Zooming down the street on a scooter can be one of your child’s first tastes of big kid freedom! Like a skateboard with handlebars, kick scooters are a great way to get outdoors and enjoy your neighborhood. And even though adults may jump onto a scooter and zoom away without thinking, there’s actually a lot of skill that goes into learning to ride one. Today we’ll outline everything you need to know about teaching your kiddo (or maybe yourself!) to ride a kick scooter.
As with any new skill, it’s important to put safety first. Make sure any new rider is equipped with the proper gear: a well fitting helmet, knee pads, wrist guards, and a set of Board Blazers – you never know when you’ll need the extra light! Once you’re all suited up and scooter in hand, you’re ready to head outside!
The first thing to determine for any scooter rider is their dominant foot. Like handedness, the majority of people are right foot dominant, giving this the name “regular stance.” However there are still many people in the world that are left foot dominant, or “goofy footed.” Despite the name, there’s nothing abnormal about being left-foot dominant; it’s just less common. There are many ways to determine your child’s footedness, and we’ll describe two of them here. First, try having your child stand with both feet about shoulder width apart on the flat ground. Then have them slowly lean forward as if falling, until they suddenly put one foot out to catch themselves. The foot they use to stop their fall is their dominant foot. If that sounds a bit scary for your child, simply have them stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs with both feet flat on the ground. Then ask them to walk up the stairs. The foot the child chooses to place atop the first step is likely their dominant foot. While this test is sometimes slightly less accurate than the “falling” test, it’s also less scary for some children.
Once you’ve determined your child’s footedness, it’s important to teach them that their strong foot (whichever one caught them while falling or was placed atop the bottom stair first) should always be BEHIND their less dominant foot. Their strong foot will be the pushing foot, and their weaker foot will remain on the scooter.
The scooter should also be set up accurately for your child’s height. Most kick scooters will have adjustable handlebars, and it’s important to set these at an appropriate height for both rider comfort and safety. While balancing the scooter for your child, have them stand flat-footed on the deck with proper outdoor sports shoes. Then adjust the height of the handlebars to fall somewhere between their hip height and waist height. We recommend closer to waist height for beginners. While it can be tempting for many kiddos to want the handlebars higher than their waist, discourage them from this option. Handlebars that are too high will cause them to lose control of the scooter. Waist height is a perfect setting for a beginner.
It’s finally time to get up on that scooter and… scoot! Ensure that your child has ample open space on a flat paved area. If you’re not sure where to find this, try a school parking lot on the weekends, or a basketball court at a nearby park – both of these are great options for paved open areas! Once you’re all set, have your child straddle the scooter with hands on the handlebars and both feet on the ground. Then, have them place their non-dominant foot on the scooter while keeping their dominant foot on the ground. This will ease them into basic scooter balance. Once they are confident in balancing the scooter while it is stationary, it’s time to introduce movement. While standing nearby to offer assistance if needed, ask your child to use their dominant foot to push forward a bit, pick up his or her foot and then set it back down. Basically, you’re asking your child to walk with the help of the scooter: stand, push, glide, step back down, stand, push, glide, step back down, etc. This may come naturally to some kids, and that’s great! But don’t worry if this stage lasts a while for your child, or finds both of you frustrated. Remember that this should be fun! If you or your child is feeling stressed, walk away and come back later.
These slow step & glide motions will naturally progress into quicker steps and longer glides. Eventually, encourage your child to place his dominant foot (the pushing foot) on the scooter behind his lead foot. Challenge your child to see how long he or she can glide with both feet on the scooter deck. Congratulations! You now have a proficient scooter kid in the house!
A word about brakes:
Different scooters employ different braking systems. A fair few have hand brakes (operated on the handlebars), most have foot brakes (a push-down contraption on the rear wheel), and some have no brakes (the classic drag-your-shoe method). It’s essential for your child to know how to apply the brakes and also to be capable of doing so. Hand brakes require that your child is strong enough to apply them, and usually requires some extra practice. Often a scooter is a child’s first experience using hand brakes, which can be confusing to little minds. “I push with my foot and stop with my hand?” is a reasonably befuddling new skill until your scooter rider gets enough practice. Foot brakes are more intuitive, but require a good sense of balance, since you must apply the brake mid-glide with your dominant foot. Also be SURE to always wear proper shoes with scooters that have foot breaks. The friction between the wheel and the brake creates an enormous amount of heat that will easily transfer to your child’s foot. Wear good shoes, and absolutely NO scooting barefoot!
Any child that’s old enough to walk and run is old enough to ride a scooter with proper supervision. Learning to scoot can be an excellent way for little ones to be active with the family. And let's face it, scooting is fun at any age! So grab your kiddo, your scooter, and your safety gear and get outside – an entire world of scooting possibility awaits!