Entertaining Them

balance bike

I looked out the window about a week ago and saw my just-turned-five year old barreling down the grassy hill behind our house on the two-wheeler. Her friend was on the other, larger two-wheeler. Once she got down the hill, she put her feet to the pedals and rode.

Thank you, balance bike.

Do you know these? They look a bit like clawless two-wheelers, clipped of their pedals. But the idea is this: pedaling is easy; balance is trickier and if you want your small child to learn the hard part, avoid training wheels in favor of the chance to learn to balance. Training wheels provide tipsy sensations, little tiny tipsy dips, and along with that, fear. For the balance bikes, kids use their legs to propel the bikes along. They start with a little walk and soon enough, glide. And I do mean glide—my gal got quite speedy on hers.

There was no ceremony about the transition to pedal. She put her feet on. That was the beginning and end of it.

This morning, she rode the tiny red two-wheeler that was formerly a bike with training wheels for the older brothers all the way to preschool. I think this is the easiest freedom ever won.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a freelance writer and blogger whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Brain Child Magazine and Salon the Huffington Post, Babble and Ceramics Monthly. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies including The Maternal is Political and Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra. A writer for Preview Massachusetts Magazine, she keeps a personal blog, Standing in the Shadows at the publication’s news site, the Valley Advocate and a tumblr Refractions. She is a sometime contributor to Momfilter. Follow her on twitter–@standshadows or Pinterest.


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Comments (4)


  1. Posted by: Andrea

    Yes to the balance bike! My four year old used one for a week or two and was able to master the two wheeler with (relative) ease and only a few skinned knees. It’s amazing!

  2. We got my son the strider bike when he was two and now at three and a half he rides a two wheel pedal bike every where! No training wheels ever, it is sort of amazing and scary all at the same time.

  3. Posted by: Katie

    More praise for the balance bike! My son started riding his 2 wheeled pedal bike last fall. He was 3 at the time and turned 4 in December. I had training wheels when I was a kid and I didn’t learn to ride without them until I was 6! I think we only decided to take them off because I had practically outgrown the bike anyways!

  4. Posted by: Melissa

    Both my boys were 3 when they started to ride a bike as a result of learning on a run bike. I can’t say enough good things about a run bike, teaching and mastering balance is a fantastic skill to learn at a young age; particularly when they don’t know to have a fear of falling. On a recent trip to Barcelona, my husband and I only saw kids on run bikes or riding a 2 wheeler, no training wheels at all!

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