In recent years, it is hard to go anywhere without seeing a precocious toddler zipping around on his Strider. There’s a reason why parents everywhere are starting their kids – as young as 18 months – on a balance bike. In addition to being fun, a balance bike helps with gross-motor skill development, builds confidence, and provides an easy transition to a pedal bike. Here are some of the top reasons you should get a balance bike for your toddler if they don’t have one already.
Gross-motor skill development
This is the least-cited yet most important reason for a balance bike. As a mom, I’m always looking for materials and toys that are developmentally-appropriate for my child. Balance bikes are one of the best tools out there for helping your toddler develop their gross motor skills. According to Kid Sense Child Development, learning balance and coordination is important for injury prevention, self-regulation, and developing a foundation for future development of fine motor skills. Balance bikes also help develop core muscle strength and endurance.
Easy transition to a pedal bike
Most of us have vivid memories of learning to ride a bike—and they are not always good ones. On my first ride without training wheels, I fell, hit my face, and ended up with a bloody mouth. Kids who start out on a balance bike usually transition easily to a pedal bike, forgoing the training wheels altogether. Toddlers who start on a balance bike early (at 18 months – 24 months) are often riding a pedal bike without training wheels by 3 years old. The balance bike familiarizes kids with the concepts of balance and motion and provides a safe foundation for learning to ride a pedal bike.
We’ve all heard the reports about the state of childhood obesity in the U.S. Kids are frighteningly overweight and under-exercised. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled over the last 30 years. Fortunately, when it comes to young kids, they don’t view activity as “exercise” — they view it as “fun.” This is especially true when it comes to riding bikes. The other bonus is that riding a balance bike burns off some of that never-ending energy that toddlers have. My 2-year-old can manage a couple miles on his bike. When he gets home, he takes a really good nap. Score an extra hour of free time for mom and dad.
This is the most obvious reason to buy your kid a balance bike. Almost all kids love bikes—it’s a universal kid thing. If you want to make your kid happy and put a smile on their face, a bike will do it.
I don’t think there is anything that makes my son puff out his little chest like riding his balance bike. Every time he rides off a “ledge” or a “jump” or manages to coast ten feet without stopping, he just beams with pride. I like that his balance bike is helping him develop a sense of athletic ability and confidence in his body. Especially for really young toddlers, it is so hard to do even the simplest things (i.e. walking fast enough to keep up with mom and dad) that it makes them feel amazing to be able to ride a bike.
Exposure to the outdoors
The great things about bikes is that it gives us a reason to go outdoors. It is hard to get my son as excited about anything as he is about cartoons, but he loves to bike. Most kids today don’t get enough time in nature causing a wide-range of behavioral and emotional problems. If you get a well-built balance bike it is capable of not just riding around the driveway, it can be ridden on the grass at the park or even on your favorite hiking trail.
So many of us spend ridiculous amounts of money on toys. Most of these toys span a season or so of interest, and then they are discarded in favor of something new. Plastic toys break and end up in the landfill. A quality balance bike, on the other hand, can be used by your child for several years and then still be in good enough shape to hand-down to a younger sibling or be sold on Craigslist. Even once a child has moved onto a pedal bike, they often still enjoy a balance bike for riding at the BMX track or for doing tricks in the backyard. This makes a balance bike a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly purchase.
If you want to invest in a developmentally-appropriate, fun, and active gift for your child, you really can’t beat a balance bike. So where do you buy one and which brand is best? Check out our list of the Best Balance Bikes for Toddlers.