700 Children's Blog

Use Your Head: Choosing and Fitting Your Child's Bike Helmet

Jun 25, 2018
image of a mom putting a helmet on her daughter

Summer is here and the neighborhoods and parks are buzzing with families and children out riding their bikes. Here’s a quick quiz to determine if your family is ready to bike safely.

Your family is going on a bike ride. Who needs to wear a helmet?

     A. Children sitting in a child bike seat on an adult’s bike

     B. Children sitting in a bike trailer attached to the back of an adult’s bike

     C. Children riding on a trailer bike (often called by the brand name Trail-a-bike) attached to the back of an adult’s bike

     D. Children or teens riding their own balance bike, tricycle or bicycle with or without training wheels

     E. Adults/parents riding a bike

     F. All of the above

The answer is F, all of the above. While state and city laws enforcing helmet use vary, safety guidelines are universal: everyone on a bike of any type needs to wear a helmet on every ride. Many areas have laws requiring helmets for children under age 16 or 18 years but adults’ heads are just as important to protect. It’s also important for parents to role model helmet use. Make it a rule: no helmet, no riding.

How do you pick the right helmet? The guidelines are the same for children and adults.

  • Let your child help pick out a helmet that he or she likes. Choose a bright color to help drivers see your child.
  • Look for the CPSC Certified label on the box or a sticker inside the helmet.
  • Try the helmet on your child. It should be snug, but not tight. Use foam inserts included with helmet to adjust the fit.
  • If your child is between two sizes, pick the bigger one. Most helmets come with extra pads to help you get a good fit. Some kid and adult helmets often have a mechanism on the back of the helmet so you can tighten or loosen it once it’s on.
  • If it feels too tight, try using thinner pads. If it is still too tight, buy a larger helmet.
  • The helmet should not move from side to side when your child shakes his head.
  • Replace any helmet that is damaged or that has been involved in a crash.

Now that everyone in the family has a helmet, let’s make sure they fit properly before going out for a ride. You can do this in three easy steps and again, the same guidelines apply for children and adults:

  1. The helmet should sit flat on top of the head and rest about two finger-widths above the eyebrows. The forehead must be covered by the helmet.
  2. The straps should form a V below the ear (but these straps should not be loose or hanging under the chin).
  3. The chin strap should be buckled snuggly around the jaw so you can only fit one or two fingers under the strap. Your child should be able to open her mouth all the way with the strap buckled.

Learn more about how to choose and fit a bike helmet: https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/research/areas-of-research/center-for-injury-research-and-policy/injury-topics/sports-recreation/bicycle-helmets   

Featured Expert

Laura Dattner
Center for Injury Research and Policy, Research Writer

Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota (go Gophers!) and enjoys spending time outside with her husband and dog.

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