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Cycling on the road with children

By | Education, family, Safety, Sport | No Comments

How can you prepare a child for the demands of cycling on a road? Some parents will balk at letting their children near roads with traffic, let alone on them. It would be foolish to pretend there are no risks involved. However, at some point your child will use roads alone – if not on a bike, then as a pedestrian or behind the wheel of a car as a young adult. Those who are used to independence and who can make risk assessments will be safer, better road users than those who have been isolated from the outside world. It doesn’t require leaping in at the deep end. Exposure to traffic is something best done by degrees.

Co-riders and passengers
To begin with your child will travel on the road under your direct control, either as a passenger in a seat or trailer or as a co-rider on a tandem or trailer-cycle. As steering and braking are under your sole control, the only impact will be on how you cycle.

You will inevitably ride in a less swashbuckling style. Mostly it’s because you are always more careful when kids are around; it’s human nature. Partly it’s because a heavier bicycle takes longer to get up to speed and to slow down, so your riding benefits from being smoother and less stop-start. Try to anticipate junctions by arriving slowly and in the right gear for setting off. Allow the extra second or two you’ll need to pull away when judging gaps in traffic.

A child on a tandem or trailer-cycle or in a cargo bike may pick up some traffic skills from you whilst you are riding. You can reinforce this by asking an older child to see if there’s anything behind and to signal left or right when needed. (You will still have to do both these things yourself if it is safe enough.)

Tandems remain useful up to the age of 11 and possibly beyond. By that age, though, most children will want to ride solo. One reason is image. The desire to conform becomes very strong and children don’t want to be seen as ‘different’ by their friends. The tandem that was once so popular may now be seen as geeky.

Chaperoned cycling
Traffic awareness develops around the age of eight to 10 years old, which is usually when school-based cycle training tends to start. Up until that time, at least, you will need to supervise your child on roads. He or she might be a proficient cyclist and yet make misjudgements about traffic.

Before you set off
Before setting out together there are some things you need to be sure of. One is that your child can stop, start, steer and otherwise be competent at cycling – on a bike that’s roadworthy. Another is that your child will respond to your instructions, doing what you say, when you say it. Do explain the reasons for this in advance: that you’re not being bossy or cross, just careful. The final requirement is that your child knows the difference between left and right. When you say ‘go left’ it’s important your charge doesn’t cycle into the centre of the road instead.

On the road
When you’re riding, it’s best if your child leads and you cycle a bike length or half a bike length behind. That way you can watch your child at all times and call out instructions. Your child should ride towards the left side of the road, but at least 50cm out from gutter, while you ride further out, possibly taking the lane. This means traffic has to come around you and can’t cut in too close to your child, who might veer or wobble or simply be freaked out by cars passing too close.

If you need to do so, it is perfectly legal to cycle side-by-side with your child. (Many drivers are unaware that cyclists can ride two abreast, so be prepared for the odd pipped horn.) It’s worth moving forward to ride alongside as you come up to a side road. Two cyclists are more visible than one, and with both of you to pass, any side-road driver is less likely to engage in the brinkmanship of edging or accelerating out in front of you.

Give encouragement as you ride along and make your instructions calm and clear.
Information should flow both ways. In particular, your child should be taught to say ‘Stopping!’ rather than halting right in front of you without warning. Ideally, your child should also signal left before pulling in to the side. (No one uses the one-armed up-down flap that signifies slowing down nowadays, and it may only confuse drivers.)

Start on easier, less trafficked roads and work up. There will be situations in which it is easier or necessary to get off the bikes. Perhaps a hill is too steep. Perhaps a junction is too complex. In time your child will be able to ride these. For now, take it one step at a time. And remember: communication, communication, communication.

Independent cycling
Independent cycling means riding on the road. Children cycling on the pavement is illegal, but there is no criminal liability for children under the age of 10, and it is tacitly accepted by everyone that the pavement is where younger children will ride. By the age of 11, however, and perhaps two or three years earlier, (if you feel they are capable of it) most children can learn to ride safely on the road without supervision – not on all roads but certainly on roads that aren’t busy and don’t have complex junctions.

Cycle training has traditionally taken place in the later years of primary school. Not only are children ready for training then, they will soon need it. The average distance from home to secondary school is 3.3 miles in England – too far to walk perhaps, but not difficult by bike. Training has moved on quite a way since the cones-in-the-school-playground days of the Cycling Proficiency Scheme. The National Standard for Cycle Training (called Bikeability) takes place largely on the road in real-world, supervised conditions. And the training itself is no longer administered by schoolteachers but by qualified, accredited cycle instructors.

Local authorities sometimes provide free or subsidised training. Your nearest cycle training provider can fill you
in about charging policy.

Taken from www.cyclinguk.org
To see the full article visit www.cyclinguk.org/article/cycling-guide/cycling-
road-children

Why we love baby, toddler and preschool swimming

By | children's health, Health, Sport, swimming | No Comments

  – read this and you’ll be in the pool before you get to the end!

by Vicki Bates
the little swim school

My journey with swimming started when one of my best friends, Briony, who now runs Wet Wet Wet swim school told me that I had to take my three month old baby daughter to Little Dippers – no ifs, no buts, I had to. Now, she can be a bit bossy at times, but this was insistent – she didn’t really talk about it in terms of benefits (well, apart from the sleeping baby afterwards) more what an amazing experience it was. Anyway, we went and from the first lesson I was hooked – Coco loved the water, I loved the fact it was warm and even more I loved the half hour of just focusing on my baby – no phones or daily life distractions. After a while I started working for Little Dippers and became even more amazed when I learnt about the myriad of benefits of baby and preschool swimming. I then started the little swim school, and for over thirteen years now have continued to love being part of this amazing experience.

The benefits are well documented now, but I never miss a chance to quickly re-cap in case it encourages a few more people to try it. The biggest and most obvious reason is water safety and literal life-saving training. I will never forget the first time I saw a toddler fall into the pool, turn round, swim to the side and climb out exactly as she had been taught in her lessons. I couldn’t believe it and this is all the more amazing when put into context with current ASA research, documented recently in the Guardian, showing that 45% of 11 year olds still leave primary school unable to swim. I know there is a huge call for schools and the government to do more – recently supported by Prince William, but it’s such a positive move to take your child to swimming lessons – and even if you can’t afford to join lessons, take them swimming yourselves. To be part of teaching a child skills that could save their life, or the life of another is truly special.

Other benefits include physical fitness – many of our children are now classed as obese, and with many under twos using digital gadgets on a daily basis, we need to make sure that we do all we can to encourage our children to be physically fit.

Studies have shown that if good habits and attitudes to physical exercise are started in early life they are much more likely to be carried on into teenage and adult life. As a parent of a teenager and an eleven year old I see first-hand how sedentary some children now are and always encourage mine to move as much as they can – they are both still very physically active with hobbies they started before they were three, so preschool really is a good time to start good habits.

Swimming is also good for brain development with research from Newcastle University showing that swimming lessons increased children’s maths’ grades and other research has shown that although most of our brain cells are formed before birth, the majority of the connections between these cells are made in infancy and the toddler years.

Over the years our customers have also told us how swimming lessons have also helped their children’s confidence, social and friend-making skills and sleep; we love it every time we get a good review or a happy parent on the phone – an excited parent whose water adverse child has turned the corner and is nearly swimming or whose water baby has been snorkelling at the age of two and now swims unaided! It makes us really happy and feel really lucky to be a part of something so special. Our teachers often tell us the same so I asked a few of them to put in to words why they love being a preschool swimming teacher and from the responses it seems like it is one of the best jobs in the world!

Hayley: “I have been teaching preschool swimming – parent and baby – for over six years now, and I never get tired of watching swimmers achieving their goals and knowing that I had a part to play in the process. The smiles on the children’s (and parents) faces when they swim for the first time is priceless and something that you don’t get in every job. I love making the children laugh and encouraging them to try skills for the first time – growing in confidence. This is the most rewarding job I have ever had and I don’t think I would find anything else that comes close!”

Jo: “This is very hard, so many reasons…In particular I enjoy a child who is petrified of water and working out a system where they can become comfortable within the pool environment and then progress them to swimming. I like seeing how much the children enjoy the activities we plan, when it goes well. I enjoy seeing the parents’ face the first time a child swims a distance on their own or jumps in for the first time. It’s amazing how quickly children develop amazing skills within the water if you manage to explain it just right so they understand what they have to do and if they can’t get it, working out a different way to explain it.”

Rachel: “Here’s why I love my job – I have always been a passionate swimmer and I really wanted to pass on my love of the water to children, and teach them to be safe too. I never quite realised how rewarding this could be until I started with a group of swimmers at the age of 12 to 13 months old and watched them develop into competent and safe swimmers. I am a big kid myself, so find that by making lessons fun, as well as progressive, you can really grab the children’s attention and they learn through playing in the water. I feel very lucky to have this job!”

Well, if you haven’t dashed off to the pool yet and you want any information about baby, toddler and preschool swimming or to book some lessons, do call us at the little swim school on 01273 207992 or visit www.thelittleswimschool.co.uk