The Best Toddler Helmets for Safe Outdoor Rides
Spills and crashes are inevitable as your little one learns to ride a bike or a scooter, which is why toddler helmets are so important. Even on the back of an adult’s bike, your child is vulnerable to falls. The best toddler helmet should not only help protect your kiddo’s brain and skull, but it should also be comfortable and cute enough that your opinionated tot will actually be excited to make it a part of their outdoor riding ensemble.
Is a toddler helmet legally necessary? While there isn’t a federal law calling for its use, some states, such as California and New York, do have laws on the books that require bike riders under the age of 5 to wear helmets.
Regardless of whether it’s legally mandated in your area, a toddler bike helmet should definitely be on your list of things to get your little one. “Accidents and falls are some of the most common causes of head injuries in children,” says Kansas-based pediatrician and American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Natasha Burgert, MD. “As soon as children start riding a bike with an adult or independently, a helmet should be required equipment. Starting the routine of putting on a helmet as early as possible makes helmets a normal and expected part of moving play—and parents are the best example of this habit!”
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As you set off to figure out which is the best toddler helmet for your child, there’s a lot to take into consideration. A 1999 law mandates that all helmets sold within the US must meet specific safety requirements, so you can rest easy knowing whichever one you pick is up to snuff. Still, even the best toddler helmets can vary in their breathability, style, buckling ease and fit. Here’s what to look for as you shop around:
Construction. A toddler bike helmet should be lightweight but sturdy enough to withstand impact.
Fit. “All new helmets have passed safety tests, but correctly fitting the helmet is key to protection,” Burgert says. Not sure how to determine the proper fit? Keep scrolling for our tips below.
Air vents. The best toddler helmets have air vents to promote circulation and keep your child cool.
Added safety features. Several of the more expensive toddler helmets feature Multi-directional Impact Protective System (MIPS) technology, which reduces rotational force on impact and helps protect against injuries like whiplash. Experts are divided on whether MIPS technology actually provides more protection. Burgert maintains that all toddler bike helmets sold by reputable dealers have passed equivalent safety tests, and there is no safety advantage to any particular model, but special features may bring you extra peace of mind.
Style. While fit and construction are key, the best toddler bike helmet is one your child is actually willing to wear. Bright colors, cute patterns and beloved characters can go a long way here. You might even let your kiddo pick one out for themselves. “Letting your toddler choose their preferred helmet is a great way to go. Kids will take ownership quickly of items they are involved in selecting,” Burgert says.
Return policy. If you can’t try the helmet on your child before buying, make sure you can either exchange or return it in case it doesn’t fit.
In order to find the right fit for your child, Burgert says to look for one that sits snugly on your little one’s head and covers the forehead. “If the helmet is too loose, it can fall over your toddler’s eyes and obstruct vision during play, or slide backward and expose the forehead,” she tells The Bump. “A helmet that moves too far back will not properly protect the skull.” The straps should also be adjustable to make sure the helmet moves only the smallest amount when secured.
To ensure the toddler helmet fits your child correctly, use a soft tape measure to measure your child’s head. You want the helmet to nestle low on their forehead, about one to 2 finger widths above the eyebrows, the side straps to sit in a “V” shape slightly in front of under the ears, the buckle under their chin and the chin strap to be snug.
To test whether the toddler helmet properly fits, have your child open their mouth wide. The helmet should hug their head. You can also follow the guidelines set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to test whether or not their toddler’s bike helmet fits as it should. Keep in mind that your child’s helmet measurements will change as they grow older.
Ready to hunt down the best toddler helmet for your child? Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite picks on the market.
Banwood, a Berlin-based brand influenced by Scandinivanian design, offers a wide range of toddler helmets for boys and girls. Not only are they sleekly designed, but they’re also constructed from a durable ABS hardshell and lined with softer foam to keep your little one comfortable and safe. This toddler bike helmet also has a dial fit adjustment system in the back to make sure it stays secure while your kiddo is on the road.
Buy it: Banwood Toddler Bike Helmet, $49, Maisonette.com
The best toddler helmet combines fashion with function. This one from Giro includes 20 vents (with a built-in bug net) to keep your little one cool; the brand’s Mini-Loc fit system, which ensures your child won’t pinch any skin while putting it on; soft interior padding and a built-in visor to help them see. Perhaps our favorite part about this toddler helmet? It comes in a variety of bright colors and patterns to choose from.
Buy it: Giro Me2 Toddler Bike Helmet, $33, Amazon.com
Baby Nutty’s Multi-directional Impact Protection System and protective foam help disperse any force from a fall. The design was updated this year and focuses on head and neck posture and support. It also includes a magnetic buckle system to avoid any pinched skin, plus 11 vents and bug nets. This toddler helmet will grow with your child and comes in an array of adorable designs, including sharks, dinosaurs, flowers and more.
Buy it: Nutcase Baby Nutty Helmet, $60, Amazon.com
Schwinn’s classic toddler bike helmet is designed for safety, security and comfort. The adjustable dial knob offers a great fit for large and small heads alike, and multiple flow vents help increase circulation and keep your child cool. The toddler helmet, suitable for riders aged 3 to 5 years, is also designed with full-range padding and a lightweight microshell design, as well as comes in this very cute woodland animals print.
Buy it: Schwinn Classic Toddler Bike Helmet, $20, Walmart.com
The Noodle helmet from Joovy comes in two sizes (x-small/small and small/medium), and has 14 air vents, an extended visor for maximum protection, a pinch guard chin strap and an adjustable fit dial, making it one of the best toddler bike helmets on the market. Added bonus: It comes in seven bright, fun colors.
Buy it: Joovy Noodle Toddler Bike Helmet, $25, Amazon.com
Popular for its adult gear, Bern also makes some of the best toddler helmets around. The Niño and Niña Youth Satin Helmets feature the brand’s Zipmold+ technology, which consists of liquid-injected foam that’s lightweight but sturdy, providing good impact-protection and a high strength-to-weight ratio. The toddler bike helmet also includes a simple but secure Velcro adjustment and soft flip visor to offer additional protection when your child needs it.
Buy it: Bern Niño and Niña Youth Satin Helmets, $40, DicksSportingGoods.com
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Published September 2020