A fun family outing by bike.
One of the things that we really love to do as a family is head out for bike rides. As parents we really want to encourage our kids to incorporate physical movement as a part of their everyday life, and as such we do our best to make things like riding to Kindy a part of how we do things. But sometimes when it comes to the weekend all we really want is to get out of the house and go for an adventure. And adventures by bike arealways favourites.
Our kids are currently 5 and 2, and a big game changer in these adventures has been our older son's ability to travel further distances under his own steam. Up until recently if we were going out for the day, both our kids would ride on our bikes in Bobike child seats. We live about 5km from the centre of Auckland, and a few months ago we decided to see how our (then) 4 year old would go riding his own bike into town. Well, he loved it, and so did we. So much so that it was a big motivator when his 5th birthday rolled around to upgrade his bike to something with gears, and bigger wheels - it did amaze me on that first trip when I watched how many times his wee legs had the spin the pedals compared to us!!
Highlights of the ride
A highlight of the ride from our place to the waterfront is always the stretch along "The Pink Path", more officially known as Te Ara I Whiti, or The Lightpath. It never fails to amaze me that something so beautiful has been created out of what was effectively an unused stretch of concrete. And the sense of pure joy I get cruising along the smooth bright surface hasn't lessened in the slightest. The kids love it every bit as much as I do, and whoops of joy can be heard all round as we whizz along!
Reaching our destination, the lovely Auckland waterfront is always a cause for celebration, whether that be stopping somewhere for lunch, grabbing an ice-cream, meeting up with friends, or stopping for a bit of fun at the playground. Finishing that up with a trip home on the train with our bikes, and you pretty much have the recipe for a perfect family day out!!
How did we get our 4 year old to ride SO FAR?
So many people have asked the question.......how did we get our 4 year old to ride more than 7 km's! There are a number of factors involved, and it is the work of years, not something that happens overnight! I'll give a bit of an outline below, for people who would like to do something similar with their own family.
From the time our kids were old enough to sit up by themselves (about 9 months old) we have had them out and about on our bikes in one of the Bobike child seats. As they've grown and become more independent, we have put them on balance bikes, followed by pedal bikes. Right from that early age they have been involved in bikes as fun and as transport.
We've progressed our kids through stages of bike riding step by step. Starting with ride-on toys around the house, and then moving on to balance bikes (we love the ultra lightweight Cruzee brand) at around two years of age. Once the confidence was there, and we felt he was big enough to handle a larger bike, we got our son a 16inch pedal bike. We made the decision to keep the training wheels on while he figured out pedalling, and the important task of braking, but took them off soon after that, within a few weeks. At this stage he was a couple of months away from turning 4. We gradually extended the length of his bike rides, starting with up and down the street, and progressing through round the block, to the local shops and park, and to kindy, as his skill progressed.
Know your child's skills - and have a backup plan!
On that first bike ride into town, we were fairly comfortable our 4 year old could go the distance. He'd been biking to Kindergarten for some time by then, and was pretty confident. We had no expectations however that he would be able to manage a return trip, as biking home would have been mostly uphill, so we planned a train ride as our return journey. We also figured out what we would do if he hit a wall, and refused to go any further - always a possibility with a kid that age! In fact we had a few options up our sleeves. These included stopping somewhere for a break and a treat, or worst case scenario, one of us biking home to grab the car and bike rack. Neither option ended up being needed, and we were super proud of how he coped. Yes, it was slow going, and yes, he chose to walk up a couple of hills, but he did it. WE did it!!
Give them the right tools
Giving your kid a decent quality, appropriately sized bike will hugely increase their willingness to ride. Making sure that that bike is properly maintained, and not left to rust will make life so much easier for them too! I have to admit that after that first ride into town we decided that our son would be better off on a bigger bike, as over that distance we could really see how many times his wee legs had to pedal compared to ours!! We also decided when we got him a bigger bike to go for one with gears, as this bike will see him through for several years. The next time we did the ride was even better than the first because of this!!
Have confidence in them!
We are big believers in treating your kids as confident and capable learners. We offered our son encouragement along the way as needed, and let him know that we knew he could do this, and that he was doing so well!!
Most of all, have fun! Heading out on your bikes as a family can be so much fun, and it's something we are looking forward to sharing with our kids for many years to come!