This may be the most underrated parenting milestone: That day when it’s no longer necessary for you to push a heavy stroller to the playground—because your kiddo is rolling there alongside you on a scooter, instead.
If scooter success is happening at an early age—four years old, perhaps—it’s likely that your kid’s kick scooter has three wheels: two up front and one in the rear. Before you consider moving your kid to a two-wheeler, it’s helpful to understand what the three-wheeler provides.
Easy as one, two, three.
Namely, it’s stability.
Three-wheelers are amazing starter scooters, and all it takes is a trip back to geometry class to understand why. As far as shapes go, triangles make for strong structures. The triangular wheel arrangement means the scooter can stand upright on its own, which minimizes wobbling, and also forces a wider deck, giving those colorful sneakers a bigger (and more comfortable) platform to stand on.
Three-wheelers are also easy first rides because of their unique “lean-to-steer” functionality. The rider just has to shift body weight—or lean—to effect a turn. The front wheels tilt gently in response, and the scooter turns.
Lean-to-steer is not only easy to learn, but also helps with safety. Here’s how:
- The only thing a rider needs to do with both hands is hold on.
- Because the wheels don’t swivel, the turns on “lean to steer” scooters are gentle.
- There’s no opportunity for the rider to over-rotate the handlebar and cut the wheel too sharply.
So… why two wheels?
If three-wheel scooting lets kids feel swift and carefree, why even think about changing to a two-wheel scooter?
On the surface, scooting on a three-wheeler and a two-wheeler looks similar: Both require the rider to make the same kicking motion to move, and rear foot brake functionality is the basically same .
The biggest difference between two- and three-wheel scooters how they turn, and that’s what changes the feel of the ride. On two wheelers, the direction of the front wheel changes when the handlebar is rotated, which can give riders more control over turns.
It also opens up the world of tricks. If you’ve ever stood at a skate park, you’ve likely seen a few scooter riders show(off) the “tailwhip”—which requires a rotating handlebar in order to work.
Second, the lack of a third wheel makes for a slimmer deck—and requires the rider take on more balancing. Scooting on a two-wheeler can feel sportier and allow for an agility that can’t be had on the three-wheel counterparts.
Signs of readiness
Two-wheel scooters require a different kind of skill and finesse. Before you transition a child from two wheels to three:
- Consider ability—not age.
There’s no specific age at which kids are ready to transition to two-wheel scooters—it’s more about dexterity, confidence, and comfort. Riding a two-wheel scooter requires more balance and, because these scooters turn by rotating the handlebar, better motor skills. Wait until your child’s are developed enough to handle more complex scooter operation before making the switch.
- Make sure they’re interested.
Some riders prefer the smooth, stable ride of a three-wheel scooter. In addition, the shifting of weight on a lean-to-steer scooter feels similar to other activities that they may like, such as skateboarding or snowboarding.
Choosing a two-wheeler
DO get caught up in the fun stuff—colors, lighting features, the “cool factor,” etc.—when shopping for your rider’s first two-wheel scooter. Scooting is fun—and so should be shopping for it.
But also pay mind to suitability, because a scooter that’s properly sized and easy for a rider to handle is what’s going to keep them safer. On that front, direct your attention to these things:
Two-wheel scooters come in a range of handlebar heights and weights, and offer varying deck and wheel sizes. Always be sure to check the recommended age and weight limits put forth by a scooter’s manufacturer to make sure that it’s safe for your child.
Parents of early adopters of two-wheelers, for example, may want to consider the Jetson Jupiter, which has a handlebar that can be set as low as 29 inches, making it just right for kids as young as five. Older kids may find that the Jetson Jupiter Jumbo—with its bigger wheels, bigger deck, and taller handlebar—is a better fit; and since it’s more substantial in size, it can hold a rider who weighs up to 165 pounds (versus 132 on the smaller Jupiter).
- The scooter’s weight
The Jupiter and Jupiter Jumbo mentioned above weigh in at 6 and 10 pounds, respectively—not much more than our three-wheel scooters. But some scooter manufacturers make two-wheelers that are significantly heftier than starter three-wheel scooters. Encourage independence (and ease your own carrying load) by making sure your young rider can lift and carry the scooter with ease to transport it up a few steps or put it away after a ride.
- Handlebar rotation
If your rider is young, consider looking for a two-wheeler that does not have 360-degree handlebar rotation. A smaller rotation can limit how sharp turns can be, which can be safer for riders still mastering coordination.
Also think about looking into a scooter that folds. Scooters that “lock” into a folded position are easier for little kids to carry. (And also easier to store.)
Helping the transition
If your kiddos want to try out a two-wheel scooter, steer them towards a successful transition (pun intended) by:
- Finding the right place for them to learn and practice.
Don’t start out on the ramps in the skate park or in the center of town. Instead, find a smooth, flat road without any traffic, pedestrians, or obstacles.
- Prioritize safety
Until riders learn to finesse the handlebar to make gentle turns or adjust their body weight to maintain balance, expect that there might be a fall or two. Get them a cool helmet and encourage the use of other safety gear, such as knee pads or wrist guards.
- Offer these riding tips
Remind your riders to start off slow and use quick, short kicks in the beginning. This will give them the chance to practice balancing while keeping their kicking foot in good position to catch them if they start to wobble.
The right foot positioning will help with balance, too, especially when they’re ready to cruise for longer periods or at faster speeds. The front foot on the deck should be pointing straight forward. When the back foot is not kicking off the ground or pressing down on the rear brake), it should rest on the deck behind the front foot and—here’s what’s important—be turned outwards at a slight angle.