Are you thinking of taking your baby to the ice rink for the very first time? In this case, you might be looking for some tips and suggestions on how to teach your children to ice skate or maybe you are concerned if they should even try skating at all (for example, if they are too little).
Speaking of age, it is considered that 3.5-4 years old is a good age for toddlers to try ice skating for the first time. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take your child to ice skate at an earlier age at 2 or 3 years old – there are no such restrictions. You can totally try if you want to see how they’ll react to being on the ice and how they’ll behave at the rink.
But it’s a fact that an average 4-year old will pick up skating faster than an average 2 or 3-year old.
Ice skates for toddlers
Before heading to the rink, you will need to buy appropriate ice skating gear which includes skates. I highly recommend buying your own skates instead of getting rentals at the rink unless you know it’s going to be a one-time thing. Having your own skates will allow your child to get more familiar with them, try them at home and see how they’ll feel with them on.
When you are shopping for toddler’s ice skates, you have an option to either get hockey or figure skates. Figure skates are the ones with toe picks and they have a longer blade. Hockey skates don’t have toe picks and their blades are a little bit shorter and curvier in comparison to figure skates.
There are a lot of different opinions on which skates are better for toddlers. From my personal experience, I can tell you that most toddlers will do better skating in figure skates rather than hockey skates. The reason for that is because it is easier to balance on figure skates thanks to toe picks at the front (it helps from falling forward most of the time unless you trip) and longer blades (less likely to fall backward’s of the hill).
I’ve seen many kids having the same problem when they skate for the first time in hockey skates – they simply can’t find the balance and keep falling forward or backward’s over and over again. Then, once they are down, they have a hard time getting up as well because it’s harder to do so on hockey skates without toe picks.
That’s why it’s not a bad idea to start out skating on figure skates even if your child intends to play hockey in the future. Once they learn how to balance, push and glide on figure skates, the transition to hockey skates will be fairly easy.
You can purchase a pair of ice skates for toddlers at a skate shop or even buy them online on Amazon. Their cost is usually somewhere around $50. To learn more information about figure skates, sizing and different brands of skates, you can visit this page.
Tip: once you bought a new pair of skates, make sure to have them sharpened at a skate shop before heading to the rink. After the first sharpening, it is recommended to have skates sharpened every 3 months or so.
What else do you need besides skates?
Here is a list of clothes and accessories you should also take with you to the ice rink:
- helmet – even if wearing a helmet for toddlers is not required at your rink, I still recommend to wear one for obvious reasons. It’s not a joke, you never know what might happen when tots just learning to take their first steps on the ice. They won’t be able to balance at first and will fall, which is why it’s important to wear a helmet to avoid a potential head injury. Safety should always be a priority!
- gloves – also for protection from getting hands scratched as well as to keep them warm while on the ice.
- warm but light clothing – socks, long pants for boys, thick leggings for girls, a long-sleeve shirt under a jacket or a hoodie. Most ice rinks are pretty cold, that’s why you need to find something that’s warm enough but at the same time will allow your child to freely move.
- knee, elbow pads – I personally don’t think they are necessary, only if you want to be extra protective.
First steps on the ice
Okay, now you are all set with the equipment and ready to take your child to ice skate for the first time.
The very first thing they should learn is… how to fall. That’s right, you need to show them how to fall the right way to avoid injuries and how to get up after falling. It’s something very important and it can be practiced on the floor with skates on right before getting on the ice.
The correct way to fall is to bend your knees when you feel like you are about to go down and dip down to the side of your behind (the most important is not to fall backward’s to avoid hitting the back of the head). This way most of the impact from a fall will hit a spot with the most “padding” – it is the least painful way to fall when ice skating. Arms should be kept a little bit out but close to the body to also absorb some impact.
The right way to stand up after falling is to turn over to your hands and knees, then lift up one knee and push yourself up with both hands while applying pressure to your toes. Once again, I recommend practicing this on the floor first before heading to the ice.
Tip: explain to the little ones that it is OK to fall and that they will fall while ice skating (that’s why they need to be prepared for it and not panic when they do). Some tots are afraid of falling on the ice and some might get very upset when they fall even if it didn’t hurt. That’s why it is important from the start to show them what to do when they lose balance and fall, what it feels like and that it is OK – it’s part of the learning process.
Suggestions on how to teach a toddler to ice skate
If your children are going to skate for the first time, they’ll most likely need some help once they step on to the ice. It’s rare when tots are able to safely skate on their own from the very beginning.
To avoid painful falls, tears, and potential injuries, help little ones take their first steps on the ice. You can skate next to them and hold them from behind under their arms. Tell them to march and take little baby steps one at a time. Don’t let your tot completely hang on you because they have to figure it out on their own and find the balance. Carrying them all over the ice is not a solution in this case. You just need to be there to help your baby find a balance on skates and mainly protect from falling backward’s.
Don’t use an ice walker
Using an ice walker might sound like a great idea but it’s actually not recommended by most specialists because it doesn’t help toddlers find their balance and build any skating skills. Most skaters when they use these walkers, tend to heavily lean forward and struggle/fall a lot when they try to skate on their own after.
Sign up for the skating school
This is a good idea if you want your children to properly learn how to skate. It’s the fastest and most effective way to learn ice skating techniques for a reasonable price (the cost of the “Learn to Skate” programs in the US is around $100 for 8 group classes + $20 membership fee). By signing up for these lessons you won’t have to worry yourself on how to teach ice skating to your kid.
If you want your kiddo to get more seriously into skating, it might be a good idea to also take one-on-one private skating lessons from a professional figure skating coach.
Ice skating is an extremely fun activity to experience for most toddlers. It’s not only fun but it also has lots of health benefits such as building balance, muscles (including the most important muscle in the human’s body – heart) and significantly improving coordination.
I hope you find this article useful and I’ll be happy to hear your feedback or answer questions in the comments below this post.
Have fun at the rink and enjoy ice skating!