I thought of another thing to add that's been great in our family is the Kids Ride Shotgun Mountain Bike Seat, this has the kid riding on your own frame between you and the handlebars on their own mini saddle. They are not strapped to it in any way, so they must rely on their own (and your) balance. It's a great way for them to learn how a bike feels at speed as it dips and leans and maneuvers around without having to worry about the propulsion. AND it's my understanding that they're now stocked at REI... 😏
As far as training wheels, I just want to be clear it can be done that way, but some of the main points against them in more detail:
- To do it properly, you have to constantly raise them as mentioned above, and from my observations most people don't seem to realize this. I see training wheels on/barely above the ground all the time.
- Whether you do it consciously or unconsciously, turning a bike is done primarily by leaning the bike slightly in the direction of the turn, not just by turning the handlebars. Training wheels, especially if set too low, inhibit this and may lead to letting the bike lean the incorrect way in turns, so it's not just about balance it's also about proper technique. This is lessened if you raise the training wheels, but see #1. When kids are able to really lean the bike and make sharp turns, they also just seem to have more fun! My girl had a few jackknife incidents at first but quickly corrected that.
- The basic idea of both training wheels/balance bikes is to separate balance from pedaling, but balancing is the real crux of biking while pedaling is comparatively much easier to grasp, and can be done on any pedal bike with a stack of books under the bottom bracket. I've heard tricycles are also sometimes used to teach pedaling, but I'm not a fan of them in general either. Coaster brakes throw a bit of a wrench in the works here too, but that's a whole other can of worms involving the CSPC...
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.