Challenge in your Wheeled Toys – Guest Blog

I met Nicola on a conference I was delivering in Cumbria. I had been talking about the need for challenge in all areas Continuous Provision, especially outdoor where providing challenge can be difficult.

Nicola came to chat to me during the break, where she told me about the success she had had teaching her Reception children to to ride 2 wheeled bikes.

It sounded great, so I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sharing what she does.

So, here it is….

Thanks Nicola

Pedal Power

Having read
Alistair’s blog we have been reviewing the level of challenge in our areas of continuous
provision, particularly in our outdoor classroom. As physical development is
now a ‘prime’ area we have also been giving it due attention in our teaching
and assessment cycle.

We all know that
scootering at speed is a favourite past time and often not very challenging for
the children who choose to access this activity. Various challenges had been
introduced when an adult had played in this area. We’d numbered the bikes,
matched them to numbered parking bays, used them in a car wash, had a ‘pay
before you play system’ where the children used real money to pay a suitably
assertive child for a turn, asked the children to create their own challenges
(very scary – teams of children manoeuvring heavy planks of wood and scootering
down a ramp on these) and placed fewer scooters outside to develop the
childrens’ ability to negotiate (usually with sand timers) and take turns.


Over time we did,
however, feel the area needed a boost, especially when we eventually had a
class who would and could scooter. We did put the scooters away for a while but
then, fortunately, Annie Cousins from Pedal and Scoot, came to offer tuition to
small groups of children to enable the children to ride a bike without

Because of  her successful coaching, the children were
then allowed to bring their bikes into the outdoor classroom, where we
sectioned off an area for them to use in free flow learning time. It was then
very easy to then provide differentiated challenges.

You can contact Annie on 07877 604 711 or


But how did they
learn to ride a bike?

We introduced ‘Feel
good Fridays’. Every child was asked to bring a bike to school with the
stabilisers and pedals removed.  The
parents were asked to provide a suitable helmet and if they would give
permission for  their child’s bike and
helmet to be loaned to other children. The sessions with  Annie were planned on Fridays for the full
day over 4 weeks.


What was really
special about the sessions was that the parents were invited to come in to
help. We like to involve parents as much as possible and I feel sure that this
first, positive experience of coming into school later made our families more
receptive to the ‘stay and play’ events we hosted later in the term. I would
certainly recommend additional helpers- oh did we need them!  

I couldn’t believe
the progress the children made, in their little groups in the 20 minutes they each
had. We had five children who could already ride a bike without stabilisers and
after just forty minutes of coaching over two weeks thirteen children also
achieved this skill.  Although there were
a few tears and nerves in the beginning, over the weeks the children became
resilient learners, spurred on by the success they could see their friends


Some of the children
found this activity very challenging indeed and had not mastered how to ride a
bike after four weeks. Their perseverance was touching and they were invited to
bring their bikes in at playtime where we taught them individually. By the end
of the year every child had learned to ride a bike.  We were able to draw on their biking
experience and encourage them to persevere when they later faced challenges in
the continuous provision. Collectively learning to ride a bike over a period of
time really helped to embed class learning mantra’s such as ‘mistakes are part
of learning’, ‘practise makes perfect’ and ‘never give up’. The parents were
hugely grateful, explaining that when they had tried to teach their child at
home they became tearful or gave up.


I was fortunate
enough to support and plan the small group work with Annie and get a good grasp
of  the stages of skill development.
She’s given me the confidence to now run an after school cycling club each week
with our new Reception children.


How we organised the

We asked our families
in advance if their child could ride a bike without stabilisers and organised
them into broad ability groupings which we then refined for week 2. By week 3
(nerves a little frayed ) we then actually reorganised the groups again. The higher
ability group continued to be taught separately every week but the other groups
were then taught in mixed ability groups, which avoided the daunting task of
teaching the 5 most wobbly children together with just 3 adults! I would really
recommend doing it this way !


Skill development for
learning to ride a bike without stablilisers:

1. No pedals, push off using alternating feet. Practise breaking on

2. No pedals, push off with both feet at the same time and balance (this
can take a little while).

3. Go downhill, stop using breaks.

4. Cycle with one pedal on .

5. Two pedals on (provide a push).

6. Free movement going downhill.

7. Starting off  downhill then
starting off travelling uphill

8. Travelling on grass downhill

9. Travelling on grass uphill

10. Weaving in and out of soft floppy domes (if the children catch the
rigid domes they fall off their bike).


Because some of our children have already entered Reception having
mastered these skills, our additional challenges have included:

-Momentarily taking one hand off the handle bar whilst cycling. Then
trying to take the other hand off.

-Reaching the end of an obstacle course and giving me a high 5 without

-Looking back over their shoulder and telling me what colour card I’m
holding up (without stopping) and then  how many fingers I’m holding up.

-Making the obstacle course super curvy to improve their turning skills.

-Having many children on the same obstacle course so they must skilfully
and safely negotiate spaces.

-Timed challenges – ultimately we want them to build up a sweat.

This year I’m hoping to
maximise on the speaking and listening opportunities linked with this activity.
Perhaps those who can ride a bike will be able to develop their leadership
skills and be sensitive and empathetic when guiding other children.

Annie from Pedal and Scoot is
based in Lancashire. She has a lovely manner with the children and I would
recommend her unreservedly to local schools. 

Good luck to anyone who feels
inspired to give it a go.


Filed under: Child Initiated Learning, Outdoors


  1. Lovely blog – great to know that others are bringing cycling into school. We have been running a balance bike club for the past year in our nursery and it is amazing at what can be achieved in such as short space of time. To think we could be content with bringing out the ‘trikes and scooters’ and never really challenging the children physically and mentally.
    We raised money through a sponsored event to purchase some balance bikes and run it through a scheme called balanaceability.
    So for those not lucky enough to be in Lancashire you can find more about Balanceability on their website.
    Did you know that there is also a National and World Championship balance bike competition!
    I suppose the likes of Wiggo, Froome and Cav had to start somewhere 🙂

  2. Hi Liz, it would be great to hear from you. Do get in touch using the details that Alistair has provided. Many thanks,

  3. Hello, thanks very much to Nicola, not only for writing this blog, but for her time, commitment and enthusiasm for the sessions I ran, and for continuing this herself in outdoor provision, and with an after school club. Brilliant! Cycling can open so many doors to people of all ages and of course catching them young always helps! I’m delighted that this is being taken on board in so many schools. Contact your local council road safety / transport team to find out who can provide cycle education in your area. Thanks for providing my contact details and the platform for this post, Alastair.

  4. Hi Nicola…sounds fab,one of my nursery nurses recently went on a bike safety course( for use further up the school) and was so inspired and sure most of the skills were transferable that we are having a bike ‘safety day’ children bringing in their own bikes and being sponsored by relatives/friends..with a local bike specialist from Halfords coming in too.We are hoping to make our children aware of a simple bike check and the need for reflectors as well as helmets for safety and well as the opportunity to assess children s pedal power. Will be using your progression though if that is ok!

  5. This sounds great – do you know how I can get in touch with Annie – my school is in Lancashire. It would be good to see if she could come in?

  6. Great post – have been discussing this very issue in school as several of our new YR children can already ride two wheeled bikes without stabilisers, and we’ve been trying to decide how we can provide challenge. Definitely going to look into this to see if there’s an ‘Annie’ in our area.

  7. We too had 100% of the class riding without stabilisers by the end of the year (reception). We have a balance bike and several pedal bikes (alongside the usual scooters and three wheelers), donated by parents. The children inspire each other to have a go with either adult or peer support. In the classroom there is a hall of fame where a photo of each successful cyclist is put (proudly sitting on the bike). The friends of the school bought us 20 helmets and they wear these whatever wheeled toy they have chosen to use. My children ‘sign’ up to use particular bikes as this makes it fair and encourages them to learn how to write their names.

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