Why won't my 3-year old ride a tricycle?
October 8, 2007 7:00 PM   Subscribe

My 3-year old can't/won't ride a tricycle. Is there something wrong with him? All of his friends who are close to him in age love to ride tricycles and other ride-on things. My kid will gladly sit on a tricycle and make somewhat of an effort to pedal, but he can't seem to figure out how to do it. His legs work fine - no trouble walking, and he runs like a madman. It's just the pedalling/riding thing. Is he just a late-pedalling-bloomer?
posted by missuswayne to Health & Fitness (28 answers total)
How much have you showed him? How much have you tried to help?
posted by mr. remy at 7:05 PM on October 8, 2007

No special insight, but a similar experience. My little guy just turned 5 and he still won't go on anything with pedals. He walks, runs, swims and climbs normally so I'm assuming there's nothing wrong. He is cautious about heights, slides and swings and I'd guess the pedaling thing is tied in somehow.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:08 PM on October 8, 2007

Kids are different.
posted by Jimbob at 7:09 PM on October 8, 2007

Ow, being a parent is so hard. No, there is probably no issue here. Kids develop at different rates. If there are many other issues where he seems behind then see a doctor, but otherwise, relax, have a beer, and don't sweat the minor details of life.
posted by caddis at 7:10 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Some kids who don't like conventional tricycles adore Big Wheels.
posted by paulsc at 7:13 PM on October 8, 2007

You say he's got friends that ride fine - do they all ride at the same time? My daughter never got the hang of pedaling until she turned four, and only then because another little girl moved into our apartment complex, and she could ride like the dickens. Suddenly my daughter was inspired to keep up. She still struggles, but the improvement's been remarkable.

Peers are often the best motivators.
posted by lekvar at 7:13 PM on October 8, 2007

Response by poster: mr remy - all the time :)
caddis - You know, he's not "behind" in anyhing, but he's very shy and cautious, and not very outgoing around other kids. In addition he's extremely bright so I'm always concerned about autism or aspergers or something. I'm probably just paranoid though. :)
lekvar - good point. hopefully that will help...
posted by missuswayne at 7:23 PM on October 8, 2007

What caddis said.
Watching your kids grow up is not a competition. Please do some internal work right now and steer yourself away from becoming one of those "OMG my kid isn't doing what the other kids are doing" parents. Your kid will thank you for it later.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:28 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh man, you are so right. I'm becoming that nightmare. Not sure how to stop it though. Seems like most parents (myself included, obvs) are programmed to be that way.
posted by missuswayne at 7:32 PM on October 8, 2007

My sister never bothered to learn to crawl. She could kind of do it but she enjoyed scooching and rolling a bit more and crawling just wasn't in the cards. My mom was pretty worried (not as much because this sister is the youngest of three - if it were me, the oldest, I'm sure she would have been asking Metafilter if such had existed in the mid-80s) but said sister did eventually just decide one day to learn to walk. She just skipped a step.

She's now captaining the varsity soccer team at her school. Her early abnormal development absolutely did not dog her progress in any way and in fact her two more "normal" sisters have much less coordination and never ended up playing sports.

In other words, what I'm trying to say is that this doesn't mean your son isn't going to win the Tour de France. If you see that it's part of a pattern of non-normal development, you might want to talk to a doctor, but I think a shy, smart kid who hates his trike isn't anything beyond the pale.
posted by crinklebat at 7:41 PM on October 8, 2007

My mom says I never really crawled - I went from scooching/rolling to up on my hands and feet, butt in the air, with no intermediate crawling. Apparently, I was pretty speedy.

I didn't learn to ride a two-wheeler until I was nine, I think. The summer I turned 15 I spent 5 weeks cycling around Ireland.

Kids are different, yep.
posted by rtha at 7:53 PM on October 8, 2007

My son was a "late pedaler." He much preferred pushing his tricycle with his feet on the ground. We just gently encouraged him to keep trying the pedals and eventually something clicked. After that, the rest of his bicycling development progressed normally (he easily learned to ride a two-wheeler, for instance). Now, he's 14 years old and he's a bike-riding fanatic.
posted by amyms at 8:06 PM on October 8, 2007

can you sit him on the couch and put his feet in your hands and show him how to pedal, like a game? maybe he just doesn't get the alternating pressure thing.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:08 PM on October 8, 2007

Balance bikes work well for three-year-olds, and they allow a smooth transition from walking to "riding." (It's a two-wheeled bike without pedals; you push it with your feet.)
posted by mbrubeck at 8:18 PM on October 8, 2007

Emphatically echoing everyone who said, "Not a problem." Don't hold him to a timetable for trikes, bikes, or anything else. He will be fine. Unless you make it not so.

~(Dad of 2 who grew up just fine in their own way and time.)
posted by bricoleur at 8:32 PM on October 8, 2007

One of my daughters never crawled either - she just stood up one day and walked. She also refused to ride a bike until she was nine - she would happy ride with training wheels, but refused to ride anything with two wheels - she would sit on it forever or let us hold her up and push her along, though. One day, she just did it. Yours will too.
posted by dg at 9:17 PM on October 8, 2007

There's an expression in Russian about child development, which translates to "She'll do it before the wedding." It's generally a good thing to keep in mind.

He'll figure it out when he's ready.
posted by streetdreams at 9:19 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

My twins (boy and girl) are fun to watch, because one will pick up something and excel at it, and we're tempted to say "oh dear, when will the other one start doing it?" -- and suddenly one day, the other one is doing it and more, or is doing something else completely awesome that the first cannot do.

There's nothing wrong with keeping an eye on your kids to catch abnormal development issues early -- it's not all OMG parenting if you're just being alert -- the trick is not to stress or to worry unless you see something specific and worrying.

For example: my son tended to favor one of his legs when he started walking. My wife noticed, and we kept an eye on it, but otherwise didn't worry. He outgrew it.

Another example: my son was able to hear and see airplanes before we could (yay ears, yay eyesight!) but my daughter could not. We waited to see if that was something that would improve, or if it was something indicating a hearing or eyesight problem. She outgrew it.

And so on, ad infinitum. Right now my son (at 2-and-a-quarter) puts one foot on the pedal and one on the ground and makes terrible time on his trike, while his sister zooms about like mad. Then he discovered that if he uses two legs on the ground, he can outspeed her on the trike -- kind of makes pedaling seem useless.

So keeping an eye out: yes. Mentioning something casually to your doctor just to see if his/her expression changes: sure. Freaking out: don't do it.
posted by davejay at 9:52 PM on October 8, 2007

One of my daughters never crawled either - she just stood up one day and walked.

My mother said I did this, too. One day she put me on the floor, knowing I wouldn't crawl away (because I didn't like to crawl) and suddenly I was gone -- I had gotten up and run into the other room!

On the other hand, we have a friend with a daughter who just wasn't into walking, or even trying, so much so that we actually got a little concerned. Then suddenly she was walking, bam. Kids are like that.
posted by davejay at 9:54 PM on October 8, 2007

get a like-a-bike. they are really fun for kids.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 10:00 PM on October 8, 2007

My three-year-old cries every time we ask her to pedal. She's done it before, but rarely and either under duress or when she thinks nobody's looking.

It's scary, making something go. My five-year old won't let us take off the training wheels on her bike, even though we've jacked them so high that they haven't touched the pavement in months. It's like Dumbo's feather, I guess.
posted by padraigin at 10:08 PM on October 8, 2007

paulsc is right. When I was a kid I disliked tricycles, but damn did I love a Big Wheel!
posted by samh23 at 11:48 PM on October 8, 2007

I also hated tricycles when I was around that age, and I do have some fragmented memories of sitting on the thing and not being able to make it pedal for some reason. Didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was 18, but I think that was more a result of being a bookish/nerdy kid than any developmental disabilities.
posted by pravit at 12:30 AM on October 9, 2007

Mine couldn't really pedal at 3 (she'd try to go backwards). By 3 and 3 months she was zooming around like she was born to it. I'm sure it'll just click for her at some point soon. Show her how it works and encourage her, but don't lose sleep over it.
posted by bifter at 2:40 AM on October 9, 2007

My older boy (4 now) never really dug the tricycle. He would do it every now and then but only very very reluctantly.

He also had a 'Like-a-bike' that he never used. And a bicycle with training wheels that he had ridden three, maybe four times.

Last Thursday he said, "I can ride a bike without training wheels." We said, "Oh really?" Considering his history of not riding anything we were, uh, skeptical. So I took him to the playground, took the wheels off and damn if he didn't get on the bike and ride around. Damnedest thing I've ever seen. He was wobbly and fell over a bit but now, four days later he's pretty much riding a bike.

So. Go figure. He very well might come to you one day and say, "I can do Trigonomic Functions" or something - you just never can tell.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:49 AM on October 9, 2007

Response by poster: Bklyn - thanks for sharing that. btw, if he came up to me and told me he could do trig, i sure as hell wouldn't be able tell if he couldn't, lol.
posted by missuswayne at 6:27 AM on October 9, 2007

Chances are your child just tends towards the more cautious end of the personality spectrum, for whatever reason. I suspect he will learn to ride a bike when he is ready. But I know it is difficult not to worry! - Is this your first child? If it is, I can completely empathize with the worry of "why isn't my kid doing X?". My first born (a girl now 20) was a very quiet, cautious kid but also very thoughtful, very aware of other's feelings and a wonderful conversationalist when she felt comfortable. She didn't learn to ride a bike until she was in 2nd grade (despite numerous attempts) and it took her a year (years later!) to learn to drive a car. So her early cautious tendencies have stayed with her in some things but on the other hand, she has among other things traveled around Europe with a friend, spent 2 months in Beijing on an internship and slept in an oak tree (as part of the "save the oaks" campaign at Berkeley). My strategy was to generally encourage her, acknowledge her own way of doing things and in the end, hope for the best!
posted by bluesky43 at 7:06 AM on October 9, 2007

missuswayne - yeah, I wouldn't know trig from fake trig either. And though I didn't say it in the above, I totally know where you're coming from. A friend of ours' daughter is begining to read (she's 4 in two months) and that makes you think, you know, 'am I not doing enough, is my child not smart, have I damaged him in some way and thus...' it's kind of a horribly corrosive train of thought one I/we try hard to keep in check. I'd swear it's worse now than it was when I was growing up. I wonder if that's really true?
posted by From Bklyn at 8:25 AM on October 9, 2007

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