Certainly, I had a lucky childhood.
I went to a top-notch school, had loads of neighborhood friends, engaged in community activities, and participated in a wide-range of extra-curricular activities.
For example, I learned gymnastics, soccer, how to sail, how to cook, and how to garden. Despite all of this, there’s one thing I regret: I never learned how to ice skate.
To this day, I wish I had taken ice skating lessons when I was a toddler. My three-year old self would have been fearless on the ice! Now, unfortunately, my adult self is convinced that stepping onto a rink would result in a broken bone (or two).
Professionals say that kids as young as two can learn how to ice skate. More precisely, kids who are able to walk and have an obvious sense of balance. For some, it may be closer to three years of age.
Additionally, young beginners need to have excellent listening skills and a willingness to follow instructions. Of course, patience, determination, and a sense of humor are helpful, too!
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find preschool skating classes. Some children benefit from learning alongside peers, while others may excel in a one-on-one situation. As the parent, you’ll know what type of learning environment will be best.
The very first step is to getting used to how the skates feel and then learning how to balance on them. This means standing up straight without leaning forward or tilting to either side.
If a child is wobbly, an adult can hold her under the arms for support. Some teachers may opt to use a chair for support or another type of structure; however, we recommend trying to get the hang of things without any props at all.
Going down before going up
Once a child can balance on skates, it’s time to learn how to falland how to get back up. This is practiced first on the ground, rather than on the ice.
While wearing skates and standing on a no-skid surface (like a rubber mat), ask your little one to get down on his knees. Then have him put one skate flat on the ground, then the other skate, and then push with his hands to a standing position. It’s okay to have an adult help with this exercise.
Once kids master this movement, they’ll feel confident that they can pick themselves up after a fall. And let’s remember, confidence is key when it comes to learning how to skate!
Meet the ice
A toddler will have a much better reaction to the cold, hard ice if he’s had some time to explore it first. There are a few ways to do this.
The next steps can be done directly on the ice.
First up is learning how to move. To do this, have your child raise his legs up and down, like marching in place. As he gets used to the weight and feel of the skates, he’ll also build up muscles in his legs and core.
These muscles are essential not just for strength, but stamina as well.
Now it’s time to switch it up by stepping forward, backward and side to side.
While this is happening, try singing songs or chanting – it may help to get youngsters into a rhythm and to balance better.
As her comfort level rises, a child will naturally add a little push to her step. All she needs is a bit of power and she’ll start gliding.
At this point, tell her to put her arms out like airplane wings and to keep her chin up and back straight. These adjustments will keep her in alignment and help with balance. Plus, remember that now is the time to form good habits!
Time to stop
The snow-plow method is the easiest way to stop. You might want to practice this position on a no-slip surface before trying it on the ice.
Your little skater should bend his knees and point his toes inward (pigeon-toed). His hands can be placed on his knees for additional support. This position will slow him down and eventually stop his momentum.
Another (more advanced) way to stop on the ice is to bend knees with legs glued together (like one long leg). When the skater is ready to stop, he should put extra weight on one leg while sliding the other one out to the side, “shaving” the ice and stopping the forward motion.
If you’ll be skating on a frozen pond or lake, always (always) make sure the conditions are safe before stepping onto the ice.
There are several ways to measure the thickness of the ice using tools like a chisel or drill. In addition, carefully check that the ice is a blue or clear color (not light gray or black). If there’s any water or slush at the edges, it’s not safe to skate.
IMPORTANT: Never carry your child onto the ice – trust us on this. It’s an accident waiting to happen.
Try it now
But if you have an inkling that skating will appeal to your little one, by all means give it a try early on.
With the right gear and proper instruction (not to mention encouragement and patience), you may spark a life-long love of this universally appealing sport.