So, you want to strap sharp blades to your kid’s feet and let them stand on frozen water? I had long dreamed of a little foot resting between my knees, me hunched over, a drip of snot hanging from the tip of my nose, my raw, dry fingers threading the lace through the little skate eye hole. Call it a “Bucket List” item.
My 4ish year-old daughter skated on my very makeshift backyard rink last winter and I taught her to skate the winter before. We got my 2ish year-old boy up on skates for the first time just a few weeks ago at a public skating open ice. I am no expert, but in an effort to help other parents this season, I have put together a Top 10 “Ways Not To Such At Teaching Your Kids To Skate” list.
1. Don’t buy/borrow/use cheese cutter skates
We don’t put out kids in extra big shoes to work on their balance. When you teach them to drive, will it be in an 18 wheel truck? If the objective is to teach your kid balance on one blade I have long believed that using the cheese cutters is counter-productive. You may as well just let them walk on the ice in their boots. They will be fine. Figure skates. Hockey skates. It doesn’t matter.
2. There are no boy or girl skates
It’s 2016; there are no boy skates and girl skates. There are hockey skates and figure skates. Figure skates have toe-pics on the end and hockey skates don’t. It drives me mad to hear people still use those terms – especially as the father of a little girl who already in her short little life has heard the term “boy skates” too many times.
3. Invest in a helmet with a mask
They don’t need to look tough for Don Cherry. A full cage is a must. You will see lots of kids without a cage or plastic face shield. But there are all kinds of reasons why a face shield is a must. For example, if they fall near other kids they can get dangerously close to the other kids’ blade. Or, they can fall quickly and might not have the reaction time to bring their hands up to cover their nose. It just makes sense. Yes, it costs a bit more, but you will have helmet and cage for years.
4. Don’t dress them for outdoor ice fishing in Northern Ontario
If you’re reading this in Nunavut and planning to skate outside then bundle up. But, if you’re like most readers and you live in an urban centre, chances are your kids first experience will be in a rink. There is no need to layer your kids like the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man. How are they supposed to move? Sure, monitor their hands and face for cold, but be reasonable and give your kids the opportunity to move their extremities.
5. Your kid is going to be bad
So, you have visions of the videos and photos you’re going to take of your kid just taking off on the ice when they step onto the glistening sheet. It ain’t gonna happen. Your kid is going to fall. They are going to trip. They are likely not going to be able to stand up at all the first few times. This experience is huge and very different for them so be patient and don’t push too hard or your risk them not having a good time (see step 6).
6. It’s ok for them to fall and make snow angels on the ice
Let them fall. That’s right, make sure they know that falling is ok and they are not going to get hurt. Sure; protect them and help them fall, but falling is good. Laugh with them. Cheer them on. The more excited you are, the more exited they will be. I’m sure Wayne and Sidney spent lots of time as little kids flailing on the ice. It’s good for them and will make them comfortable. Just like bath time, the more fun they have, the easier it is to accomplish the goal. Resist the urge to mock them.
7. Get to their level and make it fun
You’re a dad (or mom), your days of looking cool are long past. Throw on some snow pants, and get down to your child’s level. If they fall, get on your knees and help them out. Don’t just pick them back-up and hold them. Make them feel in control so they can try themselves. The first thing I did with my kids was hold them between my legs and go very fast around the ice, putting their feet down like rudders so they could feel the ice. They both loved it.
8. First skate lesson plan
The idea is to get them to stand in place on their own. If you can do that the first time out – HUGE SUCCESS. Cheer wildly. Then, the next steps is to make them put their arms out like an airplane and have them take steps towards you. They will march and eventually glide.
9. Hot chocolate and snacks
Be prepared with some snacks and some hot chocolate for the post skate. Your kids are going to be sweaty and hungry. Reward them with that treat. They will be thrilled.
10. Where do you go?
Last but not least, where do you go? Anywhere. You can literally go anywhere there is ice. Most rinks offer public skating for a few dollars where you and your kid can enjoy. Some cities also have artificial outdoor ice. In my hometown of Richmond Hill, the town maintains an outdoor skating path (click here). Do some googling. If you have skated before, I recommend you take your kids out with you before immediately putting them in lessons. Ultimately every town offers skating lessons at the local rink.
Where to shop (for Toronto, Canada based readers):
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