It’s a lovely feeling when they finally take an interest.
First of all, unless you can get that saddle any lower or fit shorter cranks, longer legs are a must. Your daughter will achieve that all by herself given time.
Then you need to start leaning her forwards a bit more, so she can start to get a feel for what unicycling really feels like. That’s very difficult to do until their legs are long enough to reach the pedals without stretching.
The first thing I always teach new riders, including my children, is to fall off forwards. Practice falling off forwards before trying to ride. Nothing is more important than being able to fall off forwards, rather than backwards.
Peer pressure, or an element of competition, can be good. My daughter vaguely tried unicycling along a wall every so often from the age of 4, but only really started making an effort a few weeks before her 9th birthday. She’d been talking to friends at school about it and they didn’t believe she had a unicycle. Rather than just taking a photo to prove it, she wanted to learn to ride so she could demonstrate properly. After a couple of weeks practising in the hall, she was riding reasonably well.
I also reckoned (correctly) that watching her learn would encourage her younger brother to start making an effort as well. They learnt together, taking turns to ride up and down the hall.
Once she’s fairly comfortable riding, start riding alongside her with her holding your hand. Don’t hold her hand, just hold it out so that she can rest her hand on it. Encourage her to let go when she feels comfortable doing so, but keep your hand out so she can grab it when she wants to. This is much easier to do if you’re both on the same size wheel.
My nearly ten year old granddaughter has just taken an interest too. She had watched me riding several times over the past few months right from the start of my learning last December.
Recently I took her for a ride much like you did. This is an important fun step towards learning.
A couple of weeks ago she watched and copied as I demonstrated to group of people including my two adult sons.
I held her up on another couple of rides but emphasised the need to be leaning forwards and only pedaling just enough to keep it under her. Kids tend to over pedal so I also got her to pedal backwards a couple of times too, to push it back under her.
Then I put her up against a step and got her to start feeling the balance point, just rocking forwards until it began to overbalance. She continued repeating this on her own without anyone paying attention for quite a long time.
Her next lesson is on Tuesday.
One of my teaching techniques is to talk about and demonstrate the mechanism of walking which is basically a continuous fall stopped by the sequence of steps. Show how lifting the foot does nothing without the beginning of a fall.
Then I tell them to replace the thought of their foot with the notion of riding the wheel towards the same place as the foot would land if they were walking.
My teaching techniques can’t be too bad as my elder son rode my 20 inch KH trials uni right across the front lawn after about twenty minutes of practising across a period of less than an hour and a half.
He must be a natural because he also came very close to nailing a static freemount after a couple of attempts.
That unicycle’s too big for her at the moment, or at least the seat is too high. As somebody above said, if she practices falling forward off the front of it, that will be a good start.
The big breakthrough I had in learning to ride happened almost the minute I put myself in a position where I was going to fall and the only thing preventing it was my pedaling. The same will be true for her. It might be helpful to hold her hand once or twice, or for her to hang onto a fence or parked car or whatever, but in general falling is inseparable from unicycling, and the more she accepts it as part of her life, the faster she will learn to ride. Falling off a unicycle in a hallway can be a bit dangerous, though, so I definitely recommend that she learn on open pavement. As you probably know, falling is something kids are generally better at than adults. As long as she doesn’t fall backwards or against a wall, she will probably never get hurt.
On the subject of falling and/or getting off the unicycle …
I naturally UPD or fall forward. Until now I haven’t thought much about it but recently came across a video that says you should step off the back instead of the front. I’ve been trying to do that but now it seems almost impossible.
In my first couple of weeks I didn’t always catch the seat with my hands and it would land on the back of my leg. I had lots of painful bruises. Now I realized stepping off the back might have saved me from those bruises.
IMHO, it’s a good idea to learn how to step off the back as well as the front.
A planned, controlled dismount is simpler, smoother and neater if you step off the back than off the front, but if there’s any doubt over whether you’ve got the control to do it without falling then it’s safer to fall off the front instead.
Eventually I changed it to just one railing on the side of the driveway.
She would ride a few revolutions along the railing. One day when it seemed like she was only grabbing the railing because it was there, not because she really needed it, I suggested so and encouraged her to just ride away from it. And she pretty much did.
At first, the only way one can dismount is off the front, and that is fine, but stepping off the back, besides being generally agreed to be superior, just plain feels better. It looks better too. It is another skill to learn. Don’t not learn to front dismount; add the rear to your repertoire. Well, I mean, if you want to only learn to front dismount, that’s up to you, but you’ll be missing out. That said, I only know the two; we all must draw our line somewhere.
You’re not landing on your foot (possibly into a run/walk) as in a landing from a jump, but lowering yourself onto your foot, like walking down a step backwards. You’re slowing down anyway, because you’re stopping. A rear dismount just adds the stepping down to it, in just the right relation to your momentum and that of your wheel, which, of course, is the hard part. Your momentum is what holds you up while you step down.
If you’re going for a rear dismount and can’t stick it, there is usually time to recognize that and turn it into a front dismount. If not, you’ll develop that skill too with enough practice.
Why is falling forward safer? Maybe because there is more safety gear like knee pads, wrist guards and etc. for the front instead of the back? I can only remembering falling backwards once and just had a sore bum. I’ve fallen forward a few times and when I didn’t have knee pads I ended up with some pretty bad road rash on my knee, very soar wrists and a knee cap that’s still tender to the touch six weeks later.
Reminds me …
The other day while at the playground black top with my uni a dad and his small son appeared with skates in hand. As the dad suited up his son with safety gear the child complained about all the pads and helmet he had to wear. The dad didn’t back down. The son then decided he no longer wanted to skate if he had to wear all the gear. His dad was a bit perturbed, left the child sitting there and rolled off on his inline skates wearing absolutely no safety gear (not even a helmet). I found that quite odd. Seems like the child just wanted to be like his dad.
I’d insist on having any child were a helmet and knee pads. Probably good to get them use to it in the beginning and being a good role model by doing likewise.
My daughter is 10. Started very young sitting on a 16" rocking back and forth in front of the TV. Wheels that small are near impossible to ride. Cranks are too long and pedals are too far apart. But learning to sit on the silly thing payed off when she grew tall enough to practice on a 20" Club outside as mounting came natural. She rode the 20" a little but never really enjoyed it until she got a 36" Nightfox. Now she rides 4 miles on our rail trail twice a week. Here is the video. Big wheels just track straighter. She says the 20" feels “all squirrely” now. Her younger (8) brother inherited the 20" and looks forward to the day he will be tall enough for a 36". I keep moving the cranks up (from 127mm) to the 110mm hole to check but he is still just too short. She, on the other hand, is almost ready for 137mm which is where I will probably keep her (unless we take it off-road) until she exhibits full control.
I agree. I would encourage both children and adults to wear helmets. I cannot figure out why helmets are not more utilized. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe more effective education is needed…with lots of graphic images.
If you lose your balance towards front, you can (most of the time) just run and be fine. And if you do fall, you get more chances to dampen the impact as your hands (with gloves!) and arms will hit the ground first and protect your body. Also, you will be able to roll to make the impact almost non-existant if you practices karate-like falls.
Falling on your back can do more damage. Hitting hard on your bum means the energy of the impact goes through your spine, which could do irreversible damage. Same as if you fall on your back. And of course, you won’t get a chance to run off the fall, or roll to disperse the energy of the fall.
Right now she is using whatever “street furniture” is readily available for an “assisted” mount. She does grab the wheel with her hand to steady it and I look for that to help when she is ready to free mount.
I have a ton of experience teaching younger kids to ride. My club teaches everyone who walks up to and asks about it, and we taught a bunch of kids at the local YMCA to ride a little while back. So this is what I’ve learned.
make sure they sit up straight
tell them to lean forward(eveyone leans way to far back at first)
make sure they are relaxed
use a straight railing on one side for them to hold onto(we use an ice rink)
have them idle while holding onto the railing to learn there balance before you have them try to move forward to much
again because it's important, make sure they stay RELAXED! so many kids get scared when they start out
most importantly HAVE FUN! the more fun they have the more effort they will put into it
This is just what I have learned from teaching kids, not only unicycling (I worked at a cub scout camp for a while), so please add onto it if you have more