Skating is an activity that children can begin to appreciate as soon as they are confident walking, running, and balancing. At this early stage, it’s a good idea to simply take your child out on the rink and show her how much fun it can be. One day, your preschooler is pushing a milk crate around the ice to get a “feel” for her skates; before you know it, she’s skating backwards and twirling like an Olympic contestant. Here are some tips for introducing your child to skating, whether you’ve got a future Isabelle Brasseur or Wayne Gretzky on your hands.
Fun, Fun, Fun
Start skating as a purely recreational activity – it’s a great way for young children to burn off energy in the winter months. Kids go through shoe sizes fast, so it’s more convenient at first to rent skates at a rink rather than buying them. Let your children watch other skaters in person, as well as professional figure skaters and hockey players on TV.
Make sure you have other appropriate gear; for instance, consider a helmet for younger children or budding hockey stars – that ice can be hard! Keep clothing warm yet non-bulky, and buy protective gear as necessary, depending on the type of activity your child is involved with. We don’t skate on ponds in Vancouver very much, but if you find yourself up north or elsewhere, keep a close eye on weather conditions—a few days of hard freeze is important. Stay close to your children and the shore, and teach your children to watch out for natural ice hazards like twigs embedded in the ice or little pockets that could trip them up. Make sure the ice crust is thick and stable, and leave the ice at any sign of cracking.
If you are thinking of signing your child up for ice-skating classes, here are a few questions to consider:
- Is your child more interested in figure skating or hockey? Has he or she tried both? Make sure your child has had an opportunity to try both types of skating before committing to one.
- How many other students are in the class? How much individual attention will your child get?
- When does the class meet? Is the time convenient for your family?
- What other fees or equipment purchases can you expect?
- Are there opportunities to compete or perform? Do you feel that the level of commitment to practice is appropriate for your child and your family?
- How does your child advance? Are there appropriate opportunities to gain higher skill levels?
- Is the instructor sensitive to your child’s needs, both physical and emotional? Does he or she seem to have a good rapport with the other children and a solid understanding of childhood physical development?
- As your child attends the class, is he or she eager to get to class and excited to practice? Choose a class that nurtures your child’s existing love of skating. Even if your child is able to compete at top levels, skating should continue to be a fun activity and not a chore.
At some point, your child may even be able to teach you a few moves! Let it happen – your child will get a kick out of showing you something new, and you might finally nail that backwards glide.
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