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.
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 to do.
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 is 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 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 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 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 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 backward 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:
- 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 of how to get up here.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep your skating session short. Your kid’s 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.