Safe to say some research on the best balance bikes for 1 year olds would have gone a long way in helping me deliver a great bike to my daughter.
As an avid bike rider my whole entire adult life…you could say I was slightly (very) excited to get my daughter on her first bike. So much so, that without any research (as I only focused on aesthetics and quality), I bought her a balance bike that was far too large for her and 2 years on is only just starting to fit.
The months went on though and while the balance bike wasn’t something that could be enjoyed by my little girl without holding the bike for her and running around the skate park like a mad man, we did soon discover her love for her 3 wheeled micro-scooter that was gifted to us by her grandparents.
In the years that have followed, it’s become clear that our daughter absolutely loves her scooter but is seriously ready for that next challenge on her balance bike and had we bought the right one from the start, maybe she’d be flying down the banks at the skatepark all by herself.
But while my personal bias says I wish I put her on the right sized balance bike all those years ago, there’s a larger question to be answered here.
Balance Bikes vs Scooters for Toddlers – Which one should they be getting on first?
To answer this question, I’m going to break it down into the benefits of each and ultimately, let you decide.
What are the benefits of balance bikes for toddlers?
Balance bikes have really carved out a new way for the next generation to learn how to ride a bike. When I think back to my youth, I think of a Huffy Bike from Kmart, training wheels fitted by my Dad (probably poorly!) and I was sent on my merry way trying to figure out what to do with my legs as I struggled to pedal, turn and not fall over at the same time.
This doesn’t have to be your toddler’s reality anymore.
The right size balance bike for your little boy or girl will enable them to sit comfortably on the bike, touch the ground with a flat foot and all they have to really worry about is running and turning the handlebars which with some initial practice, won’t take too long at all.
Benefits of Balance Bikes
- Straightforward to use
- Prepares your toddler’s balance for their first real bike
- Teaches your toddler how to steer
- Devlops core strength as they control the bike
- No pedals in the way if they fall over
- Easy to jump off and put down
- Spatial awareness
What are the benefits of scooters or micro-scooters for toddlers?
Now, I promise not to let my bike-bias roll in here. As I said, I’ve watched my daughter become very confident on her micro-scooter the last couple of years and it’s extremely clear to me that by learning how to ride that scooter at a high level, it brings a level of trust and excitement to her balance bike that may not exist if we never got anything at all.
So when considering a scooter or micro-scooter instead of a balance bike…what benefits can you expect?
Benefits of Scooters & Micro-Scooters
- Very Safe 2 or 3-wheel designs
- Straight forward steering
- Easy to learn
- Size is less important when buying
- Keeps your child active
- Standing instead of sitting enables quicker reactions to errors
- Improves gross motor skills
Other Factors to consider when choosing for your toddler
A factor that may be a consideration when choosing what to start your toddler’s 2 or 3-wheeled journey on is pricing.
Like most products in the market, you can purchase balance bikes for as little as $40-50 and micro-scooters for a pretty similar price $50-60 and upwards for both options.
What’s most important here is that you choose a budget, assess the 100’s of customer reviews on the product to ensure you’re making an educated decision.
We personally spent $150 on our daughter’s first balance bike, but for my son who is about to turn 1, we went a totally different route and spent $50 on a balance bike that will fit straight away. The biggest difference here is that his bike has an expected life-span of 12 months and hers will last until she’s ready for her first 12” or 16” bike and then it’ll be easily passed down to my son without any issue as the quality is very high.
Are balance bikes or scooters easier to transport?
Generally speaking, you will find it a lot easier to carry & transport the scooters around for your toddler when they inevitably decide their little legs have had enough.
Especially if you’re like our family where we have our little boy in the pram, it’s nice being able to place her scooter underneath the pram while we walk home after a big adventure compared to the balance bike where we have to carry it WHILE we push the pram.
This won’t last forever but it’s nice to have an easy out when the need arises.
Are balance bikes or scooters safer?
There are solid arguments on both sides here to decide which one is the safer option for your toddler.
From my experience, they’re going to fall on either and it will ultimately come down to their confidence and experience on each. As we mentioned before, it’s a lot easier for the child to disengage the scooter as they’re already in a standing position vs sitting down on the balance bike.
We simply suggest utilising a certified helmet for your toddler that can be used on either option to keep them as safe as possible.
Does your family embrace bikes?
Lastly, another factor when considering what to buy your toddler may be what does your household currently participate in.
Are you a lover of 2 wheels on your road bike or are you a bmx rider living in the skate park? Either way, if your family embraces bikes you may find that the decision here is straightforward as you can pretty much guarantee the faster your child masters the balance bike, the faster they will be on a real bike and pedalling next to you – wherever that may be!
If you don’t ride, you might look to disregard this factor.
Both options are going to deliver great outcomes for your toddler as they start or continue their active journey.
They will both allow your child to learn balance, feel motion that they’ve self-generated and become confident in their abilities.
And while I have my love for bikes and believe in the progression that a balance bike offers where a scooter or micro-scooter does not; I also believe if your child is embracing and loving the scooter, let them do so. It’s far better to build confidence in their abilities, find joy in being in motion and a love for the outdoors compared to arguing with your child as you try and force something on them that they feel they’re not ready for.
Have any questions? Leave them in the comments below!