By Contributor Tamara Goyette

There is one classic item that many children have on their wishlist this time of year; a bicycle. That was definitely on my list when I was a kid, but now there is something a little different available to help children who are still learning to ride. Radio Flyer has two different balance bikes that are available from them, one of them being a unique, and gorgeous wooden balance bike.

Radio Flyer started back in 1917 by Antonio Pasin, he had a dream to “bring joy to every boy and every girl”; that sounds like true Christmas spirit to me, and a bit of Santa Claus added in. Many of us have grown up with different toys from Radio Flyer as part of a childhood. When looking for my daughter’s first bicycle I knew I wanted to some day get her a Radio Flyer bike. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to try one from them. Not only did we get to try out the balance bike, we actually got to “build” the exact bike we wanted.

When you go onto the Radio Flyer Build-A-Balance-Bike portion of their website you right away have decisions to make. For the frame of the bike you can choose between a steel frame (starting at $59) or a wooden frame (starting at $69). We wanted something unique, and decided on the wooden frame as we have never seen one like it around. The next thing we had to decide on was what colour we wanted, red or pink. When I think of Radio Flyer I always envision their products that are red, so of course our top choice was to get the bike in red. Now you even get an option for the wheels that will be on the balance bike. There is a classic tire which rolls smoothly on all surfaces, or for an upgrade of $20 you can order the all-terrain air tires. We went with the air tires because it was said that they could handle both being on the side walk, and on a big more rough terrain. We knew our daughter would like head to the grass, and over bumps with her bike. This was the better option for us, though both tire options are designed to offer a quiet ride, and are long lasting.

Finally there are three different accessories you can add to the bike. We went all out on our daughter’s bicycle and added a ringing bell, streamers to the handle bar, and a small name plate. When I was a little girl I had a tricycle that had streamers on the handle bar and I knew that was a feature I really wanted on my daughter’s bike some day. A bell is of course a must to warn others you are near. The name plate is fun because you can customize it to say what you want. We went with a nick name that showcases our daughter’s personality. We didn’t feel comfortable putting her actual name on it for safety reasons. We didn’t want strangers to be able to know her name via her bike, it was a personal decision for us, but obviously make your own decision towards this if you do go with a name plate.

radio flyer

We waited anxiously for the balance bike to arrive. It finally arrived in a smaller box than we anticipated. Now, I highly recommend if you are giving a bicycle as a gift this Christmas… put it together before the big day! This way your kid does not have to wait impatiently for however long it takes to be put together. Which for this balance bike did not take too long, but 20 minutes in the eyes of a child is a long time to wait. The instructions take you through what pieces should be in the box, and then a step by step visual guide of what you need to do to be able to put it together. I was able to put it together without any problems, I did get my husband to help with making sure the tires were on tight enough. We left the bike sitting, waiting in our living room for our daughter to discover it the next morning when she came downstairs. Can you imagine your child’s eyes when they see a new bicycle just for them sitting by the Christmas tree? Make sure you get that moment on video!

Our daughter is going to be 2 soon, and she is a bit on the smaller side, so she is about an inch away from being able to touch her feet fully flat on the ground when she sits on the balance bike. We still take her outside, with her helmet on, to go for a ride. She sits on the seat, and holds onto the handle bar as we steer the bike. It turns so easily, and the ride is very smooth. We are looking forward to seeing our daughter be able to ride this on her own; pushing herself along, and some day gliding around on it. The bell and streamers were a huge hit. I personally love the little name plate, that reminds me of the small license plates that used to be needed for bicycles. This balance bike truly is what many kids envision for what they want under the Christmas tree, and I really appreciate how Radio Flyer offers so many options. Balance bikes are a great way to start your child in the direction of learning how to ride a bike without training wheels. There are so many benefits to learning on a balance bike, and your child is sure to love this particular style of bike since you can truly make it there own.

Disclosure: I received a sample of a product to facilitate my review. No other compensation was provided and all views and opinions stated on this post are 100% my own.

 photo giftguide2014_zps576eefab.jpg