Ahhh, the childhood rite of passage -- learning to ride a bike. Your kids beg and plead, and you and your husband try to pass the buck until you've got the only 12-year-old with training wheels. No more! The Skuut balance bike lets your kid teach himself how to ride a bike, and it's pretty darn cool.
I have a son with special needs, which means that I've spent the past five years looking at the world a little bit differently. When every step is a challenge, every step is also a huge victory. And my entire family makes enormous efforts to win as many victories as possible for my son.
When I read about the Skuut, I was intrigued. According to the Web site, "The Skuut is a wooden bike for children ages 2 - 5. It has no pedals and no training wheels. Children kick off the ground as if running, thus pushing or 'skuut-ing' themselves and the bike forward. The Skuut is perfect for learning balance, steering, coordination and independence. Having mastered balance on the Skuut, the transition to a traditional two wheeler bike is easy."
My first thought was, Hey I wonder if anyone's considered the therapeutic applications of this thing. And it turns out, the Australian distributor has. So I got my hands on one for my kid, and here's what I learned.
Out of the box
The Skuut comes packaged in a box with a picture that lets you know just what's inside, so if you're ordering one as a surprise, consider having it delivered to the office or a neighbor's house. When my son saw the box, his eyes got as big as the wheels on this thing. "Oh! Look!" he kept exclaiming.
My husband opened up the box and had the whole thing put together in maybe 15 minutes. It was simple and intuitive, and the instructions were easy to follow. You don't need any special skills or a lot of strength to put the Skuut together.
Once everything was ready, my son eagerly climbed on.
The one downside
If you do have a child with developmental delays, you know that they generally gain skills later than their peers. So they may not be ready to ride this bike until age 8 or so, at which point they'll be too big for it.
My son is 5 years old, but he has an overgrowth syndrome, which means he's currently the size of his 9-year-old sister. If Skuut ever decides they really want to market to the special needs crowd, they'll need to make a larger model.
For a smaller child, this bike has some fantastic therapeutic applications. It's ideal for kids with balance and low muscle tone issues. Sitting upright on the bike will strengthen the core, and the bike offers a natural, fun way for kids to learn balance.
If you have a child who is getting weekly physical therapy sessions, talk to your therapist about incorporating the Skuut. It can be part of your structured therapy, or something you use to supplement in between sessions -- either way, your child gets a good workout and the chance to build his confidence along with his skills.
Is it right for my child?
Of course, the Skuut isn't just for kids with special needs. It's a great transition bike for all kids. If your child enjoys ride-on toys and you've been thinking about getting a bike with training wheels, consider springing for the Skuut instead. A bike with training wheels--or a tricycle--doesn't really teach your child the balance necessary to ride a two-wheeler.
When your child starts out on the Skuut, he'll keep his feet on the ground. That's fine. Let him get a feel for the bike, and don't push him to go faster than he's ready to go. But you'll notice in about a week that your child is able to glide along for steadily increasing lengths. And it's likely that within a month, he'll be ready to take those first wobbles on a two-wheeler -- without training wheels.
The Skuut is a great holiday or birthday gift idea. Find it at various online retailers.