Too often adults underestimate the abilities of kids to do active things. The caution, of course, is rooted in the idea that the child may get hurt, but our fears of the worst can be allayed by a more proactive approach to instruct and guide into certain activities. Mountain biking is no different. Many children absolutely love cycling and the outdoors, so with much patience and preparation, you can turn your favorite pastime into a family affair for everyone to enjoy.
Inspired by this very idea, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) created Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day, which encourages adults, usually parents, to introduce kids to the sport early on, developing the skill and love for cycling later in life. As a result, 15,000 children and their families participated in 2015, and this year, it will likely be just as popular.
To prepare, here are a few things you should remember to ensure that the experience is memorable for all the right reasons.
- Have The Right Equipment: Children 3 and up can ride bikes tailored to their size; however, if you’re looking to get children started even younger, consider a tandem or trailer to introduce them to the adventure. Nancy Anderson, a writer for SingleTracks mountain biking blog and community, took her granddaughter on her first ride at just 15 months. For those big enough to ride alone, however, it may be a good idea to also purchase knee pads, if they’re just starting out, for the likely few tumbles that will occur as they get a hang of the balancing act. Helmets are mandatory, of course, and will be expected not only while practicing, but any time the child is on a bike.
- Make The Experience Fun: Try not to let your own passion for cycling get in the way of introducing it to someone younger. Starting with the route, IMBA suggests using your creativity to come up with a mix of locations from skate parks to pump tracks in addition to traditional trails. Also, incorporate frequent breaks and stops to accommodate what children’s smaller bodies need to recuperate from exercise. Lastly, take along snacks as to keep the energy flowing, and because you don’t want hunger to be the reason the child becomes disengaged.
- Check in often: Make sure the child is comfortable both riding and along the trails. Inquire about what they enjoy about the experience or whether they fear certain elements of find tasks difficult. After all, the activity should be about introducing the child to something new that he or she will come to love, and that requires active and open communication.
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