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Balance Bike Licence

Learning to ride a Balance Bike is a BIG DEAL in the life of a youngster. And it’s great to be able to celebrate that success by giving them a Balance Bike Licence.

They will feel so proud of themselves and rightly so!

It doesn’t really matter what your criteria is for the licence.

  • It could be when they first learn to truely balance on their bikes by lifting their feet off the ground and coasting.

or

  • When they can confidently bike a certain distance near your home.

 

  • It could be when they’ve been on their first family bike ride.

or

  • Completed 5 family bike rides.

 

I give out these licences to the kids at schools that do Ride a Bike Activities after a block of lessons.

I’m amazed by the improvement that I see in the Nursery and Reception children when they have weekly lessons on bike handling. Learning to negotiate their bikes around gentle and tight bends, over rough surfaces such as rumble strips and up and down hills of our ramp.

Not to mention learning to put on their bike helmets and check their bikes for safety before the ride.

If you have a biker who might be ready to receive their Balance Bike Licence, why not download a high quality A5 PDF printable version below and have an award ceremony at your place soon!

 

 

Do leave us a comment below if you’ve used this resource, we’d love to hear how they liked it.

Got a friend who has a budding biker that might be ready for their Balance Bike Licence?  Share this post.  I’m always happy when I know there are lots of ‘Whizz Kids’ around!

Kes

Downloadable Balance Bike Licence

Gross Motor Skills Development

My store focuses on toys that develop Gross Motor Skills but what exactly are gross motor skills and why are they important for your child?

I’ve been visiting kindergardens and pre-school centres to give presentations about this topic.

The take home message is that developing gross motor skills not only helps your child in building the skills for any physical task such as walking, running, sitting upright, throwing, jumping, skipping etc. that they might encounter in their lives.

BUT, by developing these skills, your child will develop sections of the brain that will have a positive impact on their ability to read and write at school.

What are Gross Motor Skills?

Link between the Senses, Nerves, Brain and Muscles to bring about Movement

Gross Motor Skills are defined as all the processes in the body that are involved in the movement of large muscle groups.  So this starts with the sensory system detecting the stimulus. Involves the nerve cells through out the body. Then, processing by the nerve cells in the brain. Finally the muscles bring about the action.

The traditional 5 senses are involved:  Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell and Touch

But also proprioception, a sense that measures the relative position of parts of your body and strength of effort applied (this involves muscles, tendons and joints). And the Vestibular system, located in the inner ear, which is involved in balance and spatial orientation. These two further senses are sometimes linked together to be called the movement sense.

 

Why are Gross Motor Skills Important for your Child?

We are less active than ever before for a variety of reasons and this reduction in activity is having some quite significant consequences for our youngsters. Some of these are mentioned below:

  • There is an increased chance of psychological problems such as depression.
  • Life expectancy decreases.
  • A reduction in the development of gross and fine motor skills that can cause learning problems at school.

This last bullet point is a key one for me.  There are many research articles that are highlighting this developing problem such as this one from The Independent Education News section.

Without appropriate development of gross and fine motor skills, children have a reduced ability to grip a pen or pencil or sit upright at the desk for learning. They don’t have the endurance to last a whole day at school. Some can’t track with their eyes across the page to read or move their hands across a page to write in a coordinated way. Many children haven’t built nerve connections between left (speech and language processing) and right brain hemispheres (visual spatial and face recognition) effectively to co-ordinate learning. It’s a worrying trend!

 

How do Gross Motor Skills Develop?

Nature

DNADNA in your genes provides the

initial map for brain development.

 

At birth, your child’s brain is

25%

the size of your child’s adult brain.

By 3 years old, it’s at 80%!

Nuture

It’s not just about the quantity of nerve cells though, it’s all about the connections!

Significant connections or synapses get made between nerve cells (neurons) during the first years of a child’s life. This effectively programs child development.

Neurons

Images of Nerve Cells and their Connections in Brain Scans of Babies and Toddlers. Source: E. Courchesne, K. Pierce Int. J. Dev. Neurosci., 23 (2005), pp. 153–170

A 3 year old will have around 1000 trillion brain connections or synapses which are selectively pruned later on in life.

Nerve cell connections are built by:

  • The experiences babies and children have every day and
  • Nurturing relationships they form with their carers.

So, it’s vital that they are exposed to a range of age appropriate experiences that help build these connections in a positive way.

Not only that, the more often nerve cells pathways fire, the stronger the connections will become so repeated practice at the same activity will help stabilize these connections.

Neurons that fire together wire together”  said Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb

As these brain pathways stabilize, it makes them much harder to change later on.  It’s vital to get it right early on in a child’s life.

The foundation of brain development is so important too as higher level pathways are built on lower level ones. You need a strong foundation to gain the more complex and higher order brain processing that will happen later on in their lives.

Invest in your child’s physical development early on and you will be helping to develop an active, well connected brain that will allow your child to flourish at school.

Check out my post Did you know poor Motor Skills Development can impact your Child’s Learning? to find out more on the link between motor skills and a well connected brain ready for learning.

In future posts, I’ll review a range of active toys and show you how each type of toy will stimulate the sensory systems and can benefit your child’s motor skill and brain development

Until then, keep active,

Kes Reid

 

Training Wheels Blog

I’m a child of the seventies and remember, with the nostalgic fuzziness of time, learning to ride a two wheel bike. A rite of passage that most children go through which offers, once mastered, a sense of divine freedom to explore the neighbourhood. Not to mention the amazing array of gross motor skill development that goes with it!

Mix that memory with a good dollop of stress on both the child and parents’ part, plenty of bruises and scabs from frequent tumbles, many months of trying, a gradually building back problem for the parent and you are close to reality!

Learning to ride a bike the old fashioned way was never easy…..and here’s why!

Stabilisers (or training wheels as they are known in some countries) were developed to solve the very real problem that it is hard to balance on a two wheeled bike. And being able to ride a bike is such a great skill to have in life. It offers a sense of independence for your child as well as the development of so many gross motor skills. Leg, arm and core strength, balance and endurance to name a few.

It gives an opportunity to stimulate their senses, improving sensory processing, and gets your child outdoors which improves mood and reduces stress levels. It’s a cheap method of transport, and is environmentally green.

Yes, you could argue that they start to build up some of those skills by riding a bike on stabilisers but dynamic balance is a vital skill. There is a complex set of brain activity going on using many of the sensory and motor control systems. Plus, riding with training wheels forever is not cool!

So, at some stage, out comes the tool box and the stabilisers have to go. Then come the tears!

To balance a bike requires two main strategies:  steering and body movement relative to the bike.  The centre of mass of the person needs to be over the frame of the bike. Suprisingly it is the steering strategy that is absolutely necessary to balance a bicycle, whereas body movements are not so vital.

And the steering alterations necessary to keep the bicycle upright do not follow common sense. Check out the video below for the science stuff:

Here are my 3 Reasons why using Stabilisers Teaches Bad Habits

Red SpotReason 1

If your 2 wheel bike wobbles and leans to the left, you have to turn the handle bars to that same direction to allow the bike to steady itself. It’s totally counter intuitive so no wonder we have a hard time learning to balance on a moving bike. A child on stabilisers never experiences the lean so never learns the correct strategy.

yellow spotReason 2

Turning Left? With stabilisers on, your child will learn to turn the handle bars left to go left. Common sense right?  That’s what they do on any 3 or 4 wheeled ride-on toy that they may have already experienced. So, what’s the problem? If they do that, the 2 wheel bike will right itself and stop the turn. Your child will be learning something that they will have to then unlearn.

If you want to steer your bike to the left, you have to counter steer to the right first, then steer to the left and your bike will go left. Science is weird sometimes! You and I won’t even notice that we do this because it is a subconscious action, but your child will have to learn this concept the hard way once the stabilisers come off. This is often the reason that it can take months and sometimes up to a year of stress for your child to master it.

 

Green spotReason 3

Learning to balance is a hard skill, not to mention learning to balance on a moving object. It’s so much easier to balance first, then learn to turn the pedals afterwards than learn to pedal first then try to figure out how to balance and steer. Balancing a moving object is a much harder concept to grasp than turning pedals.

 

So….what are the alternatives to stabilisers?

Balance Bikes have been around for a couple of decades but are becoming increasingly popular for a very good reason. I absolutely love them as a concept!  They are basically a bike frame without any pedals or chain and allow your child to figure out how to balance literally step by step. No stress, no tears, no anxiety.

 

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A child can learn to balance a two wheel bike in as little as a few hours. Their feet comfortably touch the ground and initially, it looks like they are just taking their bikes for a walk. They use their feet to propel themselves forward and little by little, increase the time that both feet are off the ground until they are essentially balancing.

Give them a few weeks and they’ll be confidently scooting along having figured out the whole counter intuitive steering/balancing issues. Kids on balance bikes can travel so much faster than on a heavier bike with training wheels, so they can join in with family bike trips, or ride alongside the jogging or walking parent with ease.

Once they are confident on the balance bike, they can progress to their first pedal bike with no dramas. My son was up to speed by 3 1/2 years and it took just two goes before he set off on his new Trek pedal bike. His grandparents stood by looking sceptical until they saw him zipping around. They are now total converts to my balance bike mantra!

There are so many choices out there in the market at the moment. You can choose a wooden, steel, aluminium alloy or synthetic frame. The bikes can have air or foam filled tyres.  And there are plenty of cool accessories to personalise their ride.  Some people question the cost and value for money. Fair comment, most aren’t cheap.  But, if you took the cost of a tricycle and a 12″ pedal bike with stabilisers, I reckon that you would have spent more than the cost of one balance bike.

That’s all from me for this time. Stay active!