Most balance bikes are designed for toddlers, but what about preschoolers? It may be tempting to put your 4-year-old on a pedal bike with training wheels, but if they haven’t yet mastered the balance bike, you are doing them a disservice.
A balance bike will develop the bike handling skills they need to master a pedal bike (sans training wheels), and bolster their confidence without the frustration and tears associated with pushing a child to a pedal bike too soon.
Here is a list of our favorite balance bikes for 3, 4, and 5-year-olds, as well as some tips on how to choose the best bike for YOUR child.
What to Look For
There are specific things to look for when shopping for a balance bike for your 3 or 4 (or even 5) year old. Obviously, the bike itself should be bigger than what you would buy for a toddler, but you should also look for these features when buying a bike for a preschooler.
Pneumatic (Air) Tires
I prefer pneumatic (aka air) tires over foam or plastic tires for all ages, even toddlers. That said, toddlers can often get by safely without them.
A 4-year-old, on the other hand, is far more aggressive and will ride faster than a toddler. Because pneumatic tires provide superior traction, they are safer when being ridden on grass, gravel, or off jumps.
By around age 3, kids develop the eye-hand coordination required to use a handbrake. It is also around this age that kids start riding fast enough that they will literally rip the toes off their shoes using them as brakes.
For this reason, I strongly recommend buying a balance bike with a handbrake. Just make sure it is an appropriately-sized, easy-to-pull lever; some bikes have better brakes than others.
Also, by introducing kids to brakes while they are still on a balance bike, they will have the skill and ability to use them when they transfer to a pedal bike.
Kids this age will do best on a 14” balance bike, although I’ve also included a few 12” bikes with larger frames and higher maximum seat heights. Balance bike sizes refer to the wheel size, not the frame size.
Before buying a bike for your child, make sure to measure their inseam. You want their inseam to be at least as long as the minimum seat height of the bike, and 2” less than the maximum seat height so that they have room to grow.
Use the comparison chart at the bottom of this post for minimum and maximum seat heights for each of our recommended bikes. You might also want to check out our post (and video) on kids bike sizing.
While I always encourage parents to spend as much as they can realistically afford on their kids bikes, it’s a bit tougher to make that argument for a balance bike when your child is already 4 or 5. They won’t be on the bike for that long before they are ready for a pedal bike.
If you can find one of the bikes on this list used, snatch it up! If you can justify paying full price for the LikeaBike Jumper, you won’t be sorry.
Another option if you are feeling a bit hesitant about spending money on a balance bike is to buy a convertible balance bike. These bikes convert from a balance bike to a pedal bike once your child is ready. If this sounds of interest to you, check out our list of the best convertible balance bikes.
- Also Read: 5 Best Convertible Balance Bikes
Finally, you may also consider buying an appropriately sized pedal bike and then (temporarily) remove the pedals. In this way kids can still learn to scoot and balance without training wheels, but you don’t have to worry about the cost of buying a balance bike now and a pedal bike later.
If you decide you want to go this route, see our list of the best pedal bikes for 3 and 4 year olds.
I’m usually less concerned about weight when it comes to an athletic 4 year old than I am about a tiny toddler. That said, a lighter weight bike is still going to be easier to maneuver and faster to ride for kids of all ages.
When looking for a balance bike for your 5 year old, pick a bike that weighs about 13 pounds or less. If your little one is only 3 or is particularly petite, then choose something even lighter. The LikeaBike Jumper, for instance, is a mere 7.5 pounds.
5 Best Balance Bikes For 3, 4, and 5 Year Olds
These are what we consider the BEST balance bikes for preschoolers. Before you leave an angry message that these are too expensive, see my note above on alternatives, or check out the GOMO, Banana Bike GT, or Vitus Nippy on our list of the Best Budget Bikes Under $100.
|Bike||What We Love||Price|
|1||Woom 1 Plus||Lightweight, high-quality build||$269|
|2||Ridgeback Scoot XL||Bright colors, wide handlebar||$225|
|3||Frog Tadpole Plus||Brand-name components||$260|
|4||Kokua LikeABike Jumper||Built for aggressive / off-road riding||$329|
|5||Early Rider Trail Runner XL||Brushed aluminum frame||$231.88 *|
Woom 1 Plus
Long fans of the smaller Woom 1, we were super excited when Woom announced the release of their new larger sized balance bike–the Woom 1 Plus–for preschoolers. This balance bike has it all: color-coded dual handbrakes, a “surf board” for coasting, quick-release seatpost collar, removable steering limiter, and more.
The bike has a 132-pound rider weight limit which means it can take any abuse your 3-year-old can throw at it (and mom can probably play on it too).
Read Our Review: Woom 1 Plus
Ridgeback Scoot XL
The Scoot XL comes with two seatposts to allow for growth and an extra-wide adjustable handlebar that is perfect for athletic preschoolers. The durable aluminum frame comes in several bright, attractive colors, and is durable enough to last through several hand-me-downs.
Although the Scoot is middle-of-the-road when it comes to price, it comes with all the extras– a bell, internally-routed cable housings, and rear v-brake.
Frog Tadpole Plus
The Frog Tadpole is one of our fave bikes for tiny riders, and it’s sister bike, the Tadpole Plus, is one of our favorites for older riders. Designed for the preschool crowd, this 14″ balance bike is ready to roll!
It has high-quality components including a Tektro v-brake and Kenda tires. We also appreciate the quick release that makes seat height adjustments easy.
If your kiddo plans to take their balance bike to the bike park, BMX track, or mountain bike trail—the LikeaBike Jumper should be your top choice. The Jumper is unique in that it is the only bike on this list that has a shock, which makes it perfect for—you guessed it—jumping.
Even once your kiddo has moved on to a pedal bike, they’ll want to keep this one around for play.
While this bike actually has 12” wheels, the frame is large enough that I still recommend it for older kids. Made by a popular UK mountain bike manufacturer, this is a REAL bike.
High volume pneumatic (air) tires, wide handlebars, and a real v-brake make this bike a good choice for kids who like to venture off-road. It can handle grass, mud, gravel, and dirt with ease. The max seat height (19”) is a little lower than the other bikes on this list, so keep that in mind.
Read Our Review: Saracen Freewheel
Early Rider Trail Runner XL
Beautiful bikes shouldn’t be reserved for grown-ups. The breathtaking Early Rider Trail Runner with its faux-leather saddle and a hand-brushed aluminum frame is sure to garner attention wherever you take it.
Fortunately, the bike’s components are as good as it’s looks. The Trial Runner boasts sealed cartridge bearings, Kenda tires, and an integrated threadless headset. The only thing lacking is a handbrake.
Price: $231.88 (Last updated: 2020-05-25 at 15:36 – More Info)
Still not sure which bike is best for your child? Here’s how they stack up.
(Note: You may have to view on a desktop computer to see all columns).
|Bike||Wheel Size||Price||Seat Height||Suggested Age||Frame Material||Tire Type||Bike weight||Brake?||Multiple colors|
|Woom 1 Plus||14″||$269||14.8″-18.5″||3-5 years old||Aluminum||Air||9.8 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Frog Tadpole Plus||14″||$260||15″-20″||3-5 years old||Aluminum||Air||9.2 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Ridgeback Scoot XL||14″||$225||16″-22″||3-6 years old||Aluminum||Air||12.5 lbs||Yes||Yes|
|Early Rider Trail Runner XL||14″||$231.88 (Last updated: 2020-05-25 at 15:36 – More Info)||14.5-19.5″||3-5 years||Aluminum||Air||8.5 lbs||No||No|
|Saracen Freewheel||12″||$200||13″-17″||2-4 years||Aluminum||Air||10.5 lbs||Yes||No|
|LikeaBike Jumper||12″||$299||13.5″-18.5″||2-5 years||Aluminum||Air||7.5 lbs||Yes||No|