Your child's first bike! It's as exciting for you as it is for your child! There are a few things you need to keep in mind as you decide on the perfect one.
Should I get a tricycle?
Tricycles are a wonderful toy for children under 2 1/2 years old. In my opinion after this age, you should start them on a bicycle. There are two things you need to be aware of. They do not have brakes. So if you are planning on having the child ride the tricycle on any sort of incline, make sure that it doesn't go into the street. Children discover the no-footed free roll immediately. Second, tricycles are direct drive (pedal forward, go forward; pedal backwards, go backwards). This can become confusing when the child starts a bicycle where backward is the breaks. Also it's great to start the helmet habit now.
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Should I get a 12", 16" or 20" wheel bicycle?
This question is very important. There are quite a few factors to consider. On any of these sizes you can have training wheels but don't have to have them. Some people say that training wheels teach children the wrong steering technique. But in my opinion, training wheels are an excellent tool to help your child learn the basics of cycling before having to master balance.
How old should your child be before he/she gets the first bike? I recommend getting the first bike when they are 18-30months. This sounds young but they love climbing on them. If the training wheels are assembled correctly the bikes are extremely stable. I have heard of children riding without training wheels as young as 18 months but this might be too young. Their judgement as to whether something is dangerous just hasn't developed yet. Pedaling coordination developes typically between the age of 2-3 years old.
How tall is your child and how long are their legs? Now we need to choose the size of the bike. 12" wheel bikes are terrific for those early years, 2-4 years old, depending on height. Your child will develop coordination and confidence. But when they become too tall for this size it actually becomes more difficult to ride. If their legs are not fully extending it is harder to pedal.I recommend going to a 16" wheel bike when they are 38-40" tall and to a 20" wheel bike when they are 45-50" depending on leg length and coordination.
When your child is standing over the bike off the seat with both feet on the ground, he/she should have at least an inch of clearance between them and the top bar of the bike. On 12" and sometimes 16" bikes we can fudge this height because of the training wheels and thickness of the diaper. Children should not be able to touch the ground when they are sitting on the saddle. This would make the seat height way too low and makes pedaling more difficult and strains their knees.
How coordinated is he/she? If your child is going to be learning to ride without training wheels soon I advise that you stay with the smaller size until your child is confident with their ability to start stop and turn. But if the size is too small or too big, mastering these skills will be more difficult. If the handlebars are too wide or too far away, your child will not be able to turn. As well as if they are to close, they will run into your childs chest, especially if you are using training wheels.
Is there a younger brother or sister who will be using this bicycle someday? This is important to remember not only in choosing the color but also in the size. We might not want to stretch your child into the largest size possible because little junior will need to use the bike sooner than you may think.