Or, “Why balance bikes are awesome and training wheels cause cancer; Scott Baker’s take on Training Wheels”
Ok, so that might be a little dramatic… but it’s sorta true. I can firmly say that training wheels cause learning disabilities. And since I’m being a little dramatic, let’s just draw a melodramatic comparison to teaching your kid how to walk. If you gave your kid Lilliputan crutches at the ripe old age of 12 months, and showed them how to use the crutches to keep themselves from tipping over when they got off balance, they would probably learn to walk fairly quickly. But when they got a little older and realized all of the “big” kids were walking without them, they would probably want to walk without them too, right? So you tear those little arm stilts out their hands and say “Go for it, kiddo!” as you promptly watch them tip over. They would have to relearn what it is to “walk” all together.
Same thing with a bike. You teach the kids to propel themselves around with wheelie “crutches” (often at high speeds…) but then one day take them away, and they’ve got to figure out a whole different approach! Oho! Just as soon as I’ve exposed the fatal flaw in the system, I offer you… the solution. What has long been popular in other countries has finally begun to gain some ground in the grand ole U.S. of A… Balance bikes.
Balance bikes are the most basic of bikes, they have no pedals or crank mechanism, so kids propel themselves by scooting with their feet. This motion ends up being incredibly similar to the pedaling motion of riding a bicycle. Often, as the kid gains a little speed, they will pull their feet up and rest them on a small platform that sits in the place of where the pedal and crank assembly would normally be. Holy moly!
“Look ma! No Feet!” And no training wheels.
The kids natural sense of balance that they developed while becoming a part of the average ambulatory population in combination with the natural centrifugal stability of a spinning wheel has led to a presto-kazam explosion of magic known as… basic physics and a little common sense. Now when the kid is ready for the world of bicycles, they already know how to ride. They just need to figure out propel themselves. Oh wait, look at that! There’s a little pedal thingy. When I push on it the bike moves forward! Nifty. AND! way easier for them to learn how to pedal than how to balance when they’re bigger.
Happy kid + happy parent = a treat rarely experienced in simultaneity.
That’s not to say that it’s for everyone. Some kids are going to prefer bikes with training wheels for their provision of instant gratification, among other things like the ability to lay down sweet skids and totally wicked airs… plus some families live at the top of a hill where the kid is less likely to get into a sticky situation with a bicycle that has a proper coaster brake (see above note about sweet skids). And, training wheels can be a big bonus for the “do it myselfer” kids out there who just MUST get on and off by themselves – built in training wheel kick stands.
So, while we’re not saying NO to training wheels entirely, we are saying, give a balance bike a try, there is some merit to learning to balance on a bike while you’re small!
(p.s. …this is your wallet speaking… they’re cheaper too! [but don't be a miser, a kid is only a kid once])