From Bicycling Magazine
Helping your child learn to pedal a two-wheeler is a milestone, and an unforgettable experience for you both.
Here is Bicycling Magazine's preferred method, which differs from the traditional run-beside-the-bike way most of us were taught. They've found that it results in fewer crashes and a faster learning time – many kids begin spinning on their own within 15-20 minutes.
1. Remove the training wheels and lower the saddle so your child can put his or her feet flat on the ground when seated.
2. Find a grassy field with a gentle downhill of 30 yards or so. Short grass is better because tall grass reduces momentum. The ideal area should run out to a slight uphill to slow the child gradually.
3. Strap on the child's helmet. Tuck in shoelaces.
4. Midway up the hill, hold the bike while your child gets on. Have him or her put both feet on the ground, then let go of the bike.
5. Tell your child to lift his or her feet about an inch and coast down the hill without pedaling. Try to hold the bike to steady your child. Because the child is coasting slowly, he or she can put his or her feet down if scared.
6. Repeat until your child feels comfortable coasting and doesn't put his or her feet down to stop. He or she might want you to run beside the bike the first few times; do so, but don't hold the bike. Let your child feel the balance.
7. Now have your child put his or her feet on the pedals and coast down. After several runs, have your child begin pedaling as he or she rolls.
8. Repeat until your child feels comfortable, then move up the hill. After another run, raise the saddle and go to a flat part of the field or a cul-de-sac to ride loops and to practice turning, braking and starting from a standstill.
AVOID THESE COMMON MISTAKES:
• Don't make "learning day" the first day on a new bike – it adds an unfamiliar bike to an unfamiliar experience. If you buy a "big kid" bike, let your child ride it with training wheels before learning day, or take the training wheels off the old bike, then use the new bike as a reward for mastering two-wheeling.
• Don't use the one-training-wheel method. Removing a training wheel from only one side makes the bike unstable and doesn't teach balance, the key element in learning to ride.
• If you must try the run-beside-the-bike method, don't trick your child by claiming you're holding on when you're not. If the child crashes, you erode trust, which erodes confidence. Before you begin a run, tell your child if you plan to let go at some point if he or she looks stable.