16 January 2008

A certain number of crashes

Posted by todd under: Crashes; Riding with children .

Maybe anyone who has taught more than one child how to ride a bike has what he considers to be a great method.

I have taught two boys to ride, one at age 4, the other at age 5. However, I don’t consider my method to be great.

It is merely simple.

Our driveway runs through our back yard. A 60-foot section of yard, fenced on two sides, slopes gently away from the driveway.

I wait for the child to express interest in learning. When he gets on the bike for the first time, I situate him on the bike on the driveway, hold onto the back of the seat, take a few steps with the rolling bike, and then let the bike go into the yard.

The kid crashes. At low speed, to be sure, but it’s a crash nonetheless.

Then we do it again. And again. And again, until he’s tired of it.

Maybe a few days later, he will ask to try again. And we will.

Pretty soon, he is turning at the fence and then falling down. Then he’s turning at the fence and making it halfway back.

Then he’s able to ride almost a complete circle around the yard.

Now it’s time to move to a stretch of sidewalk. I give the bike with the boy on it a gentle push, and jog alongside to make sure he doesn’t meander across the treelawn into the street.

After about 25 feet, he crashes (usually onto the grass). Then we do it again, and again, until he’s tired of it.

Pretty soon, he is riding all the way down to the neighbor’s driveway. By that time, he generally has the hang of it.

We are able to combine the methods at a store down the street. A driveway goes all the way around the store. There is a nice-sized lawn next to the driveway. If you can’t make the turn, you can ride out into the grass and fall down.

After a good crash, I would tell the boys how great a crash it was, and how there is a certain number of crashes you have to have before you finally learn to ride. That is one less crash for you, I tell them. You are one crash closer.

I see a lot of kids riding with training wheels, but eventually the training wheels are going to have to come off, with crashes to follow. Why prolong the agony? Why not get the crashes out of the way at the beginning?

Both of the boys learned pretty quickly. Now there is a girl to train, and I will see whether the method is gender-specific or whether it requires a few tweaks.

2 Comments so far...

Nate Says:

25 January 2008 at 9:13 pm.

One less crash for you. That is a classic. Not only a great encouragement, also makes for a funny read.

Frank Says:

27 January 2008 at 5:13 pm.

You cruel man – did your dad treat you this way?

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About the picture atop the page

Yes, that's me, Todd Van Campen. No, I'm not wearing a helmet. Yes, I usually wear one, so please don't scold! Seriously, I endorse wearing a helmet! Pinky swear! In fact, I almost ALWAYS wear one (while riding a bike anyway). (On the other hand, if YOU don't want to wear a helmet, I have no problem with it.) I don't remember what happened on this particular day. Fortunately for all of us it makes for a less-nerdly picture. My exceptionally talented professional photographer friend Charles Bertram took this photo.

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I asked my 6-year-old son, Caleb, an avid bicyclist and artist, to draw a bike for me. I think he did a great job!

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