LikeaBike. So far it’s holding up well, but we’ve had to replace the tire a couple of times from punctures. I’d suggest buying an extra tube from the start.

P.S. First swim lessons.

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