Posts Tagged ‘balance’

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s just like riding a bike.” It sounds easy. But do you remember learning how to ride your first bike?  Was it easy? Did you crash? Did you cry? Did you smile with glee? Swear that you would never ride one again? Ha!

Here are some tips that may make it easier for your kids to learn to ride a bike.

Teaching Toddlers
Children can learn how to ride a bike at any age, but the younger the better. Try to start them as soon as they can walk – the hardest thing is to teach a child how to balance on a bike.

Toddlers can usually learn how to balance on a Hotwalk, a bike with no pedals, designed specifically for toddlers by Specialized. (It costs about $130 and can be bought at local bicycle shops.) This is a great first bike because it teaches kids to balance with their feet on the ground rather than on pedals.

Good Ole’ Training Wheels
Going the traditional route? There are also millions of kids who have used training wheels (also called “stabilizers”) to learn how to ride a bike successfully. Start your child on a 12-inch wheel bike with training wheels, and then slowly wean your kid from the back wheels.  It helps when you gradually raise the training wheels as your child gains confidence. The wheels should barely be touching the ground before your remove them off all together.

When the Wheels Come Off
Once the wheels come off, choose a safe site for your child’s “first ride.”  My personal favorite, which tends to be liked by many parents, is a flat, wide-open pavement area like a vacant parking lot or a school.

Here’s how you do it… hold the seat of the bike and give your child a little push. Once you give your child a little push, pedaling is KEY. Cheer your child on to keep pedaling! This is the way to continue balance. Tip: Don’t let go without telling your child. If he falls at a time that he felt he would be safe, you lose his trust. Also, it’s not safe for him to keep looking back over his shoulder to check on you.

It is natural to expect your child to fall – it’s all part of the learning experience. Make sure your child wears a helmet at all times for suitable protection. Remember – repeat, repeat, repeat! It is the key to mastering the bicycle.

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All across the country, parents call their local gymnastics club saying, “I don’t really want my kid to be a world famous gymnast, but it would be great if they could do a somersault or cartwheel; I think it would be really fun and good for them.”  My sister Betsy recently enrolled her two kids, Otto who is 5-years-old and Wade who is 3-years-old, into gymnastics and I was able to join the class. Not only was I jealous the kids were able to jump into a big pit of foam, I learned that gymnastics is one of the most comprehensive “lifestyle exercise programs” available to children, incorporating strength, flexibility, speed, balance, coordination, power and discipline.

Below are some fun facts I learned about the benefits of gymnastics and kids:

  1. Studies show that children learn cognitive skills more effectively in an environment that includes the body as well as the mind.
  2. It has been found in studies to increases self-esteem.
  3. Many studies have reported the benefits of moderate impact activities, such as gymnastics, have on the development of bone density and the prevention of osteoporosis. Plyometric exercises (also known as jump training) like tumbling and vaulting have been determined by the American College of Sports Medicine to be a safe, beneficial and fun activity for children.
  4. Healthy activities like gymnastics keep our kids off the couch and engaged in a healthy lifestyle.
  5. In addition to all of the above, gymnastics provides children with an opportunity to meet with friends, make new friends, and have fun!
  6. Fun Fact — The word gymnastics comes from the Greek word “gymon” which means naked. Ancient Greeks used to perform gymnastics in the nude.

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