Teaching Lexi to Ride a Bike

One of my projects this summer has been to teach Lexi how to ride a bike. We’re almost there.

Yesterday she went down the alley for stretches all by herself:

Today she went down the entire alley all by herself (with me running alongside in the excessive heat warning). She still needs some help starting and lots of practice, but we’re almost there. I’m still waiting for the first big fall and bigger tears.

Teaching a child how to ride a bike is full of lessons for a parent:

  • I think one of them is start early. I see kids half Lexi’s age riding bikes without training wheels all the time and I realize we’ve put this off.
  • I also think it’s about taking baby steps. Riding a bike involves a lot of skills at once, from pedaling to balancing. Anything you can do to learn one of those skills at a time instead of both at once is huge step up. That’s why we got Milo a kick bike. That’s why I took the training wheels and the pedals off Lexi’s bike at the same time so she could work on balance.
  • We also tried one of these co-pilot bike trailer things, in part to teach her balance but also to get her used to the idea. It’s also been a good way to teach her safe bike habits while I’m still in control (biking in the city is a bit different than the suburbs I biked in growing up).
  • But in the end it really comes down to practice. Running up and down the alley with Lexi for several days in a row is what finally got us the break through. It’s kind of the secret to most of life—you keep on trying until you get it. I hope Lexi’s starting to understand that (though yeah, she’s 6, it’ll be a while before that sinks in).
  • And if what Lexi really needs is practice, what I really need is patience. Loads and loads of patience. Oh my goodness did I need patience. Lexi’s not a super athletic kid (what can I say, she’s a Hendricks) and she also gets freaked out trying new things. She had a lot to overcome here and that required a wealth of patience on my part. Me getting mad or short with her would just shut her down. Having the patience to wait her out, to keep trying, to notice tiny improvements and praise the heck out of ’em. I don’t remember my dad teaching me how to ride a bike (oddly I remember when we took my brother out to learn how to ride a bike, but I don’t remember learning myself), but I imagine he needed the same boatload of patience I needed. I’m probably more like my dad, and Lexi is more like me, than I ever would guess.

We’re almost there. I think bike riding is one of those awesome things that can give a kid an incredible amount of freedom. There’s nothing like a summer of bike riding, of stretching your limits, of putting fun and adventure within reach, of simply feeling the wind in your hair. I’m almost as excited as Lexi is.

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