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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 keeping 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 Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) does not 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 standards, be aware that there are different standards by age — helmets can meet CPSC standards for “persons over the age of 1,” which differ from those for children over the age of 5. But there’s more: 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 (cm).
  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 (NHTSA) 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 Giro Scamp also meets the CPSC safety criteria for people more than 1 year of age which includes extended head protection (compared to the CPSC requirements for helmets for children over age 5 years). With the smallest size starting at 45 cm, this is one of the smallest MIPS-equipped helmets on our list.

The flat back is perfect if your child is riding in a bike seat or on a trailer, and it comes in two sizes to ensure a fit for every toddler. Giro is a well-known brand for adult cycling gear. Your little one may love having a helmet that’s like yours when they take off.

Pros

  • The helmet is available in multiple sizes and colors.
  • Can be purchased with or without MIPS.
  • Giro is a reputable brand, and the helmet has a sturdy construction.
  • Looks like an adult helmet, which may be motivating for some toddlers.

Cons

  • A minor downside is the helmet’s visor is built-in, so it can’t be removed as with many adult bike helmets.
  • Some users reported their child’s hair getting stuck in the inner plastic pieces.

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 fit, and is made of quality materials that will withstand a lot of use. The cool adult-like design and easy-to-use magnetic buckle make this helmet a favorite with both parents and kids.

Parents love how user-friendly this helmet is, although a few said it was too shallow for their toddler with a large head.

Pros

  • It’s available in four colors, including one in a geometric pattern.
  • It’s designed to fit children of different ages.
  • The helmet has a user-friendly dial system to adjust fit.
  • The magnetic buckle is easy to use, even for kids.

Cons

  • The helmet is only available in one size.
  • Some parents noted the design was too small for toddlers with a larger head circumference.

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. Letting your toddler pick their own helmet may help motivate them to wear it, which, of course, is an important win when it comes to biking with toddlers.

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. Reviewers laud the magnetic chin strap, in particular, for its ease of use (trust us, you’ll likely be buckling and unbuckling your kid’s helmet many, many times — you want it to be easy).

Pros

  • The magnetic buckle and padded chin strap make it easy to secure and comfortable while buckled.
  • It comes in a wide selection of patterns and colors that kids will find appealing.
  • A dial adjustment system allows you to tighten or loosen the helmet’s fit.
  • Several sizes are available to ensure the correct fit.

Cons

  • The Baby Nutty helmet is at a higher price point compared with other similar products.

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, which is ideal for young children, 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.

The Joovy Noodle comes in two size ranges, which should fit most children. However, if you have an especially young or small toddler, know that the helmet does not come in sizes smaller than 47 cm.

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

Pros

  • You can select from two different sizes: x-small/small, and small/medium.
  • The helmet has a dial-adjustment system that allows you to adjust it.
  • It’s the least expensive option on our list.
  • The helmet is lightweight, which is ideal for young children.

Cons

  • It’s only available in seven solid colors.
  • The smallest size is not as small as some of our other options if you have a younger or smaller toddler you’re shopping for.

Most adjustable toddler helmet

Lazer Lil Gekko Helmet (with MIPS)

Price: $$ to $$$ (depending on design)

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 (which means less fiddling for you!).

Lazer patentedthe auto-fit system. It uses tension wires that are attached to the helmet’s inner “basket,” or the padding at the back of the helmet. Just pull the internal basket back and place the helmet on your toddler’s head. Once released, the wires will gently tighten to adjust to the exact size of the child’s head. The tension-based system allows for a customized fit without hassle. Compared with helmets that require you to manually adjust the fit or your toddler could try to change it themselves and accidentally overly loosen or tighten the helmet, this is a big win.

It also features a side buckle, instead of the typical buckle that can pinch loose skin under the chin. Additionally, the helmet sports 12 ventilation openings, making it breathable and lightweight.

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.

Pros

  • Lazer’s unique auto-fit system will adjust to your child’s head each time they put the helmet on.
  • The helmet’s side buckle will not be as likely to pinch their skin as typical under-chin options.
  • The helmet is breathable and lightweight.
  • It has a cool, racing style and a visor for sun protection.

Cons

  • Only available in one size range and with limited colors.
  • Certain colors are more expensive than others.

Best toddler helmet for hot climates

Bell Sidetrack II MIPS Helmet

Price: $$$

If you live in a climate where you sweat as soon as you walk outside, especially in the summer, Bell’s Sidetrack II MIPS Helmet is worth a look. This sporty helmet comes with the MIPS feature, a removable sun visor, and “sweat-guide padding” that keeps sweat from dripping into your child’s eyes on long, hot, or intense rides. Sunscreen, plus sweat, plus a toddler-level reaction to burning eyes can make for a rough outing, so the sweat-guiding pads are a great feature.

Plenty of ventilation and a relatively lightweight design will also make for a comfy head even during long or particularly hot bike rides. The helmet is available in two sizes that accommodate a range of head dimensions. Measuring your child’s head (in centimeters) can be helpful in ensuring you’re choosing the best fit. Bell recently upgraded their adjustment dial to make fitting the helmet even smoother.

Pros

  • Sporty design and colors will appeal to a lot of children.
  • The helmet’s visor is removable.
  • Sweat-guide padding will help keep sweat out of children’s eyes.
  • It’s available in three size ranges.
  • The helmet’s equipped with a smooth, dial-adjust fit.

Cons

  • Toddler size is not as widely available as the larger child and youth sizes.
  • It’s not quite as lightweight as some other helmets on this list.

HelmetPriceMIPS included/option/noAdjustabilityBuckle TypeSizes Available
Giro Scamp MIPS$$$optiondial-adjustclip45 cm – 53 cm
Specialized Mio MIPS$$$includeddial-adjustmagnetic46 cm – 51 cm
Nutcase Baby Nutty$$$optionelastic and tightening ringmagnetic48 cm – 52 cm
Joovy Noodle$nodial-adjust, removable paddingclip46 cm – 55 cm
Lazer Lil Gekko MIPS$$ to $$$includedauto-fitpadded side clip46 cm – 50 cm
Bell Sidetrack II MIPS$$$optiondial-adjustclip45 cm – 57 cm

What kind of helmet should a 2-year-old wear?

A 2-year-old should wear a bicycle helmet that meets CPSC safety standards for people over age 1 year (here are the complete legal requirements), and importantly, one that fits them correctly (see above for more on getting the perfect fit). The manufacturer’s information for each helmet should state whether they meet CPSC requirements for persons over age 1 year or persons over age 5 years.

Can a 2-year-old wear a bike helmet?

Absolutely! Your 2-year-old can and should wear a bike helmet. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children wear helmets when biking or riding in a bike trailer.

However, neither bike riding and travel, nor helmets, are recommended for infants under 1-year-old per the AAP. This is because babies have somewhat weak neck structure.

How do you choose a toddler helmet?

When choosing a helmet for your toddler, safety comes first. And that means choosing a bike helmet that 1) fits correctly, and 2) is comfortable enough that they will actually wear it. You can also consider cost, how easy the helmet is to adjust, color, and weight.

Aesthetics come last in terms of safety, but picking a helmet your toddler will like and want to wear could mean less challenges for you each time you need them to put it on.

What sizes do helmets come in?

Each brand has its own range of sizes, with some offering one size that’s adjustable to accommodate different kids, and others offering multiple sizes with less adjustability. The smallest helmets we found come in a 45-cm size (often labeled XS, baby, or toddler), while the largest go all the way up to youth or adult sizing (57 cm and above).

You can use a soft tape measure to measure around your child’s head, about one inch above the eyebrows, to get their correct helmet size in centimeters. Many brands also have helpful size guides and measuring instructions to ensure a good fit.

Does a helmet’s appearance change how protective it is?

Appearance doesn’t play a huge role in protection as long as helmets meet the CPSC standards, but there is one design element that’s sometimes added to toddler helmets for aesthetics and can negatively affect their safety.

Some children’s helmets look like they have teddy-bear or puppy ears, or unicorn horns to make them more appealing. However, the CPSC recommends against using helmets that include protruding features, like these, because they “may prevent the helmet’s smooth surface from sliding after a fall, which could lead to injury.”

The CPSC also advises against adding stickers or other decorations to helmets, as they could have a negative effect on the helmet’s performance.

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!