How to Get the Right Bike Helmet Fit for a Child?

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Cycling is one of the few purest joys that children can enjoy nowadays. Especially in this age where children are surrounded by so many distracting technologies.

If you are reading this article then you definitely are looking to let your child experience this joy, but do so safely by getting your toddler a helmet.

Just getting a helmet is not enough, it must fit well too. An ill-fitted helmet cannot realize the full potential of safety that a helmet can provide.

bike helmet for child

Cycling is always a joy

So, how do you properly fit a bike helmet for a child?

Fortunately, getting the right fit for your child’s helmet is pretty easy. We have boiled it down to 6 very easy steps that you can follow.

  1. Find the right size
  2. Position the helmet right
  3. Keep it comfortable
  4. Adjust the side straps
  5. Adjust the chin straps
  6. Do a final check

You might ask yourself whether your kids need a helmet or not. To know more on this topic, read our article do toddlers need bike helmets?

Before going further, you have to keep in mind that a more expensive helmet will provide more adjustable features to the helmet to provide a better fit on top of making it lighter and more comfortable.

Now let us dive into the steps:

6 Easy Steps to Get the Right Helmet Fit for Your Child

1. The Right Size

Although it may seem obvious, many tend to neglect the size and circumference of the child’s head when buying a helmet. Safety is maximized when a child is wearing a snugly fit a helmet.

To measure the circumference of the head, you could use a cloth measuring tape. If that is not readily available, you might consider using a string and measuring it against a ruler.

Whether it be the tape or the string, measure the circumference just an inch above the eyebrow of the child. That is usually where the helmet sits.

In case you are buying the helmet without the presence of the child or looking to order online, we have put together an estimated size chart for the circumference of the child’s head. Though obviously, it is better to take the child for fitting tryouts when getting a helmet.

Approximate AgeApproximate Head Circumference (cm)
1-2 years46
2-3 years48
3-6 years51
6-11 years53
Greater than 11 years56

You may also consult this chart for a better helmet size breakdown.

Check the range sticker (usually pasted on the inside of the helmet) if you are buying online. Also, take the child’s growth into consideration when getting a helmet for them.

Step 1

Measure the circumference of the head

2. The Right Position

Next up we have another key but often overlooked, step to getting the perfect helmet fit: the positioning. This is more of a factor that comes with awareness and practice over time rather than just a physical adjustment.

To begin, view the helmet on the child’s head from the side (aside profile). The front of the helmet should stick out past the nose. This keeps the face a safe distance away from hitting anything from the front.

The helmet should also be positioned two finger-widths above the child’s eyebrows. The helmet should not obstruct vision but also keep the forehead unexposed. Only when looking upward the child should be able to see the front rim of the helmet.

Step 2

Have enough forehead coverage

3. Keep it Comfortable and Snug

Many parents would want to have the helmet on as tight and fixed as possible. Having the helmet pressing so tightly against the skin is a big no-no. This will make the helmet feel hotter and heavier on the child’s head leading to the child not wanting to wear a helmet any more or unwarranted accidents may occur due to discomfort.

Some low to mid-tier helmets offer “fitting pads”. Whether these pads are adjustable or not (again depends on the quality of the helmet), you have to make sure that the pads fit evenly and snugly on the front, back, and sides of the head.

Higher quality helmets will have an adjustable fit dial for the internal cage of the helmet. This includes a knob on the back of the helmet which can be turned to adjust the tightness and fitting of the helmet on the head. This is much easier to manage, both for you and the child.

At this point, you can do a shake test to see the fitting. Ask the child to gently shake their head forwards, backward, and to the sides. If the helmet does not tilt or fall off, you will know that it has adjusted perfectly on the child’s head.

Step 3

Adjustable Dial

4. Adjust the Side Straps

The straps are a whole adjustable system of the bike helmet, but they can be split into two sections: the side straps and the chin strap. Let us talk about the side straps first.

The side strap sliders should be adjusted to make a “Y” shape that meets directly below the ears.

Some helmets don’t have sliders to adjust the straps so you don’t have to worry about adjustment. But make sure you buy a helmet that perfectly does the “Y” under the child’s ears.

This “Y” shape of the strap helps to keep the helmet centered on the head and also anchors the helmet on the ears preventing it from slipping.

Step 4

“Y” shape under the ear

5. Adjust the Chin Strap

Next, we have the chin strap or the buckle. Like with the upper portion of the helmet, the chin strap should be adjusted to sit snugly and comfortably under the chin. Tightening the strap may cause discomfort.

There is a simple test to check the fitting of the chin strap: the 1-finger test. The child should easily be able to fit their index finger in between the strap and their chin. Being unable to do so means that the strap is fastened too tight. And being able to put more than one finger in easily means that the strap is loose.

Step 5

1 Finger Gap

6. The Final Check

As a supervising adult, you should always do one final check, before buying and also before letting your child head out. Here is a series of questions to ask and tests to give you the answer:

  • Is the helmet positioned correctly? Looking up, the child should be able to see the front of the visor. Otherwise, readjust the straps accordingly.
  • Is the fit right? Ask the child to open their mouth wide. You should observe the helmet being pulled down on the head, meaning that there is enough space for comfort. Otherwise, readjust the chin strap.
  • Is the helmet leaning forward/backward? If it is, unbuckle the helmet and readjust the straps.
  • Does the helmet slip during movement? The helmet should be sitting snug on the head. If the movement of the helmet or slipping is observed, change the sizing pads or adjust the fitting dial of the inner cage.

Other Points to Consider

Replacement: Keep an eye out if the helmet has been dropped or has been in a crash. There may not be any visible signs of damage but the helmet definitely loses its integrity and has to be replaced. You should also consider your child’s growth which may warrant a change every two years even with adjustable fittings.

Don’t use hand me downs: The protective foam and even the hard-shell wears away with time. Look out for signs of wear and tear, if you notice any, replace them immediately. Your child deserves the best protection.

Licensing: Make sure that the helmet you buy complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and has a sticker labeled on the helmet. Know more about cycling helmet safety standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Does my child need a helmet?

Ans: Yes. Accidents, especially with children, are a pretty common scenario when it comes to riding bikes, even if they are in balancing or training bikes. Though not completely, a well-fitting helmet will significantly reduce the risk of getting injured in case of a crash.

Q2. What size of a helmet does my “x” year old child need?

Ans: Though it is best to just take your child to test their fitting before buying a helmet, we have created a simple chart of approximate head sizes for children by age that you can confer. Keep in mind that the size and shape of the head vary from child to child.

Approximate AgeApproximate Head Circumference (cm)
1-2 years46
2-3 years48
3-6 years51
6-11 years53
Greater than 11 years56

Q3. How often should I replace my child’s helmet?

Ans. Considering the fact that your child is consistently growing, a helmet should be replaced every two to three years, even with an adjustable inner cage. Furthermore, in case of crashes and dropping of the helmet, it should be replaced immediately as the protection layer may be compromised, which also degrades over time.

Conclusion

Just as a helmet is paramount for safety when your child goes out cycling, a well-fitted helmet will only maximize its effects. Understanding how to get the correct fit for your child’s helmet is the first, but very important, step that you will take to ensure that your child gets the safest cycling experience while also having fun.

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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