Originally posted on the Vie Bikes blog on March 6, 2017, and still relevant. Thanks to Matt Laroche for reminding me.
We’ve met a various families who really struggled to get their baby to wear a helmet. To those families: you’re not alone! Chances are if your baby or toddler refuses to wear a hat, helmets won’t be much different. My first born was super anti-hat, so I remember the frustration.
So what can you do to help your child get used to wearing a helmet on your bike? Here’s what worked for our family:
- Toy Camouflage: Introduce the helmet as a toy in your home about a month before you want your baby/toddler to begin to wear it on a bike. We left our kids’ helmets on the floor in their room and watched our kids put them on and crawl and cruise around the house. It was adorable, and also super helpful because they came to associate the helmet with positive feelings.
- Last Minute Sneak: For babies and toddlers who are just getting used to the idea of wearing a helmet, it’s always a good idea to put your own helmet on first and wait until the very last second to put one on your child. Honestly, consider it a stealth attack akin to what the nurse does at the doctor’s office when they go in for a shot on your tender one. Over before you know it! “Wait, what?! You say there’s something on your head?! Are you suuure?”
- HELMET CLUB: Once your child is over the very initial hurdle of wearing a helmet, take moments to induct them into HELMET CLUB! My husband and I made a big deal of congratulating our kids on joining the super prestigious HELMET CLUB. Initiation included a secret helmet handshake (e.g., gently tapping the tops of our helmets together) and a lot of saying HELMET CLUB in ridiculously grave voices. We also let our first child know that as a new member of HELMET CLUB, they were entitled to decorate their own helmet with stickers as they saw fit. The club fizzled out pretty quick once our kids found putting on helmets second nature, but … well, I’m still a little nostalgic for HELMET CLUB.
Hopefully one or more of these strategies will work for you!
One last note, if your child continues to resist tooth and nail over the helmet, be sure to double check the helmet fit. I vividly recall riding home through Golden Gate Park many years ago with my son grousing in my ear and thrashing around. I thought he was feeling sick, so I was doing my best to hurry home and also control my increasingly negative reaction to being whined at for 20 minutes straight. But when we got home, I took off his helmet and he collapsed in relief. Turns out that the helmet had grown too tight on him and was hurting his head. I of course felt like the world’s absolute worst parent at the time. So I’ve been vigilant ever since about keeping an eye on my childrens’ helmet fit. Lesson learned: sometimes their anti-helmet stance might be perfectly justified.