Soon the weather will start to warm up and Spring will be right around the corner! That means it’s time to start thinking about outdoor activities like riding bikes.
Learning to ride a bike can be challenging for any child, but it might be especially frustrating for children with NF1. Children with NF1 tend to experience developmental delays in some of the key skills necessary for riding a bike such as balance and coordination. While this can make learning to ride a bike difficult, it also makes it all the more important! Not only is riding a bike great exercise, but it also teaches balance and coordination. The more your child practices these skills, the more capable he or she will be of balancing and being coordinated in every day life.
Here are some steps to make learning to ride a bike stress free and fun:
1. Start your child on a tricycle. The skills necessary to ride a trike should emerge between the ages of three and four. If you start your child out young, it will make it easier to learn bike skills in the future.
2. Once your child outgrows the trike, try a low to the ground bike. Most children will feel more comfortable if they can easily reach the ground.
3. Once your child feels ready, focus on teaching him or her how to balance rather than how to move (pedaling). Balance is the primary issue, and pedaling will come with time. To teach balance, skip training wheels and bike down a hill (not too steep!). When your child does both these things, he or she will more readily understand what it feels like to balance on a bike.
If you follow these steps, learning to ride a bike should be a positive experience, but remember, the key may be lots of practice! If your child does not master bike riding on the first attempt, do not give up. Completing multiple short sessions several days in a row may reduce expectations and keep to process fun and stress free for you and your child.
Courtney Dunn, PT, DPT