Your first bike or trike is a massive milestone for a toddler, and one of huge excitement - but also probably a lot of trepidation from parents, too.
It can be scary to see your little one suddenly independent and mobilised - and it can be tempting to run alongside just in case they fall off. But from the first moment they make the leap on their trike or bike, the world is their oyster and even more of an adventure than they already thought.
Trikes are a brilliant and safe introduction to the world of bikes. Not only will your tot have hours of fun cycling around the local park or your garden, but trikes also help build confidence and gross motor skills.
How to choose the best balance bikes
Balance bikes and trikes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so before choosing a trike for them, you'll want to be sure it is suitable for their size and age to ensure they stay safe.
But which one should you choose as their first set of wheels? We've scoured the shops and online retailers to find our shortlist of the best bikes and toddler trikes that kids will love. From the Mother&Baby award winners to our market top picks, have a browse of these...
The best balance trikes, bikes and ride-ons
Best balance bike
Winner of the Bronze Award at the 2016 M&B Awards for Best Toddler Toy.
This Strider balance bike looks the part - it has a performance design, with a footrest to encourage balance and a padded seat just like the pros. There are two-seat posts included, so you can swap and let the bike grow as your child does.
- Weight: 2.9 k.g
- Two-seat posts are included to accommodate an inside leg from 27cm to 48cm
- Designed to fit perfectly all 18 months to 5-year-old children
- Ultralight Wheels with cartridge sealed bearings and an EVA polymer tyre means no punctures
Tested by mum Ciara Shortt for the M&B Awards 2016: "My son loved this bike. After he had tested it we put him on his bike without stabilizers and he rode his bike with no problem. The strider increased his confidence in trying to learn to ride. The bike attracted a lot of attention."
Read more in our full review of the Strider 12 Sport Kids Balance Bike here.
Best Peppa Pig Trike
Instead of spending your afternoon watching Mummy, Daddy and Peppa Pig, you can head to the local park and take this trike for a spin. This will be adored by fans of the cartoon show.
- Suitable for 24 months to 4 years
- Removable parent handle
- Puncture resistant PVA tyres
- Adult supervision required at all times
Review: "My 2-year-old absolutely loves this tricycle and loves to sit on it to watch tv but it tips over easily. It can only be steered using the handlebars so as a parent using the long bar you have no control over where they go. Overall it’s nice but more suitable for older children."
Best mini scooter
Shortlisted in the 2017 M&B Awards.
This three-wheeled scooter is perfect for toddlers on the go. Our mums loved the lovely bright colours and said their tots found it easy to steer, which is always a plus. The adjustable handlebar means this can grow with your little one, lasting longer than scooters with fixed frames. It steers using 'tilt and lean' meaning it helps with children's balance skills as they learn to ride.
- Max rider weight 35kg
- Rider height 80-110Cm
- Scooter weight 2.1kg
- Adjustable handlebar
- Suitable for 24 months and up
Tested by mum Nina Fletcher for the M&B Awards 2017: "This is the best scooter we have tried. The adjustable handlebar is a great design feature as the scooter will grow with the child. The "lean and steer" scooting style is intuitive. It is sturdy and feels safe with its three wheels so even very young children will learn quickly to scoot confidently."
Read more in our full review of the Micro Mini Deluxe Scooter here.
Best environmentally friendly pre-bike
This is a balance bike and trike all in one - it starts out with three wheels, then you can change it up to just two wheels, and you can also flip the crossbar over when your little one grows. It's not the lightest bike on our list, as it is wooden, but it is sturdy and very high-quality.
- Ideal for 12 months to 5 years
- Natural wood
- For indoors, outdoors and offroad use
Tested by Sophie Knight, mum to Eli: "Eli got this bike as a present for his first birthday, although I think he was 18 months before he really tried it out. He still rides it now, on two wheels, and soon we'll flip the crossbar over as he's grown lately. He loves it and it's been great watching his confidence grow. I'd say I'd prefer one with an actual brake on it, as that's always such a worry that he's never going to stop, especially going downhill."
Best adjustable balance bike
With rubber tyres and a comfy saddle, this high-quality balance bike is a great starter bike. It also has mudguards to protect (a little bit) from the mess and a bell, so you know your toddler is coming. Unlike many simple balance bikes, this one features a lever-operated brake, which not only teaches your child key skills but gives you a bit of peace of mind that they can come to a stop, too.
- The frame is 12-inches - standard size for a balance bike
- The seat height is adjustable.
- For an additional £5 you can personalise the bike with your child's name.
- Age Range: First Bike
- Brake Type: V-Brake
- Tyres: Air-Filled Rubber
One reviewer said: "Lovely bike, great quality and well made. This bike was bought for my small 3year old son. It is lightweight, very well made and has an unusual diamond-shaped frame which makes the bike more visually appealing. The colours are nice and bright and the option to personalise the bike is a nice added extra."
Best wooden balance bike
Shortlisted in the 2016 M&B Awards.
Easy to use and more importantly, put together, this high-quality bike helps your little one learn to balance, in style. The seat can be adjusted as your toddler grows and comes in lots of designs.
- Weight: 4.5kg
- For children aged 3 years and up
- Padded seat that can be adjusted between 370mm-395mm high
Tested by mum Maria Xydhias-Mace for the M&B Awards 2016: "Beautifully made, this balance bike is very simple to assemble with clear instructions (not that they're really needed) and tool for the job supplied. Everything fits together as it should and the finished bike looks superb. Nice cushioned seat and the perfect height for my daughter to sit comfortably on. Didn’t take long to get to grips with riding it and now I can't get her off it, she loves it so much."
Read more in our full review of the Kiddimoto Kurve Wooden Balance Bike here.
Best balance bike with break
This bike is said to give your little one a no-stress experience of learning to ride a bike. We love the horse-saddle shaped seat, which prevents your tot from slipping off the bike.
- Suitable for children aged 22 months up to 5 years old
- Max weight: 35 kg
- Min seat height: 30.5 cm
- Max seat height: 44.5 cm
- “Horse saddle” seat prevents children from slipping off
One reviewer said: "This is expensive but a great little bike, my son whizzes around on it, due to the bearings the back and front wheels roll really freely with not much effort, and you can get quite a speed up. It's lightweight and easy to carry, so ticks all the boxes."
Best ride-on car
This vintage style ride-on car will provide your toddler with just the inspiration for them to imagine themselves driving through the streets, helping to boost their mental development as well as getting them used to pushing themselves around. Recommended for ages one to three years.
- Measures 76 cm length by 38 cm width by 40 cm height
- Recommended use for 18 months and above age children
- Made of metal
- 400 grams
One reviewer says: "My son loves this car, he scoots around on it throughout the house all day. It is quite easy to assemble and the materials are well made, easy to clean from toddlers sticky hands with it being metal."
Best scooter with seat
A scooter with a detachable mini seat will take your toddler from first wobbles, hence the sturdy seat, to more confident scootering. With the seat, it’s suitable for one to three years and as a scooter only it can be used from three to five years.
- Suitable for children aged 12 months to 5 years
- Max weight: 20 kg
- Max rider height: 110 cm
- Scooter weight: 1.8 Kg
Review: "Big fan of micro scooters, I have my own one and I’m 42-years-old 😂. I have three kids - two boys and one girl, and they’ve all had one from mini to junior. My two-year-old daughter loves it. 💜"
Best ride-on tiger
Wheelybugs go backwards, forwards, sideways, round and round. The bodies are padded for a comfy ride, and letting your toddler push themselves around will promote self-confidence, spatial awareness and motor skills. These ride-on toys look adorable too!
- Available in two sizes (1-3 years and 2.5-5 years)
- Made from wood
- Weight: 1.8 kg
- Dimensions: 39 x 31 x 23.5 cm
One reviewer said: "My 4-year-old daughter has endless fun with this toy. She wheels around the house every day. It works well on wood floors and less so on the carpet. It's lovely quality, the perfect size for a 4-year-old. We had the smaller version previously which worked well up to age 3, this one is great for 3 plus."
Best 5-in-1 trike
Shortlisted in the 2017 M&B Awards.
In bright colours that your little one will love, this fun baby tricycle has a parent handle so you steer and stroll while keeping control, which can be removed when they’re ready to zoom off on their own. There are also footrests for small ones which can be folded back when they want to practise pedalling.
- Seat reclines in 4 positions
- Parent push handle is adjustable and detachable
- Parking brake for safety
- 5-point seat harness
- Removable protective safety bar
- Adjustable shade canopy
- Storage bucket
Tested by mum Stephanie Marley for the M&B Awards 2017: "It was easy to put together and I found the instructions perfectly clear. It is light to push and easy to steer. I have been taking my three-year-old to playschool holding my hand, with my 12-week-old in a baby sling and my 18 month old enjoying the journey in the trike. Most of the journey I'm pushing the trike one-handed and it is more than manageable. My little girl loves it - her smile says it all!"
Read more in our full review of the Little Tikes 5-in-1 Deluxe Ride and Relax Trike here.