A balance bike is a safe introduction to the world of cycling.

The Best Toddler Balance Bike

by Joann MacDonald

It seems like only yesterday that your little one was a wee infant, unable to leave the confines of his crib. But that was then -- nowadays your busy toddler just wants to move, move, move, in as many ways as possible. He has seen older children and neighbors riding their bikes, and he wants to get in on that action too. A balance bike could be just the thing you need, offering your child a safe introduction to the world of cycling.

1. What Is It?

A balance bike is sometimes called a running bike because it allows your child to keep his feet securely on the ground. These bikes are ultra light and have no pedals, chains or sprockets in which toddler legs can get tangled. They are propelled by your child through walking, running and gliding. This educational toy teaches your toddler how to ride a bike without fear of falling. No more tears or bandaged boo-boos. The balance bike is not only a source of pleasure and fitness for your busy toddler -- it also enhances motor skills, coordination, steering and balance. Best of all, it builds confidence and eases the transition to a bike with pedals later.

2. Metal

A metal frame bike geared to toddlers can offer a lightweight construction and an adjustable fit. Look for one like the Strider PreBike, which can be adjusted to suit kids ages 18 months to 5 years. Consumer Search identifies it as the best balance bike based on professional and consumer reviews. It has a height range of 30 to 42 inches and it’s one of the lightest bikes on the market, at 6 pounds, 14 ounces. The handlebar height also adjusts for a comfortable fit. A lightweight steel alloy frame has integrated footrests and comes in six bright colors to suit your picky toddler’s tastes. Your child will enjoy customizing his bike with optional colored handgrips, wheels and tires. All terrain wheels allow your little adventurer to hit trails and woods with his new ride. A mini bike seat makes it simple for toddlers to get on and off.

3. Wood

For the creative toddler who likes to stand out from his friends, a wood balance bike makes a strong statement. The Wishbone Wooden 3-in-1 Balance Bike, designed in New Zealand, received a Junior Magazine Design Award for Best Eco Toy in 2011. It grows with your child from age 1 to 5 years old -- it starts as a trike, transitions to a small balance bike for a 2 year old and then flips over and becomes a larger balance bike for preschoolers. It weighs anywhere from just over 8 pounds up to 12 pounds, depending on how you are using it. The environmentally conscious mom will approve of eco-friendly features like a kiln-dried, preservative-free plantation birch and eucalyptus frame, non-toxic dyes, organic cotton, recycled plastic and recycled packaging. Up the cool factor with your child’s choice of flame or flower stickers and colored silicone seat covers.

4. Composite

Another option for your toddler’s first ride is a composite bike, like the FirstBIKE brand, which was designed by a German engineer using a durable composite fiberglass frame that makes for a lightweight, toddler-friendly bike. Unlike wood or metal, this material will not scratch or rust. It has some of the same materials used in cars, boats and airplanes. Winner of a Good Toy Award in Europe, FirstBIKE can be used indoors or out. It comes in a number of models and colors, with or without handbrakes, and features a seat lowering kit for the smallest of riders. It weighs just under 8 pounds and has tool-free seat height adjustment. You just have to turn the knob -- handy when you are heading out for a ride only to discover your child no longer fits the bike properly. Different models have different tire styles, depending on whether your little one is going for a wild, off-road ride or a conservative trek down the sidewalk.

About the Author

Joann MacDonald has been a professional writer for 17 years. She holds a degree in English and a Master of Arts in journalism. For more than 14 years, she was a communications specialist for a large public school system. She has also written for numerous magazines in the Greater Toronto Area. She blogs about thrift store shopping, parenting and vegetarian cooking.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images