By Amanda Wilks
It’s strange to think about living in a day and age where children have to be talked into going outside to ride their bike, but that’s simply the world we live in. Digital temptations often outweigh the allure of the outdoors. Times like these call for jumping into a hobby with your children to help nurture a healthy interest in a plethora of hobbies with biking taking up a solid position as a healthy pastime that doesn’t require you to be in the best shape of your life.
Take a moment to consider the needs of your average young rider before you begin. For instance, bike size is important, and you’ll have to consider how much growing your child has left to do as well as what they should be wearing to protect themselves. Plus, there’s no better way to goad them into wearing proper protective gear than by leading through your own example.
Size isn’t the only matter at hand for a proper fit. If you live in an urban area, a bicycle made for harsh mountain trails likely won’t be as useful as one made for city riding and vice versa. Make sure it’s tall or short enough for any rider, but make sure they won’t strain just trying to roll it down the street, too. Once you’ve got that sorted you might just manage to help your child reap any of these rewards that can stick with them for most of their lives.
1. It’s Great Exercise
Going for a ride is a solid way to exercise, much to the surprise of absolutely no one, and that’s important in a day and age where less than half of American children get enough exercise on a daily basis.
Again, our digitally-focused culture may have something to do with that unfortunate number and it can take serious prodding to provoke an interest in the outdoors. Biking offers exercise in a way that doesn’t feel like work.
If anything, it can feel like a child’s first step to independence when they’re shown a world they can explore at their own pace even if you happen to be riding behind them the whole way.
2. Good Riding Habits Translate to Good Driving Habits
Someday, your child is going to be driving. That’s probably a scary thought at the moment. Years down the line your child’s biking experience can seriously alter how well they drive, especially if they ride in urban areas extensively.
Teaching them to properly signal, watch for traffic, be courteous to other riders or drivers and to always be aware of their surroundings are seriously helpful life skills.
3. The Whole Family Can Participate
Good luck finding very many hobbies with a level of appeal that crosses the generation gap. Thankfully, bicycle riding is one of the few that almost always qualifies.
Whether you’re the proud parent of a wee tyke or getting on in years yourself, bicycle riding is a low-impact but highly fun hobby for the entire family. Go for a big pack ride, visit your favorite local places and stretch your legs out in the process.
4. Physical Learning Leads to Mental Benefits
The art of riding a bicycle is more than just learning how best to perch yourself atop a seat and whir down the highway. Building a child’s mental coordination through riding a bike can help with their balance and motor skills by stimulating their minds in ways simply walking about cannot hope to accomplish.
For an added bonus, kids who ride with others in a group setting have a chance to grow their social skills and chatter excitedly over a shared hobby while getting the most out of their exercise time.
There’s even the perk of being motivated to continue the riding hobby in a social setting, which might keep otherwise sedentary kids moving more often without being goaded into it every day.
5. It’s Fun
Yes, there are physical and mental benefits to riding around town on your shiny new bicycle. Yes, there are other ways you could meet those goals.
The real draw here is the innate fun of flying down the street while catching the wind in your face and getting a good look at your local neighborhood from a different point of view. Kids enjoy riding bicycles because it’s fun, not because it feels like work, and that’s very important for keeping their interest levels high.
If you’ve been struggling to find a way to get the family to work out as a unit or just aren’t sure how to encourage your child to step outdoors more often, buy them a bike. Show them a world exists outside their door that they can really take part in and you just might foster a healthy interest in a hobby that will keep them entertained and healthy.
Author Bio: Amanda Wilks is a writer, contributing author at MountainBikeReviewed.com, and sports activist. Her passion for mountain biking dates back to her childhood, when she would join her dad every weekend for a quick ride uphill. Biking helps her stay healthy, happy and close to her family. Find out more about Amanda on Twitter.