Parents have it tough. One the one hand, you don’t want to force your children into activities they may not enjoy but on the other hand, you want to provide them with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow and improve their physical and mental well being. From ballet to theatre, to football, to rugby, to tennis. How do you choose?
Extracurricular can start to add up quickly but not every activity needs to be an expensive hobby with structured practice times. Sometimes the best tools are the ones you have right in your own home, perhaps even in your garage!
For most kids, learning to ride a bike is a formative part of childhood and a milestone event that every proud parent looks forward to. Biking and childhood go hand in hand and is a great, low impact exercise for kids that’s also heaps of fun.
If you haven’t introduced your child to the world of biking, here are five reasons why you should be encouraging your child to get on their bike right now!
Biking improves spatial awareness and navigation
We’ve all heard the phrase “just like riding a bike” which is used to describe something that comes as second nature, something that doesn’t require much thinking at all. But think back to learning to ride your bike for the first time and all of the things you need to remember to make it work. Biking requires gross motor skills, visual motor skills and sensory motor skills as well as balance and strength.
Once you’ve got your body working in sync with the bike, you start to learn spatial awareness and navigation. Your child will begin to look at the terrain and make split decisions on where to go and what route to take. They’ll start to immediately identify hazards like rocks and roots and will naturally start to learn how to approach a trail.
2. Biking skyrockets balance capabilities
Learning to walk and balance on two legs is one thing but learning to balance while sitting on a moving bicycle is a whole new challenge for kids. Biking helps strengthen core muscles which start at the hips and go all the way into the abs, up to your spine, shoulders and neck. A strong core and good balance go hand in hand so the more you bike, the stronger your core and the better your balance.
Even young kids who are too young to pedal can benefit from balance bikes. Bike Glendhu has a free mini pump track with a free balance bike for kids to use and experiment with. We also have a free skills area for parents to take their child to learn the basics of biking.
3. Biking helps increase brain power
Every parent wants to help their child reach their full potential and give them a healthy environment for them to learn. Biking is great for increasing brain power. Researchers from the University of Illinois found that even just a 5% improvement in cardio-respiratory activity from cycling can lead to improvement of up to 15% on mental tests. This is because biking helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that is responsible for memory.
Biking has also shown to be an effective answer to ADHD in children as well as helping fight depression. Immediately after you’ve started biking, your brain gets a spike of serotonin, which is also known as the “happy hormone.” Serotonin levels remain high even after getting off the bike keeping your child happier throughout the day.
4. Biking is low impact and good for your heart and lungs
Biking is a cardiovascular activity which means it raises the heart rate and gets your blood pumping. When doing a cardiovascular sport, your lungs and heart work together to inhale oxygen and distribute it to your muscles. The more you work your lungs and your heart, the more efficient they become.
Unlike other cardiovascular activities like running and rugby, it’s a low impact sport so it’s especially gentle on their growing joints and bones. Sure, there is always room for risk and injury but teaching children good technique and helping them make good riding decisions early on helps prevent injury down the road making biking an ideal low impact sport.
5. Biking gives your child independence
Human babies are dependent on their parents for much longer than our mammalian relatives but with every year your child grows more and more independent. First, they learn to crawl. Then they learn a wobbly walk. Soon they’ll be running and not long after that, they’ll be finding their balance on two wheels.
Encouraging a child to ride their bike empowers them to move quickly and safely without your constant guidance which gives you a much-needed break and is wildly exciting for your child. Bikes not only give children independence but also the opportunity to explore as well as an introduction to risk and reward.
Sure, they may be bumps and bruises down the road but growing up is filled with bumps and bruises. The important thing is learning how to deal with injuries, disappointment and capability boundaries. Biking helps teach your child these crucial life skills in a safe and fun environment, setting them up for success down the road.
At Bike Glendhu, we have heaps of learning opportunities for kids from young toddlers to teens who crave adventure. Our free pump track and skills area at Base 334 are great places for your child to get acquainted with biking, helping them build the skills and confidence they need for more advanced trails.
For older kids who are more comfortable on a mountain bike, our green trail Kākāriki is a low-grade mountain bike trail that is accessible for beginner mountain bikers. We know the pedal uphill can be tough for little legs which is why we offer van shuttles to Jack’s Spot so your kids can enjoy the down runs without depleting all of their energy on the climb.
For older kids and teens who have the basics mastered, our trail network for over 35 kilometres will prove to be an endless playground of opportunity for them. Our trails vary from flowy greens and blues to more technical black runs.
We are proud to be a park that caters to all abilities of mountain bikers and for those who simply just want to introduce their family to mountain biking, our Base 334 has everything you need: healthy food, plenty of green space to run around, a sandpit as well as our free pump track and skills area. If you’re ready to come spend a day with us, check out our Family Passes here!