Good sense is crucial when we move about in traffic. But the imagination is our best ally if we want to teach our children to cycle both safely and happily. The Danish experiences with cycle training through play are highly positive.
The moment in which a child learns to cycle often turns into a memory for life. But getting to this point is not always as enjoyable as it could be. Therefore, the Danish Cyclists’ Federation has developed a fun and efficient alternative to traditional cycle training.
In kindergartens all over the country, it has become a common sight to see groups of children who play on bicycles or are learning to ride bicycles. They catch soap bubbles, pick up coloured balls while cycling, or perhaps they try to avoid the Tickle Monster. This all takes place with great enthusiasm because the children love to cycle, and they also love cycle training if it is fun.
The children don’t think about it, but as they play, they little by little become one with the bicycle. They learn to keep their balance. They learn to get on and off with ease. They learn to brake in time. They learn to cope in traffic. In other words, they learn to cycle well, and then they have the energy to remember regulations and keep an eye on what happens around them while they cycle – and that is the first step on the road to becoming a competent cyclist.
Confronting dreary cycle training
The concept of cycling games is fairly new. A few years ago, when the Danish Cyclists’ Federation decided to have a closer look at the way cycle training normally took place, it was neither particularly fun nor efficient. Often, cycle training only focused superficially on teaching the children to master the bicycle while the traffic regulations took up most of the time.
Of course, traffic regulations are very important, but a child who does not master its bicycle properly will never become a competent cyclist. And if cycle training becomes an irksome duty, there is a risk that the child will not want to cycle at all. Conversely, a child who loves to cycle will be highly motivated to learn the traffic regulations.
Therefore, the Danish Cyclists’ Federation found that three things were needed: 1) cycle training focusing on mastering the bicycle, 2) cycle training which boosts the child’s desire to cycle, and 3) cycle training that starts early, so the children master both bicycle and traffic regulations to perfection when they have to get by in traffic on their own.
Enter fun and games
The result is cycle training that takes its point of departure in play, and in short time the concept has become a great success. The concept is very flexible and can easily be adjusted to different physical surroundings, the number of children, and their age, maturity, and skills.
The pivotal point is a list of games – often cycling versions of traditional games. But experience shows that the users generally invent new games or adapt the games so they are tailored to just their wants and needs. And that is the way it should be. The Danish Cyclists’ Federation has published a pamphlet for inspiration (which also exists in an English version).
The simplest cycling games can be played by children as young as 2-3 years old, and the games can continue to form part of cycle training during their school years. In fact, if slightly adjusted, the concept can also be used for cycle training for adults. Naturally, the games are complemented by road safety instruction, and then a good and healthy groundwork has been laid for a new generation of cyclists who can cycle confidently and with the joy of cycling intact.
Read more at www.cycling-embassy.dk/2010/06/21/6-cycling-games