9 cool helmets and safety gear kids will want to wear
Keep them safe while they ride.
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All of our little-wheeled sportsters are definitely going to wipe out at one point or another. Whether it be biking, scootering, or skateboarding, spills are inevitable, so safety and protective gear is non-negotiable.
"While there is some gear that's essential, some is really dependent on the child," says Carrie Wren, digital marketing director and product tester for Two Wheeling Tots. Wren says her 2-year-old daughter is a bit of a bruiser and really only needs a helmet and a steady supply of band-aids to make it through a ride, while there are older kids she knows who could pretty much do with full body armor before they embark on any sort of wheeled excursion.
Wren says to assess if your kid is accident prone, a daredevil, whether they are timid about testing their limits, or are sensitive to scrapes and skinned knees. Their tendencies, temperaments, and sensitivities will oftentimes dictate what gear you need.
“It’s about having fun. There are definitely some sports—like skateboarding, in-line skating, and mountain biking—where we don’t leave home without a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads, but for some kids they are a good idea even for a short bike ride around the block. If a kid is sensitive everyone is going to have a lot more fun if they have proper protection,” says Wren.
What to know before you buy a helmet or other protective gear
According to Wren, this is not the time to take a hand-me-down from your neighbor’s daredevil kid. Safety standards are constantly updated and bike helmets are only made to withstand one major collision, so our advice is to invest in the protection of your kiddo’s noggin. While a cute novelty helmet may look adorable or make your child feel like a scootering unicorn or dinosaur, Wren recommends that you check the specs and fit before you buy.
Bike helmets, which are also recommended for scootering, should come with a Consumer Product Safety Commission certification label, which indicates that it met the government organization's standards for safety compliance. Skateboarding helmets come with a second set of inspection standards set forth by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Skate helmets differ from bike helmets in many ways, primarily in that they can withstand multiple impacts. Manufacturers know that your future Tony Hawk is probably going to hit their head a few times while they perfect their ollies and kickflips, so their helmets are meant to stand up to more spills than one meant for a bike.
Skate helmets can absolutely be used while biking, but they tend to not have the same amount of ventilation, so they're often hotter and heavier. All of these elements help to make them a more reinforced piece of protective gear, but since biking doesn’t lend itself to the typical starts, stops, and breaks of skateboarding, you may end up having a complaining kid if they are working up a sweat.
Great helmets for kids
Here are a few helmets recommended by the pros.
1. A super-adjustable helmet at a great price point
According to Wren, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and just about any expert you ask (including those at the pediatric trauma center at CHLA), the most important thing to look for when buying a helmet is a reliable fit. With so many accolades for the Joovy Noodle, we had to get our hands one one and, even after only having it for a short time, we couldn’t agree more.
This little noggin protector is widely reviewed as being well-built and a cinch to adjust for a perfect fit. With the easy-to-reach adjustment dial in the back, you can achieve a customized fit in seconds, no matter how wriggly and wiggly your child may be. We also love the high quality sweat-wicking pads, which not only help with fit, but have surprisingly soft and unobtrusive velcro for easy removal that leaves a smooth, itch-free fit when removed.
“It’s absolutely a top-of-the-line helmet at a really affordable price,” says Wren.
2. A skateboard helmet with extra protection
There are lots of great skateboard helmets on the market, but what sets the Nutcase Little Nutty apart is it is the only kids skate helmet available that has a Multi-Directional Impact Protection System built in that adds an extra layer of brain protection. The system shifts and rotates upon impact, thereby protecting your child’s head and neck by reducing the amount of rotational motion that can occur during falls.
The Nutcase not only offers top-tier protection, but Wren says it’s reasonably lightweight compared to other skateboard helmets. It also comes in some of the coolest designs out there, so you’re more apt to get enthusiastic buy-in from an otherwise ornery toddler.
Protective padding for the rest of the body
Depending on the child, good padding and protective gear can make the difference between whether a kid enjoys getting out on their bike, scooter, or skates, and whether they don’t. If your child is prone to spills or sensitive to scrapes, going beyond a helmet may not only keep them safe, it makes them more willing to take risks and more excited about getting out for a spin.
3. Space-age padding for knees and elbows
I’ve put my kid in knee and elbow pads with the best of intentions, but when your kid can’t move because they are too stiff, restricting, or itchy, they do nothing to encourage them to have fun and take risks while on wheels. Enter: the brilliantly designed G-form elbow and knee pads. These pads are flexible, lightweight, washable, and—according to my kid (and my husband who has the adult version)—incredibly comfortable.
Many kids' pads that have straps can get in the way and, with constant movement of joints, can cut off circulation. The G-Form pads are unique in that they are flexible as you ride and instantly harden on impact. For kids just starting out, these allow extra movement, and for more experienced daredevils, they allow your little athletes to go all in. These ingenious pads are comfortable and breathable and they look pretty cool while offering lots of impact protection.
- Get the G-form youth Pro-X2 knee pads at REI for $50
- Get the G-form youth Pro-X2 elbow pads at REI for $40
4. Super-strong wrist guards
Any time a child is in a position to break their fall with their wrists, wrist pads can help. Wren says her family forgoes wrist pads for regular biking but she recommends them for beginning skateboarders, roller skaters, and in-line skaters, as well as kids who are just starting out on balance bikes.
These wrist guards by Simply Kids get rave reviews for beings sturdy, strong, and durable. They also come with a packet of cute stickers to customize your kid’s wheeling experience.
5. Protective gloves with smart features
While bike gloves may seem like an unnecessary extra, kids tend to fall hand-first, so having the extra protection is essential for kids who are honing their skills. Our son is more seasoned, but we love having them for scootering and biking—not only to protect against falls, but to help maintain a firmer grip on handlebars. Bike gloves also give added warmth without being slippery like knit gloves and mittens. Wren says that gloves are a good idea for little ones on balance bikes, and her older kids like them for mountain biking and longer biking trips.
ZippyRooz gloves have reinforced padding in the palms, offering excellent protection against tumbles and spills. We also like there there is a super-soft and absorbent patch on the thumb that allows for a comfortable face wipe when there are runny noses. The combo of comfortable and high-quality fabric, cool kid-friendly designs, and a reasonable price point make both the fingerless and full-finger versions of these gloves our personal favorite. And, if you have children who will both complain over needing help and not allow you to assist them under any circumstances, you will appreciate the finger loops on these that allow for easy, independent, and meltdown-free removal.
- Get the ZippyRooz fingerless bike gloves on Amazon for $13.97
- Get the ZippyRooz full-finger bike gloves at Amazon for $18.95
Fun bells and whistles
Sometimes fun and protection can go hand-in-hand. Lights, sounds, bells, and horns help make riders more visible and provide some added fun.
6. A disco-inspired spoke light
It’s not that we are advocating for nighttime rides, but if your kids are the kind to push their neighborhood rides until dusk, a little bling that doubles as safety can’t hurt. This disco-inspired spoke light isn’t meant to light their path, but it will add a little bit of fun and illumination. Set the light to red, green, blue, white, or Disc-O mode that cycles through all four colors.
7. A light and horn combo
Safety-conscious while being a whole lot of fun, the Mini Hornit's two 12-lumen lights are brighter than many basic safety lights, making them an excellent choice for improving visibility in low-light conditions. The horn has 25 sonorous sounds effects like bell, racing car, police siren, motorbike, laser, helicopter, fart, magic spell, horse, and many more.
8. A classic bike bell
If the light up horn that makes fart and horse sounds seems like too much, then this bell is a stripped down, back-to-basics classic. This bell is as straightforward as it comes but with almost 6,000 rave reviews, it is praised for being great for bikes and scooters of all sizes. Let them announce to passersby that it’s time to clear the way with this bell that’s touted for being “just loud enough without being scary.”
9. A protective face mask with style
The Po Campo brand is known for their sturdy and stylish bike bags. This cycling-specific face mask is reviewed as being just as well-constructed as their bags. And with the fun and funky fabrics they are known for, kids will jump at the chance to keep their faces just as well-protected as their other body parts. These kid (and adult!) masks are made from recycled fabrics and feature a breathable microfilter between two antibacterial layers.
They come in a two-pack and include one mask with reflective striping and one without. Every purchase helps fund Po Campo donations of medical-grade masks to NYC working cyclists through its partnership with Biking Public Project.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.