This is the first post in a new series on Nothing if Not Intentional about biking with kids! While I’ve never considered us serious bikers, we have somehow managed to end up on a few epic bike adventures (starting with when Nate and I decided to spend seven days biking across the upper portion of New Zealand with nothing but broken pawn shop bikes and 50-lbs of luggage that we carried on our backs)! I plan to share funny personal stories as well as useful posts with bike options for different ages of kids, gear to make your family rides easier and more fun, and details about our new bike (and new blog sponsor) the Yuba Mundo cargo bike! Stick around! You won’t want to miss this!
For this first post, let’s talk about how to keep kids happy in a bike seat or bike trailer. In a perfect world, young kids wouldn’t need diversions or bike-seat entertainment. Kids on bikes would be perfectly happy to be outside, one with nature, content in the knowledge that you’re saving Mother Earth from car pollution with each push of your pedal.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world, and my girls (ages 1 and 3) aren’t quite that easy-to-please. (Although I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Yuba has changed their attitude towards biking! But more on that later…) It’s usually about the last mile from home that my youngest starts crying, begging to get out, or even unlatching her harness and trying to climb out of the trailer!
(Anyone else notice the too-loose helmet in these pics? “A good fit means level on your head, touching all around, comfortably snug but not tight. The helmet should not move more than about an inch in any direction, and must not pull off no matter how hard you try.” Read more about helmet safety HERE.)
Here are the tricks we’ve tried to distract her and make that last mile more bearable.
11 Ways to Keep Kids Happy When You Ride
Find shapes and figures in the clouds. Bikes offer a great view of the sky.
Play the “What sound does a ___ say?” game. My toddler loves to show off her animal noises.
Sing songs–No radio? No problem! Now’s your chance to pretend like you’re a rock star. If it’s a song your child has heard often, they’ll probably join with you! Songs that involve hand motions (“If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” “Little Green Frog,” “Wheels on the Bus,” etc) are favorites with our girls.
Make up a story. I ask my girls to give names to the main characters. Then I have those characters go on adventure using the visual cues we see around us. My girls have yet to complain that my stories don’t follow the typical exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution pattern. I bet your little ones won’t complain either even if all Sofia the Puppy does is help her owner water her garden with the orange hose.
Make sure they’re comfortable. There’s nothing that will ruin a family bike ride quite like a strap that’s too tight, a missed snack, a too-hot outfit, or a forgotten water bottle.
Talk about what you’re going to do or what you did at your destination. Bike rides are great for chit chat. Engage the senses. Even though kids’ movements are limited, bike rides provide lots of opportunities to engage the senses. Ask your children to describe what they see, hear, feel, smell, and even taste. Here are a few ideas:
- Smell–clover, flowers, grass, car fumes, cooking food, laundry, smoke from a chimney, grill, or leaf pile
- Hearing–trains, squeaky bike chain, barking dogs, cars, horns, motorcycles, kids playing outside
- Taste–rain drops, snack, bugs that fly in your mouth (Gross, but hey! It happens!)
- Touch–wind, speed (faster/slower), texture of clothes, water that splashes from a puddle
- Sight–how many animals can you count? What do you see that’s green? How many road signs can you name? How many cars have passed us? How many people are walking, biking, or running?
Snacks are a great diversion. If you don’t want to ruin a meal, we’ve found that rice cakes are a good choice. Another relatively mess-free option is this homemade trail mix recipe.
Keep little hands occupied. When our youngest daughter gets antsy and restless, she’ll pick on her big sister. This predicament vastly improves when the little one’s hands are full. We give her a stuffed animal to carry, a snack to munch on, or a job to do like holding something for us or putting her hands in her pockets.
Count–could there be a more simple distraction? My three-year-old likes to see how high we can count before we get home. My one-year-old likes saying, “one, two, three, one, three” and so on.
Stop and stretch. Break up a long ride with a pit stop that will allow everyone to stretch and move around.
Our Sweet Ride
With two kids, I’ve had the itch to upgrade from a car to a SUV with three rows or (I never thought I’d say this) even a mini-van. But both of those options come with a big price tag–especially when you consider the cost of gas. Enter the Yuba. I can carry three kids (something I can’t do with car seats in my car), several bags of groceries, and even a diet sweet tea from a fast food restaurant. (Um, can I still be considered a crunchy mom if I take my bike through the drive-thru?) Regardless, with that set up, what more could I possibly want? Follow our biking with kids series for more details about our sweet ride and our newest blog partner, Yuba Bicycles.