Every time your child rides a bike, scooter or skateboard, or puts on roller skates or anything else with wheels, they should wear a helmet. Although it’s not a legal requirement in the UK, it’s a sensible precaution to take that will protect young heads from injuries, and give you some peace of mind.
But just because they should wear a helmet, it doesn’t mean babies and children will want to wear one. Complaints about itchy heads and tight straps are common when kids wear ill-fitting helmets or ones they don’t the look of. Overcome their resistance by choosing a helmet that not only fits well but also looks great and meets the relevant safety requirements. Below, we’ve selected the top 10 helmets that will help keep your child safe while they’re on wheels. But first, we look at the key points to consider before buying your child a bike, scooter or skating helmet.
What to look for when buying a bike or scooter helmet
Safety first – While helmets aren’t compulsory, they still need to meet relevant UK safety standards. The safety standards were updated in 2012 to create EN 1078 to cover all cycling, skateboarding and roller skating helmets. BS EN 1080 was then created in 2013 for helmets worn by young children to factor in risks of strangulation by straps and fastening devices. This standard tests helmets for a quick-release system, as well as construction and shock absorption. All kids’ bike helmets sold in the UK should meet these safety standards and should clearly state so – look out for the BSI Kitemark and CE mark on labels on or attached to the helmet.
Comfort – When it comes to ensuring children will actually wear a helmet, comfort is key. Lightweight helmets are a must, given how quickly heavier ones will become uncomfortable. “Look for a ring adjuster (also known as a ratchet) and webbing inside to ensure a snug fit whilst allowing room for little heads to grow,” recommends Simon Booth, founder and managing director of cycling brand Kiddimoto. Other features that increase comfort include air vents, which will help keep your child’s head cool, and extra padding for cushioning.
Returns policy – The best place to buy your child’s helmet is your local bike shop where you and your child can benefit from expert advice and professional fitting. If you do buy online ensure you know the returns policy for helmets. While most online retailers will accept returns of unused helmets that still have their tags and packaging intact, some stores won’t because of the risk that the helmet may have been dropped or damaged since leaving the shop. Since a bike helmet is a piece of safety equipment, knocks or drops might not be obvious but can reduce the helmet’s ability to protect the wearer’s head. Try before you buy, if you can.
Don’t buy second-hand – We love hand-me-downs and preloved kids gear but there are some things that are always worth buying brand-new, and helmets are one of them. “Second-hand helmets may have sustained damage that cannot be seen, and might not meet current safety standards so it’s best to buy new,” explains Val Benyon, head of marketing at Frog Bikes.
How to fit your child’s helmet correctly
Getting the right size is key, as is ensuring the helmet is positioned correctly on your child’s head because even the most robust helmet won’t protect your child’s head if it doesn’t fit well.
How to get the correct measurement – Don’t just guess your child’s head size based on his or her age – helmets are sized according to a head circumference range. To work out which size helmet your child will need, first measure your child’s head. “Use a soft (fabric) tape measure, and measure around the widest part of your child’s head, beginning at their forehead – 2 adult fingers’ width above their eyebrow and ears,” says Simon Booth.
If you don’t have a soft tape measure, use a length of string then measure it against a ruler. Use the circumference to determine the best size of helmet for your child. Most of the helmets in our list come in at least 2 sizes but within each size, helmets are adjustable by several cm. For example, helmets in both the Kiddimoto sizes can become 4 cm smaller or larger through use of the adjuster dial at the back of the helmet.
And if your child is between sizes? – “If your child is currently on the cusp of 2 sizes, we would recommend sizing down for safety reasons,” says Simon. “A helmet that is too small may be a little bit uncomfortable, but a helmet that’s too large won’t protect their head properly!” Don’t be tempted buy a helmet they can grow into.
How to position your child’s helmet correctly – The helmet needs to be flat over the top of the head, covering your child’s forehead but not their view. Place 2 adult fingers horizontally just above the eyebrows – the space above should be where the helmet sits on the forehead.
Ben Gibson, managing director of Micro Scooters UK, says it’s important to make sure the foam pads inside the helmet are securely in place before putting the helmet on and adjusting the ratchet or dial at the back so it feels snug. “Then, with the straps undone, shake your head and bend over so the head is pointing to the floor – the helmet should not fall off, even with the chin straps undone.”
How to adjust the chinstrap – The long straps that hang either side of your child’s face are the adjustor or chinstraps. Clipped together, they should like flat against the head, forming a ‘Y’ at each earlobe. Use two fingers to make a V shape and hold them over the adjustment straps. “The adjuster clips of the adjustment straps should sit just around where your fingers meet at the bottom of the V,” Simon explains. “Alternatively, you can tighten the straps so that they sit just below your child’s earlobes.”
“You should be able to fit one finger between your child’s chin and the buckle of the chinstrap. It should be tight, but comfortable enough to ride with,” says Simon. Another test you can perform is to twist and pull the helmet lightly. “If it doesn’t move, the chinstrap fits perfectly,” according to Val at Frog Bikes.
Final checks – “A properly positioned helmet should stick out further than your child’s nose when viewed from the side,” according to children’s cycling brand Frog Bikes. “Check your child’s helmet each time they go out for a ride to ensure that the helmet is adjusted correctly, and teach them the 2 finger, 1 finger rule (2V1 rule) so that they can learn the importance of safe riding, as well as caring for their helmet,” adds Simon at Kiddimoto.
When to replace a bike helmet
“Most experts agree that a helmet should be replaced 3-5 years after purchase. Even if your helmet has never been involved in a crash or accident as the materials in the helmet begin to slowly degrade after use from that three-year mark, and its safety cannot be completely guaranteed after that,” explains Simon.
If your helmet has been involved in a crash, replace it immediately. “No helmet is designed to continue being used after a crash, even one that wasn’t severe,” Simon warns.
And as your child grows, you’ll need to check they’ve not outgrown their helmet so measure your child’s head every few months.
About the author
Gabrielle Nathan has been working as a journalist for nearly 20 years. She began writing about parenting and family travel while pregnant with her first child in 2012.
A keen cyclist, Gabrielle loves pedalling around London, where she lives with her husband and 3 children. Since convincing her husband to ditch his travelcard in favour of a bicycle, Gabrielle has bestowed a love of cycling on her 2 boys, who both now cycle to school. She’s working on her little girl, who is getting to grips with a balance bike.
Here’s our pick of the best children’s helmets:
1. ABUS Youn-i helmet, £44.99
– Best for the school run
Sizes: small (48-54cm) and medium (52-57cm) | Colours: 7
With its classic look and bold colourways (choose from block monochrome and bright hues with contrasting colour straps), this helmet is bound to appeal to older children. It’s light, very well ventilated (5 air inlets and 12 outlets) and has been designed to fit both young cyclists and smaller-headed adults. Plus, it offers top-notch protection with a low profile – the front is slightly elongated for facial protection without the need for a separate visor.
The Youn-i is ideal for children who commute to school on their bikes as it has integrated reflectors, a fly-net and a rear LED light that’s high and large enough to be seen from the back and sides, with no chance of being covered by a collar or jacket hood. The easy-to-grip adjustment wheel at the back makes it simple for your child to get the perfect fit every ride. You can even buy a protective and reflective rain cap that covers the helmet, keeping heads dry and your child safer in the dark.
2. Specialized Mio MIPS toddler helmet, £50
– Best for pinch-free fastening (for babies and toddlers)
Sizes: Toddler (46-51cm) | Colours: 8
Suitable for toddlers from about 1.5 to 4-years-old, this high-spec helmet boasts fantastic safety features and handy innovations, including a magnetic clasp on the chin strap that removes the possibility of pinching your child’s delicate skin. The magnetic buckle was originally built for an adult triathlon helmet, to make buckling the helmet speedy and painless, but it works brilliantly on this baby-toddler helmet too.
The Mio is also easy to adjust, thanks to a dial that sits low enough beneath the helmet to be able to grab and turn, even if your toddler squirms. Other features include fixed-position side straps that stay where they’re supposed to (under your child’s ear) and the Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) – essentially a plastic cage inside the helmet held by small anchors that flex and bend. This allows the helmet to rotate slightly around the head on impact, so energy from a crash can be better absorbed by the helmet.
The built-in visor is one of the longest in our selection and great at protecting your child’s eyes from the sun and their face from injury if they falls forward, while the back of the helmet is flatter to allow for easy riding in bike seats or trailers. Plus, there are 11 vents, with the front mesh-covered to keep out bugs.
3. MET Elfo kids helmet, MET, £35
– Best for babies and toddlers in bike child seats
Sizes: One size (46-53cm)| Colours: 12
MET has been making bicycle helmets for over 30 years and prides itself on offering child-specific safety features such as fontanel protection, which ensures helmets have no contact points with the softest part of a baby’s developing head (the fontanel). The Elfo also has an impressive fit system that allows you to gently and comfortably secure the internal cradle onto your child’s head by twisting a dial at the back of the helmet. It’s particularly suitable for youngsters sitting in child bike seats as the back of the helmet is ergonomically designed to prevent their head from being pushed forward and allows them to turn their head and enjoy the ride.
For comfort, there’s plenty of removable and washable anti-allergenic padding, in-moulded insect nets and 8 air vents, while safety features include an integrated LED light on the dial and reflective stickers for added visibility. Parents gain peace of mind but children will be more excited about choosing their favourite style – the helmet is available in bold colours and cute designs.
4. Micro children’s deluxe limited edition eco helmet: Sealife, from £34.95
– Best for eco credentials
Sizes: small (48-54cm) and medium (55-58cm) | Colours: 1
This striking helmet has a retro shape and is covered in pictures of whales, dolphins and fish, drawing attention to its eco-friendly credentials. It’s made using recycled materials, including rPet – recycled polyester yarn created from plastic bottles that pollute our oceans – in the straps and reprocessed ABS (commonly used to make helmet shells). The vivid colour comes courtesy of water-based paint and even the fabric lining is made from sustainable bamboo fibre, which is naturally breathable and antibacterial.
Reassuringly, all of these environmentally beneficial changes have been made without compromising Micro’s high standards of safety, comfort and ease of use. There’s an integrated flashing rear light, air vents and a pinch-proof magnetic clasp that’s a cinch to do up and won’t catch on little chins. Plus a rear sizing dial and adjustable side locking dividers ensure a good fit around the head and on the chinstrap.
5. Kiddimoto Skullz bicycle helmet, £29.95
– Best for making a style statement
Sizes: small (48-52cm) and medium (52-58cm) | Colours: 1
This snazzy helmet is from kids-only brand Kiddimoto, a UK company whose balance bikes and accessories have been used by royalty and the Beckham children. It’s not hard to see why as every helmet fuses safety with seriously cool designs. There are dozens of patterns to choose from, including bold graphics, cycling unicorns and this monochrome skull-and-crossbones motif that’ll make your young rider look as tough as he feels. With cycling gloves to match and, for an additional, £8.99, the option to have your helmet personalised, this is super cute safety kit.
Every helmet is available in 2 sizes, the smaller roughly suitable for toddlers from 2 to 5-years-old and the larger size approximately for children from 5 to 10-years-old. Safety features, including fully adjustable straps, a dial to perfect the fit and a padded liner are hard at work under the BMX-style shaped shell. Made from a tough plastic with high impact resistance, the shiny outer is peppered with 11 cooling vents too.
6. Btwin baby cycling helmet 500, £12.99
– Best budget buy for babies and toddlers
Sizes: 2XS (44-49cm) | Colours: 3
Designed to protect even the smallest of heads (approx 1 to 3-years-old) while on wheels – in a child seat on your bike, on a first wheelie toy in the garden or during their first bike rides – this tiny helmet complies with standard EN 1078, so meets European requirements for construction, shock absorption and retention system features. It has a sturdy outer shell, an impact-absorbing foam liner, 3 vents, plus a rear dial to tighten the circumference of the helmet for a good fit and adjustable side straps to keep the helmet in place. Not at all bad for a little over a tenner.
Available in 3 colours – pink, turquoise and lime green – this lightweight helmet fits the smallest head circumference in our list and is ideal for novice and occasional young riders, though online reviewers say it’s comfortable enough to wear regularly.
Available from: Decathlon
7. Bern Nino 2.0 MIPS kids helmet, £64.99
– Best for versatility
Sizes: small (48-51.5cm) and medium (51.5-54.5cm) | Colours: 5
If your child likes to ride, scoot, skate and rollerblade year-round, they’ll love the Nino 2.0 – an all-season helmet that can be used for virtually any wheeled activity. It’s even suitable for skiing, if you remove the summer liner and add a winter knit (sold separately), making it worth the considerable cost if your child enjoys a range of outdoor activities. On warmer days, 13 air vents will help keep riders cool while the unique removable flip-up visor works to block the sun from their eyes.
One of its standout safety features include the MIPS, designed to protect the rider’s brain from damage caused by rotational impact. It’s essentially a low-friction layer that allows a sliding movement of 10 to 15mm in all directions to prevent the brain bearing the brunt of an impact. Then there’s the integrated mount at the back of the helmet for the micro-USB rechargeable bike light (also sold separately), a smart way to improve visibility on paths, roads or ski slopes.
Available from: Tweeks
8. Giro Hale Youth/Junior Helmet, £44.99
– Best for sporty riders
Sizes: One size (50-57cm) | Colours: 5
Older children will enjoy wearing this sophisticated lid, which resembles an adult helmet with its sleek profile and removable visor. Just like an adult version, this helmet features a hard body plastic shell bonded to a lightweight shock-absorbing foam, making it both comfortable to wear and durable. It’s also ideal for longer and more athletic rides thanks to the inclusion of a whopping 22 vents that will help to cool even the most enthusiastic rider, though quick-dry padding helps keep things clean too.
The helmet covers a wide range of sizes, from approximately 4-years-old to teen years, but the Roc Loc Sport fit system means you can adjust the dial for a precise fit. And though the construction is modelled on Giro’s grown-up helmets, the appealing colours (bright green, pink, blue and red) ensure the Hale is child-friendly.
9. Bobbin Bikes Starling helmet, £29.50
– Best for coordination
Sizes: S/M (48-54cm) and M/L (54-60cm) | Colours: 7
You and your child will be charmed by these retro-looking helmets that are available in the same gorgeous glossy colours as the iconic Bobbin Bikes. Available in 2 sizes (the larger of the 2 will easily fit most adult heads) and a range of mouth-watering shades such as mint green, blueberry and duck egg blue with a caramel-coloured contrasting chinstrap, these helmets will certainly look the part.
As well as good looks, this helmet boasts respectable safety credentials including fully adjustable dial-fit cradle, chinstrap and EPS foam lining. Plus, it meets both European and American helmet-testing standards. With 11 vents, it’ll help keep riders as cool as they look.
Available from: Bobbin Bikes
10. Halfords Junior Helmet, £22
– Best budget buy for children
Sizes: One (48-52cm) | Colours: 1
Proving you can buy a safe, comfortable and attractive helmet for your child without breaking the bank is this great-value helmet from Halfords. It has all the safety features you’d expect from a helmet that meets European safety regulations (EN1078), including a protective chin pad and one-piece construction, but at a fraction of the cost of some of the models on our list, making it exceptionally good value for money.
You can use the dial at the back of the helmet to adjust the size and find the perfect fit, after which you can adjust the side straps. Generous ventilation openings help keep air flowing around the rider’s head for a breezy journey too.
Available from: Halfords