In July, Kids on Wheels, the BC Cycling Coalition’s exciting new program, had two fabulous sessions in Eaglets and Grandview Terrace daycares in East Vancouver. In both daycares we found an enthusiastic group of children who were more than ready to jump on the balance bikes and start exploring. The teachers were very supportive and with the guidance of our wonderful instructors everyone had a great time.
The children’s riding abilities varied and it was inspiring to see how in one week the children who were less confident on Monday gained confidence and mastered their balance abilities. The children rode in a basketball field connected to their daycare and we started with a very basic riding course of a few stop signs, a school sign and a cross walk. Every day our instructors added a new feature to the field such as a rope shaped as a circle to ride around, a “single track”, where the children rode a narrow path between two ropes, and a few wet sponges for the children to ride over. These additions helped to increase their balancing skills and added a lot of fun. The children also practiced a few safety rules such as stopping at a stop sign, looking in both directions before crossing the road, signalling left and right and leaving enough space for their friends around them.
An important part of childhood is ‘pretend play’ so we set up a mechanic corner for the children, which was especially nice for the young kids when they got tired of riding and wanted a short break. There they practiced pumping old tubes, pretended to fix a flat tire, and learned more about different bike parts, before hopping back on their bikes.
However, being outside and having fun on the balance bikes was only part of the program. The children also took a journey with their imagination, thinking about all the great advantages cycling brings. Each day we read a story that presented a different aspect of cycling. For example, in the story “Vera Rides a Bike”, Vera discovers the importance of stopping and that if you fall you can get back on your bike. In “The Best Bike Ride Ever”, Bonnie goes to magnificent places on her bike. Each story was followed by an activity – in one of them, the children had to suggest places they know which they can get to by bicycle. We prepared a few cut-outs and the children created an incredible collage with pictures of familiar places such as Granville Island, Science World, the farmer’s market, a supermarket, a school, Stanley Park and so on.
Songs were also an important part of the program. Instead of “the wheels of the bus go round and round” the children learned the “the wheels of the bike go round and round” and that they need to “stop, look and listen” while they enjoyed singing “The Bike Safety Boogie” by Will Stroet.
We ended both weeks with a bike celebration with parents’ participation. In Eaglets daycare we had an amazing turnout of parents on a beautiful sunny day. One of the teachers said they never had so many parents coming to a daycare event. In Grandview Terrace we had a bit of rain on the last day, but it didn’t stop many parents from coming and the kids from enjoying the bikes. During the week we took many photos of the kids and we printed postcards for each of them to take home with a quote from them on their, experience. The kids’ answers varied from: “I liked the yellow helmet”, “I liked riding fast” and “I liked riding in the circle” and so on. It was the kids’ big smiles in the photos that really showed how much they enjoyed the experience.
We heard from parents that their kids enjoyed the program very much. One mom told us that her daughter had very little interest in riding her balance bike before, but then she was eager to ride it back home from the daycare, a 25 minute walk away, and that by day two she was riding with confidence and enthusiasm. Another mom said that immediately after the program ended she went and bought a balance bike for her son and it increased his mobility as well as his confidence and he’s been enjoying it throughout the summer.
The teachers also loved the program and they are already waiting for us to come back next year. In the meantime they are looking into getting a few balance bikes for the daycares and keep the wheels spinning!
Kids on Wheels thanks Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) for their generous support for this program! We are also thankful for donations from Runners-Bikes, FirstBike Canada, Norco John Henry, Obsession: Bikes, the North Shore Safety Council and individual donors. Donations to the program are always welcome and will help us reach more daycares.