10 kids’ safety essentials for biking, skateboarding, and more
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.
Whether they are embarking on their first ride, or they are testing their daredevil skills, what sort of protective gear your child needs will largely depend on their personal tendencies, temperaments, and sensitivities—as well as the sport at hand.
“For some kids [additional gear] is 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 Carrie Wren, digital marketing director and product tester for Two Wheeling Tots.
For more extreme sports like skateboarding, in-line skating, and mountain biking, more-extensive equipment is essential. They’re going to want to gear up with such essentials as a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and—depending on the kid—gloves. We spoke with the experts to figure out exactly what you need and how to pick the best kids bike helmets, pads, and more.
What to know before you buy a helmet
It's not as simple as hitting the store and buying a super-hero helmet. There are some very necessary safety specifications you should know.
Be skeptical of used helmets
Safety standards are constantly updated and bike helmets are only made to withstand one major collision, so invest in the protection of your kiddo’s noggin. If you are considering a used or hand-me-down helmet, make sure that you are certain it has never been in a crash. Additionally, you should be meticulous about checking for small cracks. Even the slightest crack can compromise the effectiveness of the helmet, and hairline cracks can sometimes be difficult to see. Keep in mind that helmets manufactured before 1999 may not meet current safety standards.
Skip the spikes
While a cute novelty helmet may look adorable or make your child feel like a scootering dinosaur or unicorn, it’s advised that you avoid helmets with spikes or horns. According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI), they can severely impact the safety of a helmet. These decorative elements can prevent the helmet from gliding along the ground in the case of a fall. That drag can cause substantial head and neck injuries, which can be avoided with a smooth-surface helmet.
Check the specs
Bike helmets, which can also be used while 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; while you can absolutely use a skate helmet for biking, there are very few bike helmets that can withstand the impact of a skate fall.
Skate helmets offer different coverage, greater reinforcement, fewer ventilation gaps, and are tested to withstand multiple impacts. Your future Tony Hawk or Nyjah Huston 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. These differences can, however, make a skate helmet hotter and heavier. Since biking doesn’t lend itself to the typical starts, stops, and breaks of skateboarding, finding a helmet with better ventilation is recommended for comfort.
Great helmets for kids
Here are a few helmets that our 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.
3. A versatile helmet that’s great for everything
It’s very rare to find a helmet that can transition from skateboarding to biking and offer an excellent degree of safety on both ends. If you have a kid who is still experimenting a bit with which wheeled sport is their favorite, the Thousands Jr. helmet has dual certification, which makes it safe for biking, skating, and scootering.
It also looks very cool, while having some great features. Some notable specs are an integrated visor, which protects kids from face plants, a pinch-free magnetic buckle that’s easy for kids to figure out, and fixed side straps that never gets out of adjustment while riding. It also comes with a removable reflective sticker kit for some fun customization.
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.
4. Space-age padding for knees and elbows
When your kid can’t move because their knee and elbow pads are too restricting or itchy, that's when the pads sort of defeat the purpose. If your child can't move, they're either going to fall more or they're going to less inclined to take risks while on wheels. Look for padding that is soft and has good flexibility. These ingenious pads are soft and movable, while still giving terrific protection. Reviewers say these pads stay in place better than any others they’ve tried, and they also like that they’re extra long—which gives added protection during skids, and makes them last through growth spurts.
5. 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}(https://www.amazon.com/Simply-Kids-Guards-Skateboarding-Protective/dp/B07YD7SB65?tag=rvwfeature-20) 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.
6. 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 a smart idea for kids who are honing their skills. Not only do they protect against road rash, they help kids maintain a firmer grip on handlebars. They also give added warmth without being slippery, like knit gloves and mittens tend to be. 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.
This set by ZippyRooz has reinforced padding in the palms, offering excellent protection against tumbles and spills. Reviewers love that there are loops attached for easy removal and a super-soft and absorbent patch on the thumb that allows for a comfortable face wipe when there are runny noses.
- Get the ZippyRooz fingerless bike gloves on Amazon for $13.97
- Get the ZippyRooz full-finger bike gloves at Amazon starting at $16.95
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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.”
10. A cool bike bag to fit all their stuff
This weatherproof bag fits like a bike basket, but has a velcro top closure, making them a secure way to tote around essentials on longer bike trips, without having to carry an extra load on their backs. An added bonus is the straps convert to change this handlebar bag into a cross-body bag, so kids can grab their bags and go when they get to their destination.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.