As your children get older and become more mobile there are lots of options available to you for outdoor toys. These include balance bikes, scooters, and pedal bikes, but how do you know which is the best for your child?
Let’s take a look at all three and discuss the pro’s and con’s of each of them so that you can make the best choice for your child.
Balance bikes are small bikes designed to be used by kids who are two to five years old. Balance bikes have no pedals for the children to push so they can be easier to learn on than a pedal bike.
The child sits on the balance bike and then uses their feet to ride around and keep their balance. Balance bikes don’t require any parental assistance, and being able to balance the bike and get around on their own is great for boosting children’s self-confidence.
Balance bikes have traditional steering, meaning that you turn the handlebars in the direction that you want to go, just like a pedal bike would. Little ones as young as 18 months can ride a balance bike provided that you pay attention to the sizing on the bike.
Make Sure You Buy the Correct Size
Let’s talk for just a second about making sure that you purchase the right size balance bike for your child. When seated on the bike their feet should touch the ground easily, their whole foot and not just their tiptoes. They will be using their feet as their brakes so they must be able to comfortably reach the ground. Some balance bikes have adjustable seats so that they can be adjusted as your child grows.
Pros of Balance Bikes
- Can be used by children as young as 18 months, if they are walking well.
- Children can easily and quickly transition to a pedal bike when they are ready.
- Teaches them how to store.
- Builds up core strength.
- No pedals to get hurt on if they fall off.
- Balance bikes are often less expensive than tricycles or pedal bikes.
- Balance bikes can be used even on rough terrain.
Cons of Balance Bikes
- Most models designed for little ones do not come with brakes, so shoes can get quite scuffed from stopping. Note that some balance bikes designed for older children do have brakes on them.
- Balance bikes are bulkier and heavier than some other choices of outdoor toys like scooters. This can be a problem if your little one gets tired of riding and you have to carry it home.
- Some children will be ready for a pedal bike relatively quickly.
Scooters are also a fun and popular choice for active toddlers who are ready to be more independent and on the go. Scooters come with either two or three wheels and the ones designed for younger children typically have a wide board for their feet.
Toddlers can easily learn to ride a scooter, but they will have to adjust to needing to lean to steer especially if they have learned traditional steering first on a balance bike. To use the scooter they will have one foot on the scooter, hold on to the handlebars while leaning to steer, and use their other foot on the ground to get and keep them moving.
Just like with balance bikes you must choose the right size scooter for your child. The handlebars on the scooter should be at waist height, and many scooters, especially those for young children, are adjustable.
Pros of Scooters
- Scooters are lighter than balance bikes and many of them can be folded making them easy to transport and store.
- Improves gross motor skills.
- Easy to learn.
- Standing allows for quick reactions to mistakes.
- Scooter’s are easier to carry if your little one decides they are tired of riding.
Cons of Scooters
- Can be challenging to learn how they need to lean to steer.
- Not good for rough terrain.
Pedal bikes or tricycles are also another option for your toddler. Chances are when you first learned to ride a bike it was on a tricycle or a pedal bike with training wheels. A tricycle is a bicycle with three wheels instead of two, and in some cases, it is a traditional bicycle with training wheels to help children learn how to ride a bicycle.
If you think your little one is ready to lose the training wheels and can handle a “big kid” bike, read some tips on teaching kids to ride a bike without training wheels next.
Pros of Pedal Bikes
- They are safe and stable, no need to worry about your child losing their balance.
- They teach your child how to pedal.
- Children can use them indoors and outdoors.
- Some pedal bikes come with a storage area that can be fun for children to put their toys inside and ride around with them.
- Pedal bikes are good for developing leg muscles and gross motor skills.
Cons of Pedal Bikes
- Pedal bikes are very bulky and take up a lot of room. They aren’t convenient to throw in the car and travel with.
- Pedal bikes are hard to steer.
- Pedal bikes are not good for long distances.
- Your child will learn how to pedal but it can be quite difficult especially if they are trying to pick up any speed. This may be discouraging to some toddlers, and cause them to lose interest altogether.
- Pedal bikes do not teach your child how to balance.
Which is the Best Choice?
So what should you choose for your child? The balance bike, a scooter, or a pedal bicycle? The truth is, there is no wrong answer, it is completely up to you what you buy your child first. Has your child shown a particular interest in one of these over the others when they see others on them or when you pass them in the store? Does one of their playmates have a balance bike, scooter, or pedal bike? If so, then you might want to choose what they have shown interest in first.
Many parents now choose to start their children on balance bikes over pedal bikes or tricycles because the balance bikes make it easier to transition to a bicycle when they are ready, as all they will need to learn is how to pedal. Tricycles will teach your little one how to pedal, but not how to balance, so transitioning to a bicycle will still take a little time.
If you have the space and the funds you could absolutely purchase all three of these toys for your toddler to play with. They all teach important motor skills, independence, and self-confidence. They are also a lot of fun to play with! If you can only get two then the balance bike and the scooter would probably be your best bet, particularly if space is an issue for storage. If you can only get one, there is nothing wrong with that either, just choose the one that you think they would like the best, or that most fits with your lifestyle.
For example, does your family like to go on bike rides together? If so, then the balance bike might be your best choice because of its ease of use, and it can be ridden on all types of terrain. If your family is more the rollerblading or walk in the park type, then the scooter might be the best choice for your toddler. No matter what you choose, make sure that your child has a properly fitted helmet to protect them if they fall.
Balance bikes, scooters, and tricycles will all get your toddler up and moving and learning new skills. So use the pros and cons for each of them up above to help you pick the perfect new toy for your little one. Which of these do you think that your toddler will enjoy playing with?