kids riding atv

Kids and ATVs – When and How to Get Them Started

ATV riding is an amazing pass time experience! It’s a great way for the entire family to have fun in the out doors, see new scenery, get some fresh air, create new memories, and also learn new skills.

But how do you pass on those new skills to your child? You’re eager to get them started as early as possible, but you also don’t want to pull the trigger too soon. You know riding requires a certain level of skill, so does your child have it or should you hold off from having them ride for just a while longer.

You have many questions running through your head: are they old enough? How do I know when they are ready? Is it even legal? Do they need a smaller ATV?

Riding an ATV comes with a certain set of responsibilities, so we’ll do our best to answer some of those questions for you in this post.

Size/Stature

Is your child physically big enough to ride an ATV?

Your response may be an obvious yes, but there is more that goes along with this question. Not only does your child have to be able to jump up onto the ATV on their own, but can he straddle the seat and still have about 3-5 inches of space on the seat when standing up?

You also want to make sure they are big enough to reach comfortably around the handlebars from a seated position. They should be able to squeeze the brake easily while also being able to give the ATV some gas. Their arms shouldn’t be fully extended as that implies that they are over-reaching. Also, if their arms are fully extended then they likely won’t be able to keep both hands on the handle bars when doing a full left or right turn.

You’ll also want to make sure that they can easily reach for the foot controls and that they understand how they are operated.

Another question to ask yourself is: do you think he or she has the stamina to ride, steer and control this heavy equipment for a long period of time? If not, then they shouldn’t be riding on their own.

If the answer is maybe, then you may want to consider some kind of a harness that allows you to ride behind them while giving them some more control over the maneuverability of the ATV. You can find an example of one here on Amazon.

Hand-Eye Coordination and Ability To Reason

Off road riders need a very good sense of hand-eye coordination, good balance and need to be quickly responsive when objects appear in front of them, especially when they are unexpected.

If you child has good agility skills when playing other sports like soccer, baseball, riding a bike, roller blading or skateboarding then chances are that they will react the same when riding an ATV on their own.

You also want to ask yourself if your child shows a high ability to reason and make well thought out decisions that lead to logical conclusions or are they quick to make haste, unthoughtful decisions that lead to unsafe consequences? How well does your child follow directions?

If you’re really questioning these things then it would be prudent to wait some time and let them mature. Riding a vehicle that weighs several hundred pounds and goes excess of 40mph (without a seatbelt) is a big responsibility, giving your child some more time to mature is ok.

Safety Gear

Before your child takes off on their own, you’ll want to make sure they have the necessary safety equipment to prevent serious injury. You can look through our comprehensive list of safety equipment, but at very least you will always want to have some goggles, a helmet, boots and gloves.

In fact, without these items it makes it extremely difficult to ride safely. A helmet should be worn even before your child jumps on the ATV and goggles are the most often used piece of safety equipment because there is always debris being kicked up.

Gloves give you a layer of protection against callused hands and prevent the vibrations from the quad from giving your arms fatigue. Since there is a tremendous amount of heat that gets released from the engine and exhaust system, the boots prevent your child from getting his or her legs burned.

Safety gear is extremely important and should required and demanded of your child from the very early stages of their riding life. It should never be an option and you don’t want them to feel like it is either.

Finding the One (ATV)

Pick an ATV that was purposely designed and built for their smaller size in mind. The adult quads are way too powerful and the throttle, brake and clutch are tensioned too high for them to be able to completely squeeze them.

As a general rule of thumb, here are the guidelines you’ll see at most ATV retailers about what size quad you should get your child relative to his/her age.

  • ATVs with an engine size less than 70cc are recommended for youngsters 6 years and older
  • ATVs with an engine size less than 70-90cc are recommended for youngsters 12 years and older
  • ATVs with an engine size greater than 90cc are recommended for people at least 16 years old

Keep in mind that these are only guidelines and that you know your child best, ultimately the decision will be yours. You may feel that your 6 year old child is larger, stronger and more mature than the average 6 year old and you decide to go with a 90cc engine, plus you want him to be able to grow into an older quad as he gets older.

Then again, your 12 year old may be smaller, not as strong and lacks the agility and responsiveness to make quick, well thought out decisions, so you decide to go with a 70cc engine.

Formal Training and Supervision

If you are buying a new ATV for your child because he or she has taken an interest in the sport then you may want to consider a formal safety training course so that your child has a run-through of the do’s and don’ts of riding out in the open.

Another option to is take the ATV Rider Safety Course that is offered by the ATV Safety Institute (ASI). These courses are regularly offered throughout the year and take place in various locations across the country. If your child is a new rider then they may qualify for a free course, otherwise there is a small modest fee for the course. They also provide information on local laws as well as places to ride near you.

Knowing your child and his/her ability to make quick, well thought out decisions is the most important piece of this puzzle but at some point you will have to trust that they have those skills within them. Knowing how to balance the two is key.