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Whether they're buckled into a bike trailer, pushing along on their first balance bike, or cruising down ramps at the skatepark on their scooter or skateboard, every kid needs to wear a bike helmet when they have wheels under them. Diana Spalding, CNM is a midwife and pediatric nurse. She stresses the importance of wearing helmets for bike riding and scooters, even when the kids are only going to be on them for a few minutes or in a seemingly safe place like your driveway. "I have just seen too many scary incidents to ever be able to take this lightly," she said. "Making them wear a helmet every time is worth it. Plus, it helps to create a habit. They should feel naked without a helmet on! And all these awesome brands today make super cool helmets that kids will feel great about rocking."
The good news? If you can buy it in the US market, it's safe. Since 1999, the law requires all kids bike helmets sold meet (or exceed) Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations, meaning safety is table stakes. What matters most when choosing the right bike helmet for your little one's noggin is fit. Not only will an ill-fitting helmet compromise its safety—but it's also more likely they'll complain about wearing it. And the truth is, the best helmet is one they'll actually wear.
How do you know if your kids' bike helmet fits?
Helmets should fit snug and straps should form a "v" below their chin. To get the best fit, you're going to have to bust out that tape measure! Measure the circumference of their head about an inch above their eyebrows. Many helmets fit a range of sizes, adjusting with either a dial system or swappable padding.
When do you need to replace your kids' bike helmet?
As soon as they size out or in the event of an impact.
After pouring over dozens of top-rated helmets (and fighting two kids into various versions for a decade and a half), some of the features we most appreciate are ventilation, ease of adjustment, and pinch guard buckles (fist bump of solidarity to every parent who's ever snapped their kiddos chin into the buckle and cried right along with them).
Another feature to consider? MIPS technology. This latest technology in head protection adds an extra layer of safety in the form of a rotating plastic inner cage that moves with your child's head. In the event of certain types of impact, it helps protect from multiple directions. Is it necessary? Not exactly. But if you've got a daredevil on your hands that regularly sails off ramps and jumps, it's worth considering.
We've included traditional bike helmets (which are for use ONLY when biking) and multi-use, skater-style helmets which are approved for use with bikes, scooters, skateboards, or roller skates. If your kiddo is interested in all different kinds of wheels, these are a great option to keep things simple. Note that they're generally a bit heavier and less ventilated, but they're also usually wider than your standard bike helmet, making them a great choice for kids with larger domes.
From their first rides to epic bike adventures, we've rounded up the best kids' bike helmets on the market. Happy riding!
Best kids' bike helmets
A version of this story was published May 20, 2021. It has been updated.