I heard about Balanceability, the UK’s first and only accredited ‘learn to cycle’ programme for children, through a Tweet from @Love2cyclebath and thought it sounded like something my little boy might like to try.
A bit of blurb about the programme…
The cycling programme combines unique ergonomic balance bikes with a schedule of fun activities that build confidence, spatial awareness and dynamic balance skills enabling young children to cycle without ever needing stabilisers. The six week Level 1 course is suitable for 2½ to 4 year olds.
The course is delivered by a qualified Balanceability instructor and each session follows a carefully structured lesson plan designed to help children develop gross motor skills, spatial awareness and bilateral co-ordination. Children will learn how to pick up, manoeuvre, mount and dismount their bikes and then learn the skills to ride a balance bike safely.
Ethan was already pretty handy on his balance bike prior to starting course so I was unsure how much he would get out of the programme. I had a chat with Josie, the instructor, before the first class and we discussed what the learning objectives were and we both decided that it would be worthwhile – a decision that turned out to be spot on. The course was also very good value at £24 for the 6 week programme.
I was very impressed with the structure of the course, the target age group have a notoriously bad attention span so keeping them engaged for 45 minutes is not easy! Each class followed a similar structure, an off the bike warm up followed by a re-cap of the previous weeks skills with new activities added on to introduce new skills. Here is a breakdown of each week.
Warm Up: Follow lines on the ground, putting one foot in front of the other with the aim of finding and keeping your balance.
On the bike: Learning how to pick up the bike and to stand on the correct side when pushing the bike. Riding in a loop around a row of cones, practising gliding.
Warm Up: A running warm up – being runner beans, chilly beans, string beans and kidney beans. Stepping stones across the river.
On the bike: A re-cap of the previous weeks skills. Weaving in and out a pattern of cones – avoiding hitting them, the cones are dinosaur eggs!
Warm Up: A pirate themed warm up! Run around the ship, climb the rigging and scrub the deck!
On the bike: A re-cap of the previous weeks skills. Roundabout – a circle of cones, practise keeping your speed under control and keeping close to the cones.
Warm Up: A re-cap of the new skills learnt in the first three weeks of the course, including bike handling, gliding and control.
On the bike: An obstacle course – weave in and out of the cones, stop in the marked box, go through the chicane of cones and weave in and out of the cones on the home stretch. Repeat the obstacle course but have to collect ‘bugs’ on the way including wriggly worms, slimy slugs and blue beetles and take them back to the ‘farm.’
Warm Up: A repeat of the week 2 warm up.
On the bike: A fast lane (marked by green cones) where you have to glide and then stop in the marked box. As a progression the box where you stopped was changed to a ‘crossing’ and you only had to stop when indicated. A re-cap of the previous weeks obstacle course.
Warm Up: Walk the plank and jump into the sea!
On the bike: A square of cones, on two sides you ride the bike and then on the other two sides you have to get off and walk the bike. Progressing on, Josie walked around the square holding out a selection different coloured cones – each colour dictating a different instruction. For example a red cone was the instruction to stop the bike, a yellow cone meant turn around etc…
Final thoughts…being the youngest on the programme, I thought Ethan might struggle more to grasp the instructions but with both Josie’s help and copying the older boys he quickly got the idea – most of the time! Ethan has his own balance bike which we used each week but the programme also provides bikes free of charge. I think it helped Ethan being familiar with his bike as the bikes provided by the programme, although good quality, are a little more tricky to handle. I thought the structure of the programme was generally very good, and there were only a few times when Ethan lost concentration but at his age that is to be expected! Ethan loved the course and certainly got a lot out of it. Although the course does start with the basics, to get the most out of the course I think it is useful if the child is familiar, or at least sat on a balance bike prior to starting but it is defiantly a course I would recommend to friends and I’m looking forward to Ethan doing Level 2.
To find your local programme check out http://www.balanceability.com