If you’re looking to get your child a new helmet, we’ve put together this advice explaining what to look for in a kids’ bicycle helmet, how to find the right size helmet and how to fit a child’s bike helmet correctly.
Cycling is a great activity for children with benefits that include exercise, fresh air, freedom and independence. Hopefully, getting them interested in cycling will be the start of a life-long passion. Discover how to teach a child to cycle in just 30 minutes with our handy guide.
While it’s generally a very safe activity, the occasional tumble is inevitable, particularly while your child learns to ride. So it’s highly advisable that children wear a helmet at all times while cycling, though of course, the final decision on this is up to you, the parent or guardian.
Whether you’re looking for the best kids’ bike helmets or have read our beginner’s guide to cycling with kids and want to pick up some kit, read on to find out all you need to know about kids’ helmets.
Buying guide to children’s bicycle helmets
What to look for in a kids’ bike helmet
Just like the best road helmets and mountain bike helmets for adults, children’s helmets are made from fairly inexpensive materials. A more expensive helmet won’t necessarily offer better protection, but what it will offer is lighter weight, better ventilation and more style.
That said, ensure the helmet you are looking at complies with the relevant safety ratings.
In the UK and Europe, you should see the CE mark, and the helmet should conform to BS EN 1078 (BS stands for British Standard, EN denotes it is a European standard).
In the US, it should have the US Snell B90/B95. These standards indicate that the helmet has passed a specific set of tests regarding its impact resistance, retention strap systems, etc.
It’s worth noting that there is nothing to prevent a helmet that doesn’t meet the above standards from being sold, so check for the standard marks, which are usually located on a label inside the helmet. Helmets from major brands will be standard compliant, and your local bike shop will be able to guide and advise you.
Style is important in a helmet, in that a lack of style may be a barrier to your child wearing the helmet at all. Looks are a particular issue with teenage children.
Ventilation matters more the further and faster you ride – racers need it, infants in child seats don’t.
Helmets for infants are much deeper at the rear to protect the back of the head, though all helmets should give good coverage over the top and sides of the skull.
Mountain biking helmets and many multi-purpose helmets have a detachable peak, which can be handy to keep the sun or rain out of your eyes. The peak only becomes a problem when you’re riding hard on a bike with drop handlebars, because you may not be able to see where you are going!
How to find the right size bike helmet for your child
First, you’ll need to measure the size of your child’s head. You’ll either need a clothes measuring tape, or you can use a length of string and measure it against a ruler afterwards.
Measure horizontally around your child’s head, just above the ears and about two finger-widths or an inch above the eyebrows.
Kids’ helmets will usually be listed as baby, toddler, kids’ and youth, though not all brands use this classification system, and the measurements may vary between brands.
As a general rule:
- Infant helmets are designed to fit children with a head circumference of around 44cm to 50cm
- Toddler helmets are designed to fit children with a head circumference of around 46cm to 52cm
- Kids’ helmets are designed to fit children with a head circumference of around 48cm to 55cm
- Junior helmets are designed to fit kids with a circumference of around 52cm to 58cm.
Bear in mind that these size ranges may vary between manufacturers, so check the measurement range and try helmets on to ensure you get a good fit.
Kids’ helmets are based on the circumference measurement of the child’s head rather than simply age, so once you have this you’ll be able to choose the right size helmet.
Don’t be tempted to go for a helmet that’s too big so the child can ‘grow into it’. It won’t fit securely and therefore won’t offer protection should the child fall.
How to fit a child’s bike helmet correctly
To begin with, ensure you’ve chosen the correct size of helmet for the child.
Then fit the helmet so that it sits above the ears and level across the middle of the forehead, not tipped forward or back. The front of the helmet should be about the width of two fingers above the eyebrows.
This is important because should the child fall off, whatever angle they may hit the ground at, the helmet will make contact, not the child’s head. You may need to tighten or loosen the helmet retention system at the back of the helmet to ensure it fits well.
The helmet shouldn’t dig in but should be secure enough not to fall off without the straps being done up. A good quick test is to pop the helmet on without doing the chin strap up, and ask the child to bend forward: the helmet shouldn’t fall off the child’s head.
Finally, do up the chin straps so they are secure but not tight, and ensure the Y-shaped junction sits just below the ear and passes either side.
To get the fit right, you should be able to pop a finger under the strap while it’s done up. When you’re doing the helmet up, it’s also a good idea to pop a finger between the clip mechanism and your child’s chin to avoid accidentally catching their skin in it.
It will feel strange at first for the child if they aren’t used to wearing it, and many kids will try to push it back on their head and off their forehead. It’s important to encourage them to keep it in the right position and get used to the feeling.
If after these steps you’re still unsure whether the helmet is fitted correctly, check out our guide on how to (and how not to) wear a bicycle helmet.
Different types of helmet
You’ll sometimes see riders, especially BMXers and dirt jumpers, wearing hard-shell helmets that look more like skateboarding helmets. These are tough but less well ventilated, and they have become very popular recently, particularly among teenagers.
Full-face helmets offer even more protection, especially to the chin and face, and are worn almost exclusively by downhill mountain bikers and enduro riders. They look like motorcycle helmets but are much lighter and more fragile.
Some helmets also come with MIPS, which stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. This is designed to act as additional protection, reducing the effect of rotational forces on the head in the case of an impact rather than simply the direct forces traditionally tested for.
You can buy all these types of helmets in children’s sizes and designs too.