Tennis Basics for Children – The Parents Guide

Tennis can be a kind of a hard game for a small child to learn. But it is awfully fun and worth spending a bit of time trying to teach your kids how to play, even if they don’t become the next tennis superstar at least you will always have a new partner to play with if you are looking for a game.

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Tennis is perfect for kids because it is fast paced, so they don’t get bored and it also helps children develop speed and strength. Another benefit is that tennis is a very good sport for cardiovascular health and hand eye coordination.

When starting to teach kids tennis you need to remember to keep it fun and simple. In recent years equipment and products (smaller rackets, tennis balls that don’t bounce as high as regular tennis balls) have been developed that are specifically made for small kids that helps make the game much more enjoyable to play. There are even kits that you can buy that let you easily modify the size of a tennis court so children don’t get tired and frustrated from running around a huge court.

When to Start

You may be wondering when you should start trying to teach your child how to play tennis. A lot depends on the child, if they have shown an interest, you can get rackets and balls that is tailored for kids 4 and under. If you are looking for lessons it is possible to find people willing to give lessons to children as young as four or five years. If you are going to start this young make sure you get a good child sized racket and some of high density balls that will help avoid frustration.

Equipment

Luckily for parents there are some really amazing products for kids less than 10 years old to help them learn to play tennis that are tailored for their size and age. It may be tempting to pull out an old adult sized racket from your garage for your kids to practice with, but keep in mind that a larger racket may be a bit too big for a small child to handle without getting frustrated. A smaller model will help kids feel more comfortable.
Another cool innovation in the tennis world is the foam or the low-compression felt tennis balls. What is cool about these balls is that some of them are 15% bigger than regular tennis balls making it easier for kids to hit. They also rebound slower (some 75% slower) when they hit the racket and they don’t bounce as high so they are perfect for beginners and children. There is huge range of balls for kids depending on their age and ability so you might have to hunt around to find one that is right.

When you feel like your child is ready to use a net you should also consider playing within a smaller area than a typical tennis court. If you are playing with an older child you can use half a court. If you are playing with a really small child you can get a portable mini tennis net which allows you to set up and play within a small area so your kids won’t tire themselves out chasing the ball around a full court and they will be able to focus on building up their skills.

Getting Started

Since it is very difficult to teach a child something they aren’t that interested in it is best to introduce the game of tennis slowly and show them how fun it can be by doing some simple activities that will get them familiar with the racket, the ball, movement and balance.

Before you even hit the court find a yard or a park and just play around with the ball and the racket. A couple of simple things to do:

  • Throw the ball to your child and have them try to hit it back to you
  • Have your kids try bouncing a ball on the ground and then catching it
  • See if they can walk along a line with the ball on their tennis rackets
  • You can try hitting the ball back and forth with your kids with no net, you don’t need to worry if the ball bounces more than one time before they hit it.
  • Have your kids hit a ball against a wall.
  • You can show them that in tennis you move around the court so you can have them practice moving in different directions holding the racket (side to side, backwards and forwards, etc.)
  • Keep your session or practice short, no more than half an hour for kids ages 4 to 7. If they don’t seem to be having fun, stop and try again another day. The goal is to get them to want to do it again.

Etiquette and Sportsmanship

When you are ready to move onto a court you will want to go over some of the basic etiquette to follow especially if there are other players on the court. Depending on their age and where you are playing you don’t need to go into too much detail and overwhelm your kids. Talk to them about some of the basic concepts and as they progress you can add more into the mix. This is what they need to know:

  • If you are playing on a court where other people are waiting the general rule is that you should give up the court if you have been there an hour.
  • Let them know that it isn’t generally a good idea to be yelling or making loud noises on the court.
  • You can teach them good sportsmanship by saying “Good match” at the end of the game regardless of who wins.
  • If another player’s ball comes into your court you can stop playing and get the ball.

 

Simple Rules and Concepts

At this point you can start explaining some of the rules and the object of the game.

  • The object of the game to get the ball over the net before it bounces.
  • To start the game you hit the ball to the person you are playing against.
  • The first shot of each game is called a serve.
  • The person you are play with will hit the ball to you and you have to hit the ball before it bounces twice.
  • Hitting the ball back and forth is called a rally.
  • You will score a point when the person you are playing against misses the ball.
  • The person you are playing against scores a point when you hit the ball into the net.
  • It takes four points to win a tennis game. Although don’t keep score at first, when they start to get the hang of it you can use a simple scoring system

The Fundamental Skills

Once kids are starting to get more comfortable with the equipment they will be ready to learn a few basic tennis techniques.  This is the time to teach them the difference between different types of shots, how to serve the ball and begin to get a little bit more in depth about the rules of the game.  In order not to confuse your kids here are a couple of simple things you can start with:

How to Hold the Racket

Before kids get too set in their ways you are going to want to try to have them get their grip right.  This video isn’t the best quality, but it has some good tips on how to get your child to learn the proper tennis grip:

http://vimeo.com/32227722

Forehand

If your kids are able to hit the ball you can begin to add a bit of technique to what they are able to do. To take a forehand shot your kids should face sideways, hold the racquet in their dominant hand then swing it forward at waist level to make contact with the ball.  Here is a helpful video that will show you how to do this.

Rally

A tennis rally happens when player are able to hit the ball back and forth, usually after the ball bounces. Getting a good rally going is one the most fun parts of the game. We have found this great video by Quickstart Tennis on how to build up to a good rally with kids:

How to Serve

It might seem a little ambitious to try to teach a small child how to serve the ball, but since it is such a huge part of the game it is never too early to introduce it as an important skill for kids. This is great short video with good tips on how to get small kids used to the idea of serving the ball.

 

If you have any tips for teaching kids tennis then please let us know in the comments below.

Teaching Golf to Kids – The Parent’s Guide

So you love golf and you want to teach your kids, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Don’t worry we have everything you need to know right here.

Luckily there is a plethora of great information that you can get online that will help kids learn some of the basic skills that are important in golf. We have gone through most of it and have picked out all the information you need to know to get started. We have found the best golf related children’s books, DVDs and some free online videos that you will be able to use to get your kids golfing in no time. Before you know it they will love golf just as much as you do!

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Why Teach Your Kids Golf?

Short answer: because it is awesome. Long answer: golf is a great game for people of all sizes and abilities, you can play it your whole life, you have a great excuse to be outside in nature, you get exercise and it is a lot of fun.

Golf can be kind of an intimidating sport to teach a child. Parents might worry that they are going to teach an incorrect technique and mess up their child’s golf game for life. People love to freak parents out by telling them this, but if you are just trying to get your kids interested in golf you don’t need to worry.  The most important thing when parents are introducing a new sport to kids is that they make it fun, so kids want to do it and learn more.

When Should Kids Start?

There is golf equipment available for kids who can barely walk, but the prevailing wisdom is that you should only start teaching them golf when they show an interest in learning it. So it basically depends on the child, they could be 2 years old or 10 years old, if they want to learn then that is the time to start teaching them.

If your child isn’t showing any interest in golf and it is breaking your heart, you can try to spark an interest by letting really young kids ride along in a golf cart with you while you play. You could also show your kids how much fun it is to whack a ball around in the backyard or in a basement, let them play golf related video games or apps, or just read them some golf related books (see below for a list of recommended books).

Before You Start

Depending on their age and what they already know, you will want to give your kids a general idea of the game. Some of the things that you can go over that might seem obvious to you, but are probably confusing to a child are:

  • How is golf played? Explain that golf is played on a golf course that is divided into nine or eighteen different areas called holes. A round begins on the teeing ground of the first hole.
  • How does the scoring work? Tell them that each time you hit the ball with your club you count one stroke.
  • What is the point of the game? Explain that at the end of each hole is the green where there is a small hole, and that the whole idea of the game is to get your ball into that hole on the green with as few strokes as possible.
  • Explain some of the terminology (e.g. fairway, rough, bunkers, types of golf holes(par 3,4, or 5).
  • What are there different clubs for? Go over why you use different clubs, which clubs are used when etc.

Equipment

Before starting it’s also important you get the right equipment to make the game more enjoyable for your kids. There are lots of options for children’s golf clubs, depending on what fits your budget. Some good places to look for kid’s golf equipment are US Kids Golf  or TheLittlestGolfer.

For younger kids, it’s especially important that you get a small, light bag with a comfortable shoulder strap. You will want to make sure kids are able to carry their clubs or it won’t be fun for anyone.

Since most golf courses have a dress code, you should also let your kids know that they will need to wear a shirt that has a collar, pant or shorts that aren’t too short, socks and shoes.

Etiquette

You don’t need to get too fancy when explaining golf etiquette to kids. Basically they need to know that they have to respect other players by and respect the course by doing things like:

  • Not talking when other players are hitting the ball.
  • Not to taking their practice swings near other people.
  • They should be ready when it is their turn to swing to avoid causing delay for other players who are behind you.
  • They should leave the course in the same way that they found it.
  • They should try to avoid causing damage to the course.

Simple Rules Kids Should Know

Golf has many rules that might be a little overwhelming for a child, so when they are just beginning to learn the game you will probably want to introduce the rules slowly. It’s not always necessary to keep score, but you can show kids how scoring in golf works so they can start to get the idea.  Some basic rules they should know:

  • Play the ball as it lies – this is obviously an important rule in golf.
  • The player farthest from the hole putts first when you are on the green. If there is a chance their ball might hit another players ball, show them how to mark the ball.
  • You can also show them how to pull the flagstick out before the ball goes into the hole to avoid a penalty.
  • Apart from a few exceptions, moving or interfering with the ball is something they shouldn’t do.

The Basic Skills

When you are ready to start, there are a six basic skill that you will want to cover:

  1. Grip
  2. Alignment
  3. Posture
  4. Chipping
  5. Putting
  6. The Full Swing

 

 

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Grip

Start with the easy stuff first, learning the proper grip is fundamental skills that kids need to master before they can develop a great golf swing. Most people recommend the 10 finger grip (also called the baseball grip) for kids.

Check out this video on how to do teach kids the proper grip

Alignment

If your alignment is off then the shot will be off target, so it’s important to spend a bit of time trying to get this right. To get aligned properly, imagine a straight line going from the ball to your target. You then need to align your feet so they are parallel with the target line. Lots of golf instructors use the analogy of a train track when trying to explain this. So basically you tell the kids to imagine they are shooting the ball down a train track where the child is standing on the inner rail and the ball is on the outer rail which runs to the target. There is a good picture of it in Golf Digest.

Check out this video that has another approach to teach kids alignment:

Posture

Posture is another important thing to try to get right before your kids take a shot. Some things to keep in mind about posture are your child should stand straight with the club extended out in front of him or her at waist height. Then they can bend forward at the waist until the club hits the ground and their knees are slightly flexed. They should try to keep their weight on the balls of their feet and the spine should be at a good straight angle.

Putting

Putting is a fun aspect of golf for kids.  If they seem to be struggling with it, you can make sure they are placing their feet about shoulder width apart and pointing their toes straight out. Have them slightly bend their knees and make sure they are keeping their body straight. They should then take a good at the hole then back at the ball and bring the putter straight back hit the ball smoothly toward the hole.

Chipping

The chip shot is used when the ball is close to the green but not on it. It is the type of shot you use when you are trying to get the ball over the taller grass in the rough onto the green. When doing a chip shot show kids they should use a 7 or 9 iron.

The Full Swing

When kids are doing a full swing make sure their feet are shoulder width apart. Their back foot should be pointing straight out from their body. The front foot is turned slightly towards the hole. With their back straight, they can bend their knees a little. Have them bring the club back and as they do that they should transfer their weight to their back foot. Then they can sweep the club through the ball. As you do this their weight will move with the club and end up on their front foot.

This is good series with some helpful hints on how to do the swing for a 5 year old, 7 year old and a 12 year old

DVDs

An easy way to help kids learn golf basics is through an instructional DVD. Surprisingly, there aren’t that many golf DVDs for kids and the ones that are available have slightly mixed reviews.

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  • The Better Golf Academy: Better Golf for Kids Vol. 1 introduces the basics of golf with a special teaching method especially developed for children. The DVD goes over what kids need to know including: safety and getting started, the swing, pitching, sand play, chipping, putting, playing by the rules. You can view a preview of it here.
  • gotGolf? Teaching Kids Golf: Short Game is a DVD that is for parents, coaches and teachers. TSome of the topics that are covered are grip techniques, the put, chipping, pitching, the Bump and Run, Sand Shots, Flop Shots .
  • gotGolf? Teaching Kids Golf: Swing Fundamentals covers (you guessed it) swing fundamentals. If you are having trouble teaching your kids how to swing the club then this is a good option. Although, it isn’t a great DVD if you are looking for a general golf DVD, you would be better off getting The Better Golf Academy DVD.

Books

Books are obviously a useful tool in helping children learn about golf and to help develop a love of the game. We have included story books and instructional books, as well as a couple of books for parents who are looking for some good info on how to teach their kids golf.
Books for Younger Kids

  • P is for Putt: A Golf Alphabet (Sports Alphabet) By the prolific children’s sport writer Brad Herzog, this ABC book goes over some golf history and some of the big name. These ABC series are very popular.
  • Consider It Golf: Golf Etiquette and Safety Tips for Children! is part of a series of golf themed books (Count on Golf, The ABC’s of Golf, Swing Into Opposites with Golf , Junior Golf Journal) by Susan Greene. This book uses rhymes and illustrations to teach golf etiquette and course safety to kids. From repairing your divot to being a good sport, the beginner golfer is introduced to proper conduct on the golf course. This book puts many of the golf rules and safety concerns into easy to understand kid language. It’s a great place to start when introducing your child to golf.

Books for Kids Ages 8+

  • The Kids Book of Golf (ages 8-12) is a bit old school, but it is would be a good book for a slightly older child who is interested in learning about golf who doesn’t really know much already. It has a little bit about the history, parts of a golf course, info on clubs, a bit about some of the basics that kids should know(grip, putting, chipping, full swing), rules, warming up, some drills, games within the game, tips from the pros, info about some of the major tournament, etc. It is basically a very easy to read book for kids that gives a decent overview for kids who are interested in learning about the game.
  • Golf: From Tee to Green-The Essential Guide for Young GolfersThis book has easy-to-follow instructions that can help with the all-round play of any young golfer, covers tee shots, iron play, pitching, chipping, coping with bunkers and the green. It also has sections on the history of the game, the all-time great players, famous holes and memorable tournaments.
  • Francis and Eddie: The True Story of America’s Underdogs is a story book based on a bit of interesting golf history that involved a child. A century ago, in 1913, the world’s finest golfers gathered at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, to compete in golf’s national championship, the U.S. Open. Joining them was a little-known amateur, 20-year-old Francis Ouimet, who lived across the street from the course and taught himself to play by sneaking onto the fairways with the only golf club he owned. His caddie was a ten-year-old Eddie Lowery.

For Parents

  • Daddy Caddy On the Bag: Coach Your Child to Peak Golf Performance is kind of a cool book that is written specially for parents who are teaching their own kids to play golf. This book is for parents who are fairly serious and are looking to really coach their child rather than just teach them the game for the fun of it. It covers things like important golf skills development, caddying for your kid, emotions and mental challenges that kids face, and how to be a good coach.
  • Teaching Kids Golf: A Baffled Parent’s Guide is sort of the opposite of the Daddy Caddy book mentioned above. It is much more laid back. This is a good book if you are looking for something just to introduce golf you to kids, not create the next golf superstar. It’s a gentle intro to teaching kids golf, it shows parents how to teach their kids the various things they need to know but it really stresses that golf first and foremost should be fun for kids, especially younger kids. The book covers everything from the basics of proper grip and swing techniques, to putting, pitching, driving, and managing time on the course.

photo credit: Fairy Heart ♥ via photopin cc

12 Easy Ways to Introduce Ballet to Children

There are a lot of great reasons to get children interested in ballet. Not only does learning ballet enhance a child’s confidence, focus, physical strength, and grace; it also exposes them to great art and music in a way that other physical activities don’t. Dancing is a really good activity for both girls and boys, and there are lots of easy ways to teach them about ballet at home. We have found some wonderful DVDs, books, music and games that can help kids learn everything they need to know about ballet.

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Ballet DVDs

An easy way to get small children to learn a few ballet positions and some of the basic terms is to let them watch a DVD. There are quite a lot of ballet DVDs for kids, here are a few of the most popular and some of our favourites:

Toddler and preschoolers will love Baby Ballet. It is a fantastic introduction for children ages 4 to 6. You can watch a preview of the Baby Ballet DVD that shows the step-by-step formal ballet class including a barre warm-up, stretches, center practice and across the floor combinations by dance teacher Rosemary Boross. You can get the Baby Ballet DVD on its own, or as part of a compilation DVD called Dancing for Kids also by Rosemary Boross that includes Baby Ballet as well as with Tot Tap and Junior Jazz.

Another great choice for younger kids is Tinkerbell’s Learn Ballet Step by Step. You can view a preview with instructor Michelle Lungberg, who takes kids through step-by-step instructions & easy-to-learn steps. Some of the things that are taught include
1st through 5th positions, Pliés, Tondus, Degajés, Rondejámbs, Passés, & Piqués.

Petite Feet for kids ages 2-5 uses engaging and imaginative exercises, games and stories to introduce children to basic ballet positions and vocabulary, as well as general dance and musical concepts. The preview gives a good overview of what you can expect with this DVD.

When small kids are interested in ballet it’s a great opportunity to also get them interested in in some of the classic ballet stories and music as well. Along with the instructional DVDs, your kids might really enjoy learning about ballet stories. There are a few really cool DVDs that will introduce kids to some of the great ballets in a kid friendly way. A great series that does this is by Prima Princessa they have DVDs for the Swan Lake,  The Nutcracker , and Sleeping Beauty.

A similar DVD to the Prima Princessa DVD is the  My First Ballet Collection that has excerpted performances including Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Cinderella as well as others that are perfect for young kids.

Books

Since ballet is such a favourite activity for yosung children to get interested in, there are some fantastic ballet books available. We are only featuring books that are a good introduction to ballet, but there are many story books that would also be wonderful for any ballet obsessed child. Here are a few really lovely books about ballet:

  • Prima Princessa Ballet for Beginners by Mary Kate Mellow is a book from the same people who did the Prima Princessa DVDs.  This book is sort of an insider’s look at the New York City’s School of American Ballet (SAB) in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and one of the cool things about it is that it shows how dancers train. It has images of young students demonstrating all the basic positions, and what goes into getting ready for a performance.
  • A Child’s Introduction to Ballet by Laura Lee and Meredith Hamilton is a book and CD that introduces kids to twenty-five of the world’s best-loved ballets through fun facts, dancing instruction, history, information, artwork, and profiles of the world’s great dancers, choreographers, and composers. There are also instructions on ballet positions and the key moves that kids will love to learn.
  • Ballerina: A Step-by-Step Guide to Ballet by Jane Hackett is an introduction to ballet guide that has beautiful photographs, informative text, and a free instructional DVD to help beginner and intermediate ballet students.
  • My First Ballet Book for ages 5- 8 is a practical introductory guide to ballet. It goes through what to wear and to how to perfect positions, it also teaches kids about turns, leaps, and arabesques and it also show what goes on behind the scenes at a performance. The book is full of hints, tips, and step-by-step instructions.

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Websites

  • Wish Upon a Ballet has everything your young ballet dancer needs to know. The site has ballet history, ballet stories information on famous ballet dancers and much more.

Hopefully you found something that can help your budding ballerina or ballerino. If you have any great resources that you use to teach your kids ballet at home please let us know in the comments below.

photo credit: Patricia Mellin via photopin cc

photo credit: calafellvalo via photopin cc

Easy Ways to Help Kids Learn to Snowboard

If you know how to snowboard and would like to teach your own kids, or would like to practice with your kids after a lesson, we have some great tips and resources to help you get started.

Parents might wonder what the best age to get kids started, it used to be that age 7 was thought be the best age to start, because most kids begin to develop enough core strength and coordination to be able to handle the board. That idea has changed in the last five years with the introduction new gear and the Riglet Parks by Burton, that have made it possible for kids as young as three to learn. There are still lots of people who think that is too young and it is best to wait until kids are a bit older, but if you have a child who is really eager to learn and you want to teach them, then there is no reason not to.

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Before you Start

  • Make sure your kids actually want to learn. If they would rather ski then let them ski. Lots of kids start on skis and then switch over to boarding when they are ready. Just because it is possible for a three year old to do it, doesn’t mean that they are going to want to snowboard. If they don’t want to learn then it will be very difficult to teach them anything and since the point of boarding is to have fun, if your kid isn’t into it then leave it for a while and try again another day.
  • Get them used to the gear.  Before hitting the slopes you can get them used to what they can expect. If you have bought a board, have them stand on it and show them how to distribute their weight evenly. You can explain to them how they will be using their toes and their heels to change direction and stop. Have your child practice putting on and taking off the board while sitting down. Show them parts of the board, so they will know what you are talking about when you are on the hill.
  • Plan on keeping learning sessions short in the beginning. Young kids don’t have the kind of endurance and focus that older kids do. So keep your beginning lessons short, and let your child take breaks as often as they need to. Younger kids will probably only be good for about an hour before needing a break.

Gear for Kids

Obviously before kids can even start they need to have the right gear. Make sure you have/rent:

  • Snowboard – If you are looking for a board for a 3 to 5 year old check out these ones from Burton. They are light, flexible, and have a convex base that makes it easy for a kid to roll from edge to edge and to learn how to stop. You can get these boards as small as 80 cm so kids as young as 3 can use them. If your kids are very small you may want to have a look at the Burton Riglet Board Reel that attaches on to the front of the board so you are able to tow your toddler along and help get them used to riding and balancing on the board. If you are looking for some other board for small kids you can try the Flow Micron Mini that also comes in 80 cm length or the Rome Minishred Rocker  that you can get as small as 90 cm.
  • Boots – There are some great Velcro soft boarding boots around, some of the Velcro Grom boots are available as small as a child’s 11.
  • Helmet – Make sure to get a snow sports helmet that will give them protection for the back of their heads as well as allow space for their goggles and will keep their heads warm but allow for ventilation if they get too hot.
  • Goggles are important to help protect kid’s eyes from UVA and UVB sunrays, which are super harsh when reflected off the white snow.
  • Gloves or Mittens. Buy gloves that are warm, waterproof and breathable. You can get special snowboarding gloves that have an outer wrist protector. If you don’t have gloves with a wrist protector, consider using inline skating wrist guards to help protect your kids from getting a broken wrist.
  • Warm Clothing. Have your kids dress in clothing that is water resistant and won’t make kids sweat too much when they get hot. Make sure they are dressed in layers.

Basic Skills for Kids

Whether you are practicing on a small hill, a backyard, local hill or resort, these are the basics that you are going to want to teach your kids:

Balance – If your kids are very small an easy way to start is by showing them how to balance on their board. If you have a Riglet Board Reel you can pull them around with that to help them get used to the feel of the board.

Skate/Glide – Your kids will need to know how to get around on their board, so one of the first things you should teach them is how to skate. With their front foot strapped in, show them how to move the board by using their back foot and pushing using small steps close to the board. Have them do two pushes, then put their back foot right in front of the back bindings. If you can, attach a stomp pad to the board to make skating and proper foot position easier. Do this on flat terrain and have them do it over and over again until they get it. Snowboard Pro Camp has a good instruction video on how to skate.

Falling and getting up – If your kids are just learning then they are going to be falling a lot. It’s best to teach them how to fall to avoid injury. Try to get them to fall to the uphill side of the slope and to fall onto their forearms or to make a fist rather than falling onto their hands. Once they are down, show them how to get up by lying on their back and put their feet up towards the sky and rolling over quickly on to their knees. Then get them to stand up from their knees with their hands in front of them.

Stopping and controlling speed – It’s important that your kids know how to stop. Show them how to turn onto their heel side edge and lift their toes to stop. Greg Anderson has a good video if you would like a visual demo.  To further gain some control over the board show them how to do a heel slide and a toe slide. Snowboard Pro Camp.com has lots of great intro videos including these ones on how to do a heel slide and a toe slide.

Turning – Once kids have learned how to toe/heel slide then they can start to learn how to turn on their board. There are two ways to turn: heel-side and toe-side. When kids are first learning to turn have them practice on a beginner’s slop. Snowboard Pro Camp has a another really good tutorial on how to turn.

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Etiquette Kids Should Know

If you are heading out to a local hill make sure you go over with your kids some of the basic etiquette.

  • The most important rule that kids should know is that that skiers and boarder in front of them always have the right-of-way.
  • It is also important that they never stop where they can’t be seen by people above them on the hill.
  • If they do fall, they should get up quickly to avoid getting run over.
  • Before starting down the slope they should look uphill to make sure no one is coming.
  • Before turning they should check their ‘blind spot’ for other boarders and skiers.

Free Online Lessons for Kids

  • The Kellogg Show has a really good overview on how to approach a lesson with a very small child. Including having the kids go down the hill sitting on the board as though it is a sled, so they can see how fun it is. It also shows how to teach kids to stop and keep them motivated with a hot chocolate reward.
  • Snowboards Secret TV follows a 9 year on a simple lesson for a beginner. It gives a good review of what you should be going over with your kids.
  • A former instructor has a good video tutorial on how to teach kids.  He goes over tips on gear, skating/gliding, stopping, heel turns, toe turns, c-turns and s-turns.

Hopefully you found something that might help you teach your kids to snowboard. If you have any tips for kids let us know in the comments below.

photo credit: steveyb via photopin cc

Teaching Kids The Basics Of Hockey – Even If You’re Not An Expert Yourself.

It’s winter, and for a lot of people, that means one thing: Hockey!

Here in Canada, a lot of kids wind up playing hockey in some form, and why not, kids love playing hockey. They do, however, have to start somewhere. As a wise person once said: The journey of a thousand goals starts with a single puck. (It was me, I said that.)

Whether your kid just plans to play at the local rink with friends, or they want to get into the league system eventually, they need to know the basics. They can take lessons of course, but even if they do, a little bit of instruction beforehand goes a long way.

Or maybe you want to really get into it, and give them extensive coaching yourself – and why not, it certainly worked for Walter Gretzky. The good news is that you don’t need to be a hockey expert to get your kid started. The amount of videos out there (and other resources) is astounding, and you can get up to speed in no time.

So lace up those teaching skates and keep reading, while we guide you on your journey from the backyard rink to the big leagues.

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Basic Hockey Skills Parents Can Teach Their Kids

Skating including stopping, turning and skating backwards

Obviously, the first skill that your child will need is the ability to skate. The main idea is that they’ll want to (eventually) be able to skate forwards and backwards. They’ll also need to learn to stop, and turn.

Basic Skating: The first place we’re going to recommend for tips is of course our own post on How To Teach Kids Ice Skating. We’ve got some good pointers in there, as well as equipment tips.

Stopping: A great way for kids to stop while skating is the snowplough maneouver. You basically just get them to turn their skates towards each other at the toe and push their heels out. Check out this Youtube video for a good demonstration.

Turning: When learning to skate, kids will instinctively learn to turn by using a two foot glide and leaning into the direction they want to go. This video gives you some simple instructions on turning, for beginners.

Once they’ve mastered turning, kids should move on to crossover turns. These are more advanced turns where the legs – you guessed it – cross over. When your kid is ready to learn these, check this video out.

Skating Backwards: This is one of the hardest skills to learn for smaller kids, especially when holding a hockey stick. A good video on this would be How to Skate Backwards in Hockey.

Holding the Stick: To avoid bad habits, it’s important that kids hold the stick properly, right from the start. Again we head to Youtube, where former NHL-er Steve Coates demonstrates the correct way method.

Make Sure the Stick is the Correct Height: Hold the stick vertically, with the tip of the blade touching the floor. You want the top of the stick to be at eye level with your child. (That’s if they’re in socks – if they’re in skates, the top of the stick should be where their chin is.)

Puck Control and Stick Handling: Being able to control the puck (also known as Stick Handling) is key to being a decent hockey player. A simple way to work on this is by practicing with a tennis ball. By having a way to do it away from the ice, your kid can get in a lot of quality hours on the road, driveway, or even in the basement. For pointers, we found this training video that has some great stick handling tips.

Passing the Puck: Passing is, of course, an extremely important skill. The best way to learn passing is visually, and the best video we could find on the subject was this demonstration by Pennsylvania hockey instructor Al MacCormack.

Shooting: There are a few different types of shots in hockey. The best thing for a beginner to learn is the Wrist Shot. We found this very detailed video that should get your kid on the right track.

outdoor hockey kids

Hockey Books for Kids

If you are looking for more info about hockey for kids check out these books:

  • Kids’ Book Of Hockey: Skills, Strategies, Equipment, and the Rules of the Game by John Sias goes over all the rules of hockey, and everything that your kids need to know if they want to learn how to play. It also has facts, details and good simple explanations for kids who are learning the game.
  • Hockey 123 by Christopher Jordan is a great book for preschool kids, to help introduce them to the main concepts behind hockey. If you like this one, there are a number of books in the series, including Hockey ABC and Hockey Shapes. Kids can count players, sticks and Stanley cups; explore the colours of the rainbow through team logos and sweaters; look for familiar shapes amongst pucks, scoreboards and nets, and work their way through an alphabet from Arena to Zamboni.
  • Hockey Canada’s Learn All About Hockey: Color and Activity is a hockey workbook where kids can colour, follow mazes, do word searches, and more. All details of the game, from the dimensions of the ice surface to the rules, are included. There are images of referee hand signals for penalties, off sides, goals and more. Players are also introduced to each piece of equipment, and taught how it’s used. The book follows two teams as they compete in a hockey game.
  • Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet by Matt Napier and Melanie Rose is an alphabet book for very young kids that is all about hockey. It has entries on the rules, players, coaches, teams, and the history of the game. This book would make a great gift.

 

photo credit: roland via photopin cc

photo credit: JeremyOK via photopin cc

Teach Your Kids to Ice Skate

If you are looking for a fun, budget friendly winter sport to do with your children, why not try ice skating?

If you know how to skate yourself then there is no reason that you can’t teach your kids the basic moves such as stopping, starting, falling down, getting up and gliding that will get them skating on their own in no time.

It might be a little daunting to teach a child yourself, but once they get the hang of it they will love it, so it is definitely worth a little bit of effort.

ice skating child
 

Before beginning you will need to have some equipment. Obviously, you will need skates and it’s also a good idea to get a helmet. If you would like some extra protection for your children, some people recommend getting knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards, although they are not necessary. Kids should also always wear gloves or mittens when skating.

Best Skates for Children

There are lots of options for beginners in terms of types of skates that parents can choose. There are double bladed, toddler, adjustable, figure and hockey skates. All the different types have positives and negatives depending on what type of activity you are planning doing.

If you are a little wary of buying a pair of skates for a rapidly growing toddler you can try Double Runner Skates. Double runners are basically 2 blades that you strap onto your child’s boots. They are relatively inexpensive and can help toddlers get used to the idea of gliding on the ice. There is some debate as to whether double blades are a good idea or not. People argue that using a double runner doesn’t help beginners learn and you would be better just putting the money towards a pair of regular skates, but they are an option to keep in mind if you don’t want to spend a lot of money and just want to get your toddler out on the ice.

If you would like to go right to regular blades Bauer Lil Angel or the Bauer Lil Champ  are popular choices for children under 5. They are reasonably priced and have enough support for a small child. You can find these products almost anywhere; they are sort of the standard for very young children.

Another good option are boots that are adjustable. They cost a little bit more, but you should be able to get 2-3 years out of them because you can usually adjust the boot part to three different sizes. Lake Placid has some great adjustable models for boys and girls.  Although the Lake Placid girls model has a toe pick, which is something that you generally want to avoid when selecting a skate for a beginner. You should avoid to picks because they tend to trip up beginners. If you do end up with a pair with a toe pick and your child is having trouble with it, you can have it removed from the same place that you get your skates sharpened.

If your little one is thinking about getting into hockey and you would like to start them off with a hockey equipment you can try the Bauer Vapor X30 Youth Hockey. There are lots of options for beginner hockey skates, but the Bauer model is a good choice for a reasonable price.  For older children who just need a pair of decent recreational blades then have a look at the American Athletic Shoe Girl’s Tricot Lined Ice Skate. This American Athletic model is another great beginner option for the price.

Most of the products we listed fit small, so you may want to consider buying one size up if you end up ordering them online. Before you get hit the ice, make sure that the blades have been sharpened and it is also a good idea to have your kids put on their skates and walk around off ice (if you are at home use an old piece of carpet or large rubber mat) for a while to help them get used to the feel of the boot, you will probably need to hold their hands to keep them stable.

Helmets

Helmets are highly recommended for anyone who is learning.  Most recreational rinks (in Canada) will not allow children under 12 to skate without a helmet. Safety experts recommend that they wear a bicycle, skateboard, hockey or snow sports (ski) helmet. Although there is growing concern from some groups that bike helmets don’t offer enough protection to the back of the head when you fall backwards and smack your heads on the ice. A lot of helmets are in the $50 price range, but some rinks offer free helmets to borrow or for a small rental fee.  Since sizing for helmets can vary quite a bit, try helmets on before you buy one.

Pointers and Tips to get Started

Once you are all set up with your equipment you just need to focus on a few things in the beginning:

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  1. Start with teaching your child how to fall down and get back up.  If your kids are going to skate they will fall down, so to help get over the fear of falling have them fall down and get up over and over until they get the hang of it. Try to get your child to fall onto their side and then they can roll into a crawl position. Then have them kneel on both knees and, while keeping their back straight, bring one skate up onto the ice and push down on that knee. This will help your kids pull themselves up and bring the other skate onto the ice. There is a very good explanation on how to get up here.
  2. Consider using a teaching aid for the first few attempts at skating. You can use a chair, a 5-gallon paint bucket, pylon, Child Skate Trainer, or milk crate and just have your child push it around the ice. If you are going to a rink you should check with the rink before bringing any of these aids.  They may not allow aids or might have a particular aid that they will rent or let you borrow for a session. If you can find a rink that isn’t crowded, like an outdoor, backyard rink or pond (only if it is safe), it will be much nicer and less stressful for your children to learn.
  3. To get your kids moving on the ice have them pick their feet up and down and march to move forward. You are basically just having them sort of walk on the ice as though they are marching. Make sure they keep their knees bent.  If you want to go a bit further check out this video to see a few more things that you can teach to a beginner.
  4. If your child is feeling a bit unstable they can bend their knees and put their hand on their knees- this will help stop them from falling. Try to get your kids not to look at their feet, but to look forward in the direction they want to go. They can also hold out their arms in a hug position to themselves balanced. Reminding them to keep their knees bent will help a lot with keeping them upright and stable.
  5. Keep your skating session short.  Your kids feet might hurt a bit and you will want to keep it fun and help encourage them to love skating. If they seem to be losing interest or are getting frustrated then let them stop and try it again another day.

 

photo credit: photo credit: JeremyOK via photopin cc