How and when to teach your toddler to ride a trike

When can a child first use a trike? What age can a toddler learn to pedal and steer? Expert answers to your tricky trike questions

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Can a baby use a trike?

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Yes. Some trikes are suitable from 10 months, even though your baby might not be walking yet. Using a trike at this early age is actually a great alternative to pushing your child in a buggy.

Imagine that first feeling of hands on the handlebar and being able to ‘steer’. And your baby can still safely do “Look, no hands mummy” – thanks to the parent handle.According to Dr Amanda Gummer, an independent play expert and founder of play organisation Fundamentally Children, it’s important to get babies enjoying an outdoor lifestyle before they’re walking.

“Getting children out of buggies and onto more active forms of transport helps their confidence and development from as young as 10 months,” she explains.

The really clever twist is that when your baby gets tired after all that fresh air, some trikes have a reclining seat, allowing your baby to lean back and nod off.

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What age can a toddler learn to pedal?

From around 1 to 2 years old, a toddler will have developed the gross motor skills needed to start learning to pedal a trike – although of course all children develop at their own pace.

A trike offers an early opportunity to learn how to pedal.

“With a trike, your toddler doesn’t have to have mastered balance,” explains Amanda. “Being able to pedal without needing to balance can help children progress more quickly. And of course, learning to pedal is a great step towards bike riding.”

Pedalling strengthens your toddler’s leg muscles for walking and running and helps with co-ordination, so it’s a great skill to practise.

“Trikes look like the bikes that older children ride so this is great for his or her confidence,” adds Amanda.

Trikes with a detachable parent steering handle enable you to push while your toddler is still building up to full pedal power.

Then, from around 24 months, your toddler should have the muscle strength to pedal more independently. Oh yes, and some trikes have the option to fold away foot rests at this stage to encourage toddlers to focus on pedalling (and not put their feet up).

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3 games to encourage pedalling

  • Set up a start and an end point and then time them to see how fast they can hit the finish line
  • Encourage them to pedal all the way to the next tree or gate without mummy or daddy pushing
  • If they have an older brother or sister, they can play cat and mouse chasing game – with their sibling as the mouse and your toddler as the cat (on a trike)

What age can a child learn to steer independently?

Between the ages of 2 to 4, your child is likely to be ready to learn how to steer. This is the time to remove the parent steering handle.

“Toddlers have fun racing about on ride-ons and trikes, and these are great for giving little ones the independence they want,” says Amanda.

“Gripping and steering are also good for hand strength, which is important for things like writing and using cutlery to eat.” (Anything that gets your child to use cutlery properly must be a good thing!)

  • Start with a large trike training zone so the turns can be wider and smoother to begin with
  • See if your child can zig-zag from one side of the path to the other
  • Build an obstacle course for your child to steer round like a pro rally driver

4 big discoveries to look out for

  1. I can touch a tree
    The open design of a trike makes it easy for babies to look all around and even reach out and touch the things they see. Better than being in an enclosed buggy on a fun trip out, but you may just want to check what’s in their hands when you get home
  2. I can make the wheels go round
    Being able to turn those pedals and sprint off on three wheels is one of those ‘moments’ – great for proud parents to film, even better for little riders
  3. I can steer
    Turn handlebars left, it turns left. Turn them right, it turns right. Next stop Formula 1 (almost)
  4. Guess where I’m going
    We all know what a great game pedalling away from mum and dad is. And if you see a bit of trike envy, then it’s a great opportunity for learning about turn-taking and that all-important sharing

Pics: Getty

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