The Easiest Way to Learn to Ride A Bike

balance bike


When I was a kid, my parents gave me a bike with training wheels on it. After sometime, they took the training wheels off of the bike and I promptly fell over. The training wheels did not teach me how to ride the bike. In fact, they taught me nothing. Eventually, I learned to ride via trial and error. But it was not due to the training wheels.

Some years ago, I saw a kid scooting down the side walk on a “balance bike”, a two wheel bike with no pedals, such as shown in the photo above. The mother of the kid on the balance bike explained that the balance bike was a better way to teach a kid how to ride a bicycle than using training wheels. The reason that a balance bike is better than training wheels, is that he kid first learns how to balance before switching to a regular bicycle. For most kids, balancing on a bike is the difficult step. Once they understand how to balance, the rest comes naturally.

The first time a kid sits on a balance bike, they  will use both feet where ever they go. But eventually, they will naturally generate enough speed to pick up their feet and balance for some distance.  Once they understand how to balance, they can switch to a bicycle with pedals and quickly learn how to use a pedal bike.

When our son was three years old, we bought him a YBike Balance Bike . The YBike is essentially a plastic bike with a large back wheel. Actually, it has two back wheels that are fused together into one. What I liked about it, is that it was very stable. The big plastic rear wheels made balancing very easy. A plastic bike might not sound very comfortable, but my son loved it and learned to balance on it very fast. I think we could have bought him the bike at 2 years old, but by the time he was four years old it was small for him. The YBike is the light green one on the left in the photo below.YBike

When he turned four years old we bought our son the BMW Kids Bike. The advantage of the BMW Kids Bike is that it is convertible. It starts out as a balance bike, but then the pedals can be mounted and it is converted to a standard pedal bike. He used it without pedals for about 1 month before he asked me to put the pedals on.  I struggled a little to put the pedals on, but I sent an email to BMW customer service for help and I got a personal response the next day. That was impressive.


Once the pedals were on the bike, he needed about three 15 minute bike riding sessions in the park before he learned to ride it. The photo above is an action shot of me running beside him as he learned to ride the first time.

Convertible bikes really help teach kids to ride a bike, because they break the learning process into two simple steps that can be learned on the same bike. First, the child learns to balance and second the child learns to pedal.

Now that I have experienced how easy it is to learn to ride a bike by starting with a balance bike before switching to a pedal bike, I can not imagine why anyone would use training wheels. If you know of any reason to use training wheels, please educate me.

How did you learn to ride a bicycle?


A Simple Way to Teach a Child to Swim

swimmingWhen I was a kid, perhaps six or seven years old, and did not know how to swim, I went to a swimming pool with my family and some friends.  I remember it vividly, because what happened next was so horrific, it was indelibly burnt into my brain. I was clinging to the side of the pool and eventually, with some encouragement, I let go. I had no idea what to do and sheer panic and terror set in. I was flailing wildly trying to save myself. This nightmare seemed to go on for an eternity. I just could not get back to the side of the pool. I remember that I felt like I was dying. Somehow, I managed to get back to the side of the pool, grab on and come up for air. When I did, I saw everyone just watching me as if nothing had happened. It was like a movie. I felt I had survived a tragedy  and worse was that no one seemed to care.

Now, I can imagine that in their minds, they thought that were doing me a favor by letting me “learn to swim”. In actuality, I was so terrified, that I did not learn to swim until I was 14 years old and forced to learn in high school gym class.  Before then, I refused to re-enter water deeper than my bathtub. I trusted no one.

So, when my son turned 4 years old, I decided to get him swimming lessons. The great thing was that the pool was built to give swimming lessons to kids. The water was warm and it was about his shoulder height everywhere. There was no place in the pool where he could not stand up if he wanted to.

The instructor kept encouraging him to put his head under water. But he refused. She would throw rings into the pool and he would pick them up with his foot. He would play in the pool, but when she asked him to go under to go through a ring, he just would not do it. If she insisted, he cried. I felt like I understood and decided I needed to help him to get through his fear of the water.

The next weekend, I took him to a swimming pool alone. I put several coins at various depths in the swimming pool. Some were on steps, some were on the bottom of the pool. I told him that the coins, all together, were enough to buy a toy car at the local supermarket. I told him that if he could pick up the coins, they were his. He could not do it the first time we went. So, I calmly picked up the coins, put them back in my wallet and we went home. We went back a week later and tried again. Again, I put some coins on the steps and others on the bottom of the swimming pool.  It probably took him an hour, but he managed to pick up all of the coins! We got dressed and went to the supermarket where he bought his car. He was very proud of that car.

At the next swimming lesson, the instructor threw some rings into the pool. He bent down to pick them up and after a moment’s hesitation, he just swam away like a fish! The instructor was amazed. I was amazed. He was never afraid of the water again.After that, he quickly learned some basic swimming strokes on his front and on his back.

Now, he loves to swim and he goes to the pool whenever he can. He has so much fun and I am so glad that we got him over his fear of the water. And it just took a few coins to do it.

How To Get A Fussy Eater To Eat

kid eating

When my son turned two years old, we were very concerned about his eating, or lack of it. He survived on carbohydrates that began with the letter “P”: pizza, pasta, potatoes (usually the fried variety) and porridge (aka oatmeal). He refused to eat meats, vegetables, fruits, etc. I was extremely worried about his nutrition, so I would give him a daily vitamin. I am of the opinion that it is best to not give any medicines, including vitamins unless it is absolutely necessary. However, since his diet was so limited, I felt I had no choice.

Then I read an article that made sense to me. It said that kids need to taste a new food 15-20 times in order to get used to the taste. Children’s senses are magnified compared to adults and new flavors and textures are difficult to for them to adjust to. So, the challenge is to get them to try a new food, that they do not really like, over and over again until they become used to it. But how to accomplish that?

About that time, I noticed that my son really liked condiments and sauces, even those with quite strong flavors. This included ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, etc. I also noticed that he enjoyed cheese, because after all, pizza is basically a big piece of bread covered with tomato sauce (similar to ketchup) and cheese.

With that in mind, I started to give him foods well covered with condiments and cheese. I would make a small salad consisting of lettuce and tomatoes. I would cover it with ketchup or french dressing and grated cheese. I can not say that he loved it, but he would eat it. Similarly, I could make a “vegetable pizza” and cover it with ketchup and cheese. In this way, his diet slowly expanded to include foods such as olives, green peppers, even onion and garlic, things that many children will not touch.

He still is a very selective eater and I imagine he will be until he grows up. Although he would rather avoid it, I can now get him to eat a salad without gagging. He actually considers that a turkey sandwich packed with fresh veggies, like lettuce, green peppers, olives and onions, is a treat, as long as it is covered with a sauce like ranch dressing!

The best part is that, I have been able to cut back on the daily vitamin dosage, because I am now convinced that he is getting sufficient nutrition from his diet.



Do You Have a Discipline Plan?

bad boy

What do you do if your child throws a tantrum? What do you do if they hit or throw?

Do you:

  • Shout the kids name while they ignore you?
  • Hit or spank?
  • Bottle up your frustration and just ignore it?
  • Threaten, but fail to back it up?

If any  of the above describes you, then you need a discipline plan. What is a discipline plan? It is a series of pre-planned steps that you will take if your child misbehaves. A good discipline plan will be:

  • Thought about well in advance
  • Start with a small punishment
  • Escalate to more serious punishments if needed
  • Discussed in the family, with all caregivers so that there is consistency
  • Well  known to the children so that they know what to expect
  • Implemented quickly and consistently

As an example, in my family we have always had a bedtime ritual. The ritual has changed over time, but it generally starts with tooth brushing and washing promptly at 8:30pm, then bedtime reading, some (educational) videos, some songs, lights out, back rubbing, more songs, sleep. Our ritual adds at least 30-45 minutes to the going to bed process. But the ritual makes going to bed fun for everyone.

Why do I mention our bedtime ritual? It is part of our discipline plan.

The first instance of bad behavior results in  few minutes in “THE CHAIR”, otherwise known as a time-out. Continued bad behavior results in loss of bedtime ritual for the night. “Go directly to bed and put yourself to sleep”. Very serious bad behavior results in loss of all electronics for the day.  When my son was a toddler and we started to discipline, we escalated past a time-out a few times. However, as he has gotten older, he does everything he can to avoid escalation. It is very, very rare that we have to escalate, usually a time-out or a warning is more than enough.

Many parents try a time out, but often the kid will just get up or ignore it. Without a follow-up the chair is useless. However, if the child knows that failure to stay in the chair will result in more serious punishment, the child will not dare to get up.

The best part of a discipline plan is that, when the child misbehaves, it is at that moment that the parent is very angry and may resort to hitting, shouting, name calling or other inappropriate, and yes, abusive responses. However, with a discipline plan, everyone knows what will happen next. No shouting is necessary.

What is your discipline plan?



Tips For Potty Training Your Toddler

pottySome kids have no problem getting potty trained, for others, it can be a nightmare. Some kids see their parents use the toilet and adapt to a potty very quickly. Other kids seem to believe that the potty is their worst enemy and want to have nothing to do with it. What is the best way to have success at potty training? Start with a plan.

We bought a potty training book and created our potty training plan. Unfortunately, I no longer have the book, but there are many books you could buy and I encourage you to do so before you create your potty training plans. Here are the essentials of our potty training plan:

* We did potty training over a holiday week, in our case, the week between Christmas and New Years, when we did not have to work. The reason is that we wanted to make sure that we had enough time and attention to focus on getting the job done.

* We bought a second hand, “doll that pees”. We put a bottle full of water into that doll, sat it on the potty and when it peed, we did a major celebration. We kissed the doll, hugged the doll, danced in circles with the doll, threw the doll in the air, etc. We even had our son kiss and hug the doll.

* We had our son remain bottomless during the time of the potty training. The reason for this is, we wanted to know immediately if he was peeing.

* We offered him unlimited supplies of drink, including his favorite, apple juice, so that he would need to use the potty as soon as possible.

* Every 15 minutes or so, we would ask him “do you need to use the potty?” Eventually, he said yes, sat on the potty and peed.

* When we peed, we did the same “major celebration” as we had done with the doll. We kissed him, hugged him, danced in circles with with him, threw him in the air, etc.

* If he forgot and peed on the floor, we did not scold him or act upset. We just said, “What a pity” and cleaned it up quietly. We gave him more juice and continued with our plan, asking him every 15 minutes if he needed to use the potty.

* After about 3 days of this routine, there were no more accidents. My son was potty trained. He stopped using diapers during the day, and only used them at night.

What do you do if this does not work? You can resort to Plan B, potty treats! Buy some treats that your child loves, put them in a jar and keep them in plain site. When someone in the house uses the toilet, they get a treat. Everyone in the family (Mother, Father, Sister and Brother) should be drinking as much as possible and using the toilet as much as possible. Every time someone uses the toilet, they get a potty treat. But potty treats are ONLY given to those who use the toilet. If your child cries and begs for a potty treat, refuse until they use the potty. Eventually they will get the idea. Why save this for “Plan B”? I actually do not like using food or treats as a reward. I think it gives the wrong message about food. But if the initial potty training plan does not work, you need to have this in reserve as a backup plan. In most cases “Plan B: Potty Treats” will work.

What are your favorite potty training tips?




Alternative to Ferber: How To Get A Toddler To Sleep Through the Night

Sleeping baby

It can be a nightmare for exhausted parents when a baby will not sleep through the night. Many parents consider the Ferber “Cry it out” method of sleep training. But for some, hearing their baby crying is extremely difficult, even if it is just for a few minutes. I admit, we were in this category. We bought the Ferber book and gave it a try; for one night. We did not have the strength to go any further. Night after night, I would put my son to sleep and night after night, after an hour or two or maybe three, he would wake up crying. I ignored Ferber’s teaching and would again rock him back to sleep and quickly go to grab a few hours of sleep myself, before the process repeated itself.

Then one night, I asked myself: What if I was part of the problem? What if the reason that he was waking up was to get me to come to him? What if by picking him up and soothing him back to sleep, I was actually giving him the reward for waking up and crying?

I decided to take a different approach that was half-way between what I was doing then and the tougher “Ferber-Method”. I decided that if he were to cry, I would go to him, but I would not pick him up. In fact, I would not even allow myself to enter his room. From then on, after he was asleep, if he cried, I did not go back inside his room. When he cried, I would stand outside and talk to him through the open door. I would stick my head into the doorway and talk to him. I would pull up a chair and sing to him. I would calmly shush him or do whatever was necessary.  It did not matter how long it would take. I wanted him to know that he was not alone, that I was nearby. But I would not go into his room.

The first night, I sat outside his room for several hours. He was awake, but when he understood that I was not coming, he eventually stopped crying. I pulled up a chair and sang the same songs that I would sing when putting him to sleep. I remember being there for several hours that night.  The next night, the same thing happened, but I did not spend as much time there. After 4 or 5 nights, he stopped waking up in the middle of the night. It seemed like a miracle.

The next problem was how to get him to sleep until the morning. We read about a device called a “Gro Clock”, which is something like an alarm clock for kids. But instead of an alarm which can be heard, when it is time to wake up, the clock face turns from a tranquil blue with a star to a lively yellow with a sun.

The clock actually did not work for us at first, because it was too early. My son did not yet understand the concept of colors. A few months later, when he understood the difference between yellow and blue, we tried it again. And it worked! I explained to him that, when the yellow sun appeared, all he had to do was say “Yellow Sun” and I would come and get him from his crib. He did! When he would call “Yellow Sun” I would immediately go to him. Because that was our agreement. He kept his part of our agreement by waiting for the Yellow Sun, and I kept my part of the agreement by going to him immediately when he called me.



The 7 Best Videos To Teach The Alphabet To Your Kids

girl singingAre you trying to teach your child the Alphabet? There are excellent songs and videos on Youtube which can help, by reinforcing the message.  Below are the songs and videos from Youtube that I used when I was teaching my toddler the alphabet. Each has its pros and cons, each has varying degrees of educational and entertainment value. But my son loved watching all of them.  Sometimes we played them during the day, but mostly we played them at night as part of our going to bed ritual. Below are the best songs and videos for teaching the alphabet starting with the very best:

1. My favorite video is from “Super Simple Songs”. I like the animated movement of the letters and the way they go through the alphabet three different ways.  Although, they use lower case (I believe upper case is best for teaching the alphabet) and the song goes through the letters l,m,n,o,p a little too quickly, this is still my favorite. But maybe I am biased because I am a huge fan of “Super Simple Songs”. If you do not know “Super Simple Songs”, you will find all of their videos to be excellent, educational and entertaining:

2.  The Toonbo Song features mice jumping into and out of holes to tune of the alphabet song. It is cute, funny and this is the only song that my boy really remembers and still likes after all of these years. It is very fast, and perhaps too fast for a very young child. But the entertainment factor is very high. Your kid will almost certainly love it.

3. The Alphabet Train is a fun way to learn the alphabet with no song at all. Children are often attacked to the voices of other kids. And what kid doesn’t like trains? Plus it uses upper case letters and moves through the letters very slowly. Though it may not be as entertaining as listening to a song, it  is educational and it does add variety:

4. I love this version of the Alphabet Song with India Aria and Elmo. India is not the best actress in the world. But the way India sings is simply lovely. This video also uses lower case letters. :

5. If you are tired of listening to the standard Alphabet song, “We Are The Alphabet” by KidsTV123 takes a different approach, by simply singing the letters with no real tune. And notice that L,M,N,O and P are not rushed the way they are in other songs. The video uses both upper and lower cases. I like the relaxed pace of the song, though it does not have the entertainment quality of other videos, I think that parents are more likely to notice this than kids:

6. I do not think that DidiPop’s Cool Alphabet Song is the best for teaching the alphabet. Parts of it are a bit fast for very young  kids to understand. Frankly, I have a difficult time understanding all of the lyrics. But it is unique and the entertainment factor is high. What a fun alphabet song:

7. I love GiggleBellie’s upbeat approach. But it is a bit fast and it includes counting to 20. So, it might not be appropriate for all kids:

So, which of these 7 songs will you use to teach your toddler to read? I used them all, because variety makes the learning process more fun.

What is your favorite video to teach the alphabet?

Teaching Your Child Long-Divison

divisionYesterday, I tried to teach my son long-division. I failed miserably. We went over the steps several times and he got confused. I felt my patience flying out the window, so decided to stop for the day.

I did a bit of research on YouTube and found these excellent videos:


This is a good cartoon for younger kids. I like the whale’s southern accent.

Then I found this more serious video. It says nearly the same thing.

I that both videos use mnemonics, which are very similar.

The first uses Daddy, Mother, Sister and Brother
The second uses Father, Mother, Sister and Brother

I have never heard those before, but hopefully my son will find them useful.