ATV Riding for Kids Safety Tips
Riding ATVs can be a fun and healthy experience for adults and children alike. That’s because it provides a good workout, and a bonding experience between parents and their children.
However, ATV riding is not recommended for children under the age of 16. But although teaching pre-adolescent children to ride ATVs is discouraged, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done safely.
Riding ATVs requires physical and mental alertness for speeding up, slowing down, making quick adjustments, shifting weight to turn the machine and avoiding collisions. And not all children are physically or mentally capable of handling such a machine safely. With proper adult supervision, however, a child can learn to master and enjoy the experience of riding an ATV. So with that in mind, here are some ATV riding for kids safety tips.
Taking an ATV safety course with your child in a controlled environment is a great way to get them excited about learning how to ride. It’s also a good bonding experience, as you can learn, practice and recap the lessons together.
Is Your Child Ready for an ATV?
Before buying an ATV for your child, consider whether they’re physically and mentally mature enough to ride one. If they’re very young, you might want to start them out with a small electric beginner ATV to see if they’re even interested in learning how to ride.
And if you want to skip ahead to a real mechanical ATV, make sure they’re not only physically capable of riding one, but mentally and emotionally capable as well. That means physically, they’re big and strong enough to reach the controls, and coordinated enough to maneuver the machine on their own.
Mentally, that means they’re not only disciplined enough to follow instructions, but also sharp enough to stay focused and make decisions. Emotionally, make sure they’re mature enough to handle making mistakes, take falls, get dirty, dust themselves off and get back on.
Ask yourself these questions before you buy your kid an ATV:
- Can your child reach the handlebars, brakes and controls both while sitting and standing?
- Can they turn the handlebars all the way to the right and to the left?
- Can they operate the throttle and the brake lever with one hand?
- Will your child be able to shift their weight from side-to-side and front-to-back to maintain their balance?
- Can your child comprehend and follow rules?
- Can your child handle getting cuts and scrapes from crashes and falls?
Keep in mind that not all children have the same maturity level for their age. So just because they’re physically able to ride doesn’t mean they’re mentally prepared. Make sure they’re ready and willing to learn and enjoy riding ATVs before you invest in one.
Choosing an ATV for Your Child
When choosing an ATV for your kid, start with a small engine beginner ATV. True, they’ll eventually outgrow it, but you can always trade up as your child grows, so don’t get one that’s too big or powerful for them to handle.
You’ll want to start them off with a small quad with an automatic transmission that offers reasonable speeds for a beginner. ATV manufacturers offer guidelines on appropriate engine sizes for young riders. These guidelines are widely supported and are as follows:
Age of Rider
Under 6 years old
16 years and older
ATV Engine Size
Buy an ATV designed for their age group per the manufacturer's label on the machine. For beginners, seek out a quad that has parental control features such as throttle limiters to maintain lower speeds; exhaust restrictors to reduce the engine’s power; and a remote-controlled engine shut-off switch.
That gear includes long pants, long-sleeve shirts, riding gloves, over-the-ankle boots and offroad goggles, all to protect them from accidents, and from flying dirt and debris. Of course, the most important piece of protective gear is the helmet, which should meet Department of Transportation and/or Snell safety standards. Full-face offroad helmets with face shields offer the best protection, and you want to make sure the helmet fits snugly and securely on your child’s head.
Additional ATV Riding Safety Tips for Kids
This applies to both adults and especially children, but: only ride on designated trails at safe speeds to maintain stability, which of course makes the ATV less likely to tip over.
Other general ATV riding safety tips to keep in mind for children include:
- Never allowing them to ride on paved surfaces or public roads, other than to cross them if necessary.
- Never allowing kids to ride an ATV unsupervised, in bad weather or at night.
- Never allowing kids to carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, no matter how much they want to give their friends rides.
- Reminding kids to never try to show off by speeding or doing stunts, as doing so increases the risk of injury or death.
Finally, encourage your kid to clean and care for their own ATV and riding gear. This teaches them responsibility, gives them a sense of ownership, and (hopefully) an understanding and appreciation of investing money wisely.