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 stressed 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 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. 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 child's 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!
From the age of 12 months, little ones have developed enough neck strength to support a bike helmet—and keep their head up while going over bumps. For those first rides perched atop your bike in a bike seat or for cruising along behind in the bike trailer, we recommend the Schwinn infant helmet. It's the smallest on the market, measuring 44cm and features an easy-adjust dial fit retention system to tighten or loosen the helmet as needed. It also boasts great coverage at the rear and plenty of ventilation to keep them cool. The flat back makes it comfortable for trailer rides (or any arrangement where the back of their head is resting against something). The brand states that this will fit up to age three, but many reviewers note it is too small for their older toddlers.
It's no surprise the Giro Scamp is one of the most highly recommended kids' helmets on the market given the fact Giro is one of the most respected brands in the industry. Made with the same innovation and engineering as their popular adult versions, little ones (especially trailer riders) appreciate the Scamp's flat back and lightweight, slim design which, unlike competitors, isn't "bobble-heady" in the least. Sizing starts at 45-49cm (xs) which makes it a great helmet to span everything from trailer riding to balance biking. The Roc Loc Jr. fit system and pinch-guard buckle provide a quick and easy way to get the proper fit without protest. According to one reviewer, "We tried on every helmet at Target, Toys R Us, and Walmart and he would scream every time because he said it hurt - he put this one on and immediately loved it. I appreciate how easy the straps are to adjust and the back nob is there to make the internal bands tighten around his head. My husband researched for weeks to find "the best helmet" and I'm so glad we picked this one!"
For the youngest riders who need something slightly larger, the Bell sprout helmet is a top choice. It's designed to fit sizes 47-52cm and comes with its patented pinch guard buckle—a must-have for little ones who will swear off helmet wearing after one unfortunate chin pinch. Seven vents help keep them cool while the True Fit system allows you to adjust the fit from one single point (instead of fiddling with chin straps and dials.) It also comes in colorful dragon poodle designs to help get reluctant kiddos excited for their most important accessory.
With over 7.5K reviews and a solid 4.5-star rating, the Joovy noodle helmet is a solid budget-friendly choice for kiddos ages 1 and up. Not only does it meet CPSC standards, but the extended visor offers maximum protection (think scooter face plants and random acts of gravity) and helps keeps the sun off their face. Parents of sweaty kiddos, take note—it's one of the most well-ventilated of all the helmets on this list (14 air vents in total!) each of which is covered with mesh to keep pesky bugs out as they cruise along. Parents and littles appreciate the easy-to-adjust design and pinch-proof chin strap.
With a fresh upgrade this spring, Bern's Nino 2.0 bike helmet offers a few features that impress. (Besides the impossibly cool design, of course.) First, it comes in MIPS and non-MIPS versions. Second, that visor! Flip it up for the cool factor, down to keep the sun off their face, or remove it altogether. But what we love the most is the ability to swap out the summer liner for a warmer winter knit (sold separately) when the weather cools. No need to squeeze a hat underneath and compromise safety for keeping the chill out. How brilliant is that?
For kiddos who ride scooters, BMX, and skateboards in addition to bikes, a skater-style helmet is the way to go. Nutcase Little Nutty tops every list due to its solid construction which easily withstands the inevitable tosses to the ground. (You've seen kids take off their helmets, right? They get chucked directly on the pavement, every.time. 🙄) They come in a wide variety of rad graphics that kids of all ages appreciate and are even available with MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) which adds an extra layer of protection. Other awesome features include 11 air vents, a dial fit system with three sets of foam pads to help customize the fit and 360-degree reflectivity so no one will miss them as they fly on by. The Little Nutty is available in toddler and kid sizes, and for larger kiddos, the Nutcase Street helmet in size small can accommodate!
Like we've said, the best helmet is a helmet they'll actually want to wear. If you have a superhero fan on your hands, they'll be thrilled to don Bell's Marvel collection. But it's not just good looks that landed them on this list. The CPSC compliant design features a shock-absorbing EPS inner shell which keeps them protected whether they're biking, scooting or skating. It's also easy to adjust and well ventilated to help keep them as cool as they look.
For more serious skaters (and sweaters) Triple Eight's certified sweatsaver helmet is unbeatable. I first learned about them ages ago as they were the only brand our local skate shop sold for kiddos. The owner, having suffered a TBI herself (from a ladder fall—not skateboarding!) is perhaps the most vocal advocate for the importance of helmet wearing, so if they're the only brand she'll trust, I'm in. I've bought at least three as my kids have grown and the quality is top-notch. The internal padding is soft and thick, covered in a super absorbent terrycloth which can be removed and washed as needed and the outer shell is impressively durable. It meets both CPSC standards for safe biking and ASTM F-1492 skate safety standards, so it's perfect for multi-use.
Schwinn's thrasher bike helmet is the most highly reviewed kids' bike helmet on Amazon. Of the 19K+ reviews, countless parents have sung its praises for protecting their kiddos from serious injury, including one who says, "My son, 9, had outgrown his old helmet, so I bought this one. Less than three weeks later, he put it to the test. He is a daredevil who loves speed. Riding down a hill, that he isn't supposed to ride on, he lost control at ~30 mph and landed on the side of his head, on the asphalt. He was knocked out momentarily, but passed the concussion screening at the ER. He is fine, other than some road rash. I hate to think how he might have fared with his old helmet, or no helmet. The ER doctor said that the spot he hit was about the worst place to hit for head injuries." It boasts 21 air vents along with a dual-fit, 360-degree adjustable system that allows for on-the-fly adjustments and is super lightweight.
For kiddos who'd rather take to the trails than the sidewalks, the Giro tremor MIPS helmet is the ideal choice for mountain biking. Made with a polycarbonate shell, it features MIPS technology which can redirect energy and provide more protection in certain impacts. It's easy to size with their Roc Loc Sport system and comes with quick-dry padding and a removable visor.
I've been a big fan of Thousand's retro bike helmets for adults for ages. Not only do they make me feel like I'm stylishly zipping around Italy on a Vespa, but they're lightweight with a clever magnetic clasp that can be done and undone one-handed. So, I could not be more thrilled that they're venturing into kids' helmets! With the guidance of over 100 kids, they developed a version that every kid will not only tolerate wearing but ask to wear even when they're not on wheels. Each helmet includes a pack of super cool reflective stickers so they can easily customize it to their own personal style. The line launches in May, but you can sign up for the waitlist now.