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Whether you’re an avid biker who’s raring to take your little one out in a bike seat or trailer, or you’re just excited for your toddler to burn some energy on their new balance bike, there’s one absolute essential you’ll need to get started: a toddler helmet.

Whether they’re riding in a trailer behind your bike or are flying solo on their first set of wheels, wearing a helmet is crucial to keep your precious child’s skull and brain safe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), helmets worn by children while biking reduce the rate of head injury by 60 percent, and reduce fatalities by about 73 percent.

This means that wearing a helmet is one of the most important things you can do to protect your little one’s rapidly developing brain.

When it comes to biking under their own power, toddlers may be ready for a balance bike between 18 months and 2 years old. By the age of 3, they can likely pedal a tricycle or small bike with training wheels.

Whatever they’re using to put the pedal to the metal, wearing a helmet is key.

Babies and bike safety

If you’re an avid cyclist and chomping at the bit to bring your baby on the road in a trailer or carrier seat, you might want to pump the brakes — the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute doesn’t recommend taking your baby on a bike before age 1.

Regardless of how strong of a rider you are, the bumps and shakes that occur on the road are simply too much for your little one’s head and neck to take on in their first year, even with a helmet.

You can (and should) always ask your pediatrician for a recommendation regarding when it’s safe to take your baby on a bike.

Yes, they make helmets specifically for tiny noggins! There are a few key factors you’ll want to consider when choosing a helmet for your toddler:

  • Fit. Proper fit is what ensures the helmet will protect your kiddo’s brain like it should. Toddler helmets should last a few years, as most models have removable pads to make the helmet more or less snug on your child’s head as they grow.
  • Lightweight construction. Tiny toddler necks are already doing a lot of work supporting their disproportionately large heads, so you don’t want the helmet to add unnecessary weight.
  • Plenty of ventilation. Air vents will ensure that your toddler isn’t a grumpy, sweaty mess (at least, any more than usual) by the end of the bike ride.
  • MIPS designation. While all children’s bike helmets should meet the CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) standards, some helmet manufacturers are going above and beyond to include the MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) safety feature in their helmets. These helmets have an extra “cage” type structure inside that rotates and allows the helmet to absorb the impact of a crash from any angle. Of course, this added feature typically costs more than non-MIPS helmets. If a helmet fits well and your kid will wear it, it’s probably good enough without MIPS.

To find the correct fit for your toddler’s bike helmet, you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Measure. You can use a soft tape measure around your toddler’s head to find their proper helmet size (most helmets are sized in centimeters).
  2. Position. The helmet should sit flat on your toddler’s head, and about one or two finger-widths above their eyebrows.
  3. Side straps. The helmet’s side straps should form a “V” shape under and a bit in front of your toddler’s ears.
  4. Buckle. For most helmet designs, the buckle should be centered under your child’s chin.
  5. Chin strap. The chin strap should be buckled, then tightened to fit snugly under your toddler’s chin (there should be room for no more than one or two fingers under the strap).
  6. Test. To do a final fit test, have your toddler open their mouth wide. The helmet should pull down on their head (if it doesn’t, tighten the strap). The helmet also shouldn’t rock back and forth or slide down over their eyebrows. If it slides forward, try tightening the back strap. If the helmet is sliding backwards, try tightening the front strap.

This info sheet from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides an even more detailed guide to ensuring a perfect helmet fit.

While getting a toddler to actually wear a helmet can be a battle, it’s one well worth fighting.

Start from the very first bike ride, whether they’re at the helm or a passenger with you — wearing a helmet should always be a part of their experience on wheels.

And, not only is it the smart thing to do, wearing a helmet yourself sets a great example!

Pro tip: If your toddler is extra resistant to the helmet, try wearing it yourself (we know, it will look goofy — that’s parenthood) or putting it on their favorite stuffed animal for a while until your kid is begging to wear “their helmet” instead.

We considered the recommended safety features, parent reviews, and added features for the price point when we chose these toddler bike helmets.

Price guide

  • $ = under $30
  • $$ = $30–$50
  • $$$ = over $50

Best MIPS-certified toddler helmet

Giro Scamp MIPS Helmet

Price: $$$

This highly-rated helmet offers a winning combo of features. It’s lightweight, comfortable, easy to adjust, and you can purchase it with or without the MIPS protection system (although this is our favorite when purchased with the MIPS feature).

The flat back is perfect if your child is riding in a bike seat or trailer, and it comes in two sizes to ensure a fit for every toddler.

Most durable toddler helmet

Specialized Mio MIPS Toddler Helmet

Price: $$$

Specialized is one of the most well-respected names in cycling gear, and their toddler helmet is no exception.

The Specialized Mio comes equipped with the MIPS safety system, a magnetic buckle (which is just plain easier to use), a simple dial-adjust system, and is made of quality materials that will withstand a lot of use.
Parents love how user-friendly this helmet is, although a few said it was too shallow for their toddler with a large head.

Best toddler helmet with fun designs

Nutcase Baby Nutty Helmet

Price: $$$

The name alone has to make you smile, and the fun designs available for this helmet are sure to make your toddler happy, too. From flowers to spaceships to dinosaurs, there’s something for every kid.

This skater-style helmet offers extended head coverage compared to other helmets, an elastic adjustment system, a magnetic buckle, and a padded chin strap that all gain rave reviews for comfort and ease of use.

Best toddler helmet for scooters

Kamugo Helmet with Protective Pad Set

Price: $$

If your child prefers to ride a scooter over a bike, this CPSC-certified, skater style helmet may be a good choice.

It isn’t as pricey as some of the more feature-packed bike helmets, and includes a set of knee, wrist, and elbow pads to help cushion your little one when they fall.

However, if you have a daredevil on your hands, or your child also bikes frequently, one of the bike helmets on this list is probably your best bet for comprehensive safety features (and of course can be worn while scootering as well).

Best budget-friendly toddler helmet

Joovy Noodle Helmet

Price: $

A top-rated toddler helmet, the Joovy Noodle is hard to beat when it comes to features for the price. It’s super lightweight, features a dial-adjust system that fits even the smallest noggins, comes in a variety of colors, and has colored buckles that are easy to find.

If you need a basic, safe toddler helmet that you won’t feel badly about replacing when they outgrow it, the Joovy Noodle is a great choice.

Most adjustable toddler helmet

Lazer Lil Gekko Helmet (with MIPS)

Price: $$

The Lil Gekko helmet from Lazer offers an ingenious auto-fit system that automatically adjusts to your child’s head each time they put the helmet on (so less fiddling for you!). It also features a side buckle, instead of the typical buckle that pinches loose skin under the chin.

The tension wire auto-fit system and the buckle placement earned this our top spot for most adjustable toddler helmet. It also has a built-in visor and can be purchased with or without the MIPS feature.

Best toddler helmet for comfort

Uvex Hero Helmet

Price: $$

The Uvex Hero Helmet is made from top quality materials and features a racing style design (your toddler will love that it looks like a grown-up racing helmet).

With a dial-adjust fit system, a variety of fun designs, and a no-pinch buckle, this helmet is a solid choice for your tiny biker.

Parents say this helmet is great for ventilation and keeping little heads cool. Another great feature is that the buckle system closes slowly, rather than the typical buckle that “snaps” and can easily pinch your toddler’s skin.

There are a number of fantastic options for keeping your toddler safe on wheels.

The most important thing is that they wear a helmet when biking, and that the helmet fits properly. With the essentials in place, you can gear up for hours of family fun on wheels!