First, take a deep breath. Your kid is almost certain to wipe out. Next, as soon after your child's birth as may be reasonable, get a bike and helmet of your own. Strap on your lid, get on your bike and ride.
Once you've paved the path, David Supple advises letting your kid take the lead. Supple is a member of Cronometro's Brazen Dropouts bike-racing team and a UW-Madison kinesiology lecturer. His physical-education background leads him to observe that while many children get starter bikes when they're 5 or 6 years old, some kids are precocious while others lag. His own son, now 11, started out on "a good old hand-me-down Huffy" when he was about 4.
Contemporary bike-buying considerations have multiplied since today's parents were learning to ride their own first kids' bikes. Makes, models, colors, components, gender-specific features and other options have proliferated. So has debate regarding almost every aspect of kids' bikes.
Advocates for helping kids ease into cycling, for example, favor traditional features like coaster brakes that stop a bike when its rider tries to backpedal. Many parents view them as well-suited to younger kids whose hands may not be big or strong enough to work handlebar-mounted brake levers, and also favor training wheels for providing stability as kids learn to sit in a saddle, pedal, steer and stop.
Proponents of learning to bike all at once counter that such features encourage habits and skills that must be unlearned when training wheels are removed and coaster brakes yield to hand brakes.
Unlike adult bikes sized by frame measurements, children's bicycles go by wheel size. Starting from 12-inch wheels for younger kids with shorter inseams, sizes climb by four-inch increments to 24-inch wheels - the final stop before moving up to adult bikes.
Good fit is essential to all bikes, but most critical for a child's first bicycle. "Make sure the seat is good and low," says Supple, reflecting the conventional wisdom that Junior should be able to straddle the saddle with feet flat on the ground and knees slightly bent. This allows beginners to start using the bike as a kind of velocipede-style scooter, knowing they can put a foot down as needed while they get the hang of moving ahead, pedaling, steering and stopping.
A competent bike retailer will make sure your kid's bike is adjusted to optimize comfort, fit, performance and safety. They'll also help you and your child pick out a helmet of proper size, adjust it for optimal protection.
Depending on the shop, make and model, prices for kids' bikes here start in the neighborhood of $100 for a low-end 12-inch model with basic features, but climb toward the middle three figures as wheel sizes grow and more advanced features are introduced, including multi-speed drive trains and front shock absorbers.
A few 16-inch kids' bikes pair a front handbrake with the rear coaster brake to facilitate the transition to hand-controlled stops. The hybrid arrangement continues on some 20-inch models. The jump from 16- to 20-inch wheels also brings the disappearance of training wheels and, at mid-range and higher price points, the introduction of multi-speed gearing and shock-absorbing front forks. Some models in this size also do away with coaster brakes in favor of complete reliance on fore and aft hand-controlled brakes.
Trek kids' bikes are all but ubiquitous here. Other brands vary from shop to shop. Budget Bicycle Center stocks new kids' bikes from Diamondback, Fuji, Gary Fisher, Giant, Raleigh and Trek, along with used models by other manufacturers. Erik's Madison stores focus on Raleigh and Specialized kids' lines. Machinery Row and Village Pedaler both sell Treks for kids. Madison's Trek stores offer kids' models by their Waterloo-based namesake and its Gary Fisher brand. Williamson Bicycle Works stocks 12-inch Schwinns and Treks, adding brands like Electra, GT and Scott at larger sizes.
Budget-conscious parents can find savings by looking for closeouts on kids' bikes from recent model years, or scouting the selection of used kids' bikes at shops that accept trade-ins for credit toward a newer or larger bike.
Local housing consultant Steve Silverberg, another Brazen Dropouts veteran, notes that parents need to continue drawing on their patience once they've brought their kid's bike home. When his son was 3 years old, Silverberg let him set his own learning pace on a nondescript used bike with coaster brakes and training wheels. The family lives near a park on Madison's near east side. Within a year, the training wheels were off. His son was biking along the sidewalk, Silverberg running alongside as a spotter. There was an Aha Moment when his son, by then 4, asked if he could ride on the park's grass.
"Kids are so smart," Silverberg marvels. "They're like nascent little BMXers," intuiting solutions to a calculus that involves speed, direction, obstacles and self-preservation. "The grass worked really well," he adds. "He'd ride for a while and fall over, ride for a while and fall over."
Silverberg suggests parents who are in the market for a children's bike consider attending the 23rd annual Wheels on Willy Criterium, scheduled for May 16. While the day's race schedule is dominated by high-speed competition for pro, masters and junior cyclists, the hotshots yield the course to ages 10 and under for about 30 minutes of low-key races starting at 12:30 p.m. - an ideal opportunity to scout the market and talk to parents about why their kids prefer the makes and models they ride.comments powered by Disqus
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.