If you’re looking to get your child a new helmet, whether they have just started cycling or have been adventuring on two wheels for ages, we’ve gathered together some of the top rated options to help you decide which is the right one for them.
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.
While it’s generally a very safe activity the occasional tumble is inevitable, particular as 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.
Giro Scamp Kid’s MIPS Helmet
The Giro Scamp may be a little pricier, but it comes with MIPS for added protectionGiro
The Scamp takes all the features from the Giro adult helmets, and designs them into a smaller package for young riders.
The fit is adjustable around the head with a rear RocLock retention system, and the ‘pinch-guard’ buckle will help protect little chins from getting caught.
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System and is an additional layer of protection that sits inside the helmet shell, which is designed to counteract the angular forces that occur during crashes as well as the direct force of an impact.
Specifically designed for the needs of kids is the MET Elfo helmetMET
MET says its helmets have been designed specifically for the needs of younger riders and have a range of features that demonstrate this.
For example, the helmet is designed so that there is no contact between the helmet and the fontanel, the most fragile part of a child’s skull. The shape allows the child to sit up straight while in a child seat, rather than being pitched forward, and there is an integrated red LED light at the rear for increased visibility.
It also features an anti-pinch chin buckle, adjustable fit, and reflective stickers.
The MET Elfo comes in one size, 46–53cm, and a range of colours.
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 their 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 being sold, so it’s worth checking for the standard marks which are usually located on a label inside the helmet. Helmets from most major brands will usually 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, kid’s 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
Kid’s helmets are designed to fit children with a head circumference of around 48cm to 55cm
Junior helmets are designed to fit kid’s 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
Step 1. Ensure you’ve chosen the correct size of helmet for the child.
Step 2. 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.
Step 3. 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 and 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.
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.