How to teach your little one to ice skate: simple rules
If you ask a child what is their favorite thing about winter, almost any kid would say ice skating, skiing, and sledding. Nevertheless, given that there are usually no problems with skis and sleds as it is easy to handle them, ice skating, on the other hand, requires the possession of certain skills from an adult, and even a little from children themselves. You can entrust the training to an experienced teacher who certainly knows how to teach a child to skate. But if you do not have the opportunity to send your son or daughter to a special class, it does not mean that you have to give up on skating.
Perhaps you yourself are good at skating, and you can probably teach a child to skate. However, even if you do not possess the right skills, and if you are not raising a future hockey player or figure skater, you can try to learn together with your child. It is never too late to start skating, the main principle is to approach the process of training in the right way!
- Ice skating for children: when to start and when would it be beneficial
- How to teach the child to ice skate properly: the basic techniques and exercises
- How to choose the ice skates for the child
- Tips for parents
Ice skating for children: when to start and when would it be beneficial
Before deciding on how to teach a child to skate, parents are faced with another important question: at what age is it optimal to have the baby walk out on the ice for the first time. Some adults, guided by the principle “it may be too late after the age of three years old”, try to get children who have barely started walking on their own, to start skating.
Nevertheless, it is not worth starting to practice activities on ice before the baby turns three years old. Very young children’s muscles are still poorly developed. These are the ones that are involved in the ice skating activity, which means that they have a higher risk of injury than an older child.
Professional coaches consider the optimal age to start learning to be 4-5 years old. At this age, muscles become quite strong, and the child can confidently control their body movement: they start walking straight, as well as to run and turn, they find it much easier to maintain balance on skates than 2-3-year-old kids. Most of the future Olympic medalists began to skate at the age of 4. However, if you are not planning for your child to go into professional sports, it is possible to start learning how to ice skate at 7, 10, and 14 years old, or at any other age.
Ice skating is not only fun, but it is also beneficial for the child’s health:
- each muscle group develops and becomes stronger, a good posture is formed;
- the lung and heart functioning is improved;
- children get used to a reasonable level of physical activity that becomes a natural part of their life;
- coordination develops and with it, the ability to predict the consequences of certain actions;
- regular sports activities will help the baby to increase their self-esteem and, possibly, find new friends that share the same interests.
If your child is not in very good health, for example, if they have problems with their joints or with the cardiovascular system, consult a doctor before going ice skating. They will be able to give advice on the age at which your kid can start skating, and whether it is worth getting involved in this sport in general in your particular case.
How to teach the child to ice skate properly: the basic techniques and exercises
Prior to the moment that the child gets on the skates, show them what ice skating is like. For example, you can walk to the nearest skating rink – at least an impromptu one, and watch how children skate there. You could also show your child a video with novice skaters.
It is best to teach the child to ice skate in the following sequence:
- first steps outside of the rink;
- learning the right posture;
- safe falling techniques;
- different skating techniques and other skills.
What to start with: the first steps
First, you can have your child walk on ice skates at home. Leave the blades covered, and ask your son or daughter to try to walk ten steps forward, to wave their hands, and to sit down.
When the child begins to feel confident on skates at home, it is time to start skating outside. There is no need to immediately go on the rink: if there is an area that is not too slippery not far away from home, it is optimal to perform the first steps there. On this surface, the baby can walk, practice keeping balance and learn how to stand correctly.
Do not worry about the health and safety of your child when you let them go to the skating rink or walk without you! Always know where they are and which path they are taking, listen to what is happening around them, and call them in any situation through the Find My Kids app.
The right pose
Try to teach the child to adapt the right pose on ice skates without leaving the house. Here is how to teach the child the correct posture of an ice skater:
- put the ice skates on their feet, and if possible, the rest of the equipment in which they will skate on ice in the future;
- ask them to place their legs so that they are at a narrower distance than shoulder-width apart and to have them bend their knees slightly;
- raise the child’s arms and spread them to the sides for greater stability;
- have the child tilt their body forward;
- try to ask the child to perform a small squat, so that they will learn how to keep balance;
- when the squats start to turn out well, ask the child to try to walk around the apartment. The adult’s task is to remind the son or daughter that the body should always be tilted forward. If the child, inadvertently, straightens the body on the ice, they will risk getting injured by falling on their back.
The correct technique of falling
Nobody, including the champions of figure skating, managed to learn to skate without ever falling over. Falling while learning to skate is normal, however, it is highly important to teach a beginner skater to fall correctly: sloppy falls on the ice can result in bruises and other injuries. If the child will be getting bruises while skiing, their desire to go on the rink will certainly disappear for good.
Most often, falls do not occur during the skating itself, but rather at those moments when the person straightens their torso, thus abruptly changing their body balance. Remind the child of the importance of leaning forward on a constant basis, and rehearse the technique of falling in advance without leaving your home or apartment by doing the following:
- throw a thick blanket under your baby’s feet;
- ask the child wearing ice skates with covered blades, to group up, but not to sit fully, and then to fall on their knees protected by knee pads;
- explain to your son or daughter that if it was not possible to regroup their body, they will need to try to fall on the side to avoid falling backward;
- tell the child that even if they realized that falling back cannot be avoided, they should not panic and should try to take the adopt the pose of an embryo, rounding their back and pressing their chin to the neck;
- practice falling at home until the mechanics of falling becomes natural to the child.
It is equally important to be able to get back up after falling:
- explain to the child that no matter the pose they’ve been in when they fell, they would need to get on all fours before getting up;
- have the child lean firmly on the blade of the leading leg of the ice skate (right-handed people lean on the right leg, whilst left-handed – on the left);
- explain to the child how to rest their arm on the leading leg and vigorously push the body forward to get up off the ice.
Wintertime child safety: important rules of conduct and a first aid reminder for parents.
Before the first time and in all of the subsequent times skating, encourage the child to warm up: squat several times, wave their arms and rotate their torso, to jump or get on their toes several times. It is time to go on the ice rink after a warm-up. Until the toddler feels at least relatively confident when skating, they will need an adult to accompany them. For the very first time skating on ice, the following set of exercises for beginners can be performed to start off.
Going along the edges of the skating rink
Face the child, take them into your arms and move along the side at a calm pace. Make sure that your son or daughter rests firmly on the blades of the ice skates without fully holding you. To teach children of the age of five years and older to walk along the side, you can use a tug, for example, a club or other similar object. It happens in the following way: the adult also moves to face the child, but the baby does not hold on to the hands of mom or dad, but rather to the stick extended to them. With the help of the tug, the child will immediately get used to not leaning on the adult and will keep balance more efficiently.
Ask your son or daughter to walk on the rink with small steps without gliding. Have them perform their usual steps, without attempting to slide. They would certainly be more familiar with the little one and will help them to cope with the fear of skating.
Squats are another way to learn how to balance on the ice. Invite your child to do squats on the spot with their arms spread out to the sides.
Gliding for beginners
This means gliding on two legs simultaneously without lifting the legs from the surface. This would require the help of an adult: you can move alongside, whilst holding the child’s hand.
Ice skaters glide by pushing their feet off the surface one by one while shifting their body weight from side to side. Show the right technique to the child and have them repeat after you.
The easiest way to brake for those who have just started to master skating is to do so by shifting the bodyweight on the heel of the leading foot. Here is the braking technique for beginners:
- put the skate of the leading leg against the direction of the movement, whilst leaning on the heel;
- bend the other knee;
- when braking, the body moves forward by using the force of inertia, hence, in order not to lose balance, the body will need to be tilted backward slightly.
As soon as the child learns to stop with the leading leg, start teaching them to break with the other leg, too.
Show the ways to brake mentioned below to the child at a later stage:
- by pressing the back of the ice skate into the ice, as if trying to screw the blade into the surface. This method is particularly good for emergency braking;
- the method called the “plow”, with the knees bent, the heels spread in different directions. The feet and the knees, on the contrary, brought together. This position requires braking with both legs at the same time;
- a more complex method of braking for those who have already learned how to do so in simpler ways is when the skater turns to the side, with one foot leaning towards the outside of the blade, and with the other leaning on the inside.
Learning to turn on ice is quite simple: all is needed is simply to bend over to the desired side and to push on the outer edge of the skate. Remind your child not to unbend their leg when the turn has already been made – otherwise, this may lead to a fall. Explain that in order to perform a sharp turn, the child will need to lean forward as much as possible.
Simple exercises on ice for children
In order to consolidate and develop the skill of ice skating, offer the following simple exercises:
- “Sleight” steps. Starting position: legs together, arms to the sides. How to do it: take two steps forward, sit down so that the buttocks lean towards the heels, spread the arms and legs in different directions, and try to ride on both legs in this position.
- “Pine tree” exercise. Starting position: knees bent, heels together, toes slightly apart. How to do it: take turns in moving the legs whilst pushing off the surface with the edges of the ice skates whilst trying not to use the sharpest sides for moving.
- “Lightbulb” exercise. Starting position: legs together, knees bent, body leaning forward. How to do it: The child begins to move – independently or with the help of an adult – and sequentially spreads their legs to the sides and brings them together, as if drawing semi-circles or a figure in the shape of a lightbulb on ice.
- “Half a lightbulb” exercise. Starting position: the knee of the supporting leg bent, the other leg straight and set aside. How to do it: push off with one leg, drawing a semicircle on ice with the skate, then switch legs.
- “Snake” exercise. This exercise reminds of a similar one used when learning how to drive a car. Starting position: legs spread slightly wider than shoulder-width, body leaning forward. How to do it: push off the surface whilst alternating your feet using the outer edge of the skate, while the free leg slides on the inner edge of the ice skate.
How to choose the ice skates for the child
It is not necessary to immediately purchase the most expensive professional skates for the child, especially if they are still at preschool age. To begin with, you can get by with more budget-friendly and simple options. The main argument when choosing children’s skates is to choose the ones in which they feel most comfortable.
Ice skates for beginners
When choosing children’s skates, pay special attention to the density of the material from which the shoes are made. In insufficiently stiff shoes, the child risks injuring their shin. You can check the rigidity of the boots in the following way: try to bend the boot from the heel sideways. The child-safe boot should bend by a maximum of 30 degrees.
Other important factors when choosing the right ice skates for beginners:
- sharply sharpened and short blades;
- the best material for children’s skates’ boots is genuine leather;
- if you plan to subsequently enroll the child in the hockey class, choose the toughest ice skates.
How to choose the right size of the skates for the child
It is undeniable that children’s legs grow quickly and it is tempting to purchase clothing and footwear in a larger size in order for them to last for longer. However, it is better not to do this. If you want the ice skates to last more than one season, choose an adaptable model whose sizes can be modified.
Before making a purchase, be sure to try the ice skates on the child. Shoes worn with a thick sock should not be too wide and should not hold the leg too firmly. Ask your child to walk on the skates, and if it is convenient for them, this model is right for them.
Tips for parents
Teaching children to ice skate has got its own nuances: it is important to choose appropriate clothes for the weather, to learn responsibly, and, of course, to constantly support the baby, even if they do not succeed right away.
How to get dressed for the ice rink
If you are planning to teach the child to ice skate on artificial ice and indoors, it is enough to put on light clothing that would not hinder the movements of the child. This can be, for instance, a knitted jacket and sweater and light sweatpants. For the little one under five years old, an extra puffy vest could be worn.
For the outside skating rink, opt for warmer clothing and take into account the outside temperature:
- put on the first layer of thermal underwear that retains heat and moisture on the child; it is better not to put on cotton t-shirts as children will quickly sweat and become cold in them;
- use a shirt that covers the throat, as a second layer;
- the coat and trousers should be warm and light enough;
- a special ski suit made of waterproof material can also be worn;
- it is important to keep the child’s feet warm on the ice rink by wearing woolen socks or thermal clothing;
- wear a hat that would not be too warm and that would fully cover the ears;
- gloves or mittens are needed not only for warmth but also to protect the hands in the event of a possible fall;
- don’t forget about safety equipment: helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and a wristband.
The best place to teach the child
The first lessons are best to take place on natural ice as it is less slippery than artificial ice. Natural ice has got a number of advantages over indoor skating rinks: free admission or very budget-friendly admission fee, wide availability of public ice rinks in winter. Moreover, the natural ice is less frequented by skaters who overestimate their abilities and behave dangerously.
Both on natural and artificial ice, you can teach a child to ride without the help of others. If your son or daughter does not want to associate their life with professional sports, it would be enough to master amateur skating with the help of an adult.
However, if the child dreams of becoming a professional in figure skating or hockey, one cannot do so without visiting an indoor ice rink and the training from a coach. Today, in all large cities, and even in some smaller towns, special extracurricular activities have been established where the child can play sports in their age group or have individual lessons.
General recommendations and useful tips
Useful recommendations for parents that want to teach their child to ride on ice skates:
- Children often feel insecure on ice, especially if they already have experienced some setbacks and fall before. A child may be capricious and refuse to visit the rink, and then ask to teach them how to skate again, they may feel awkward and annoyed on the ice rink. The task of parents is to be patient, not to force them to learn and practice all the time, not to scold their child for mistakes and to praise them for their achievements.
- Teach your kid the rules of courtesy on ice: in order not to interfere with other skaters, they can’t stand in one place for a long time or change the direction of their movement too abruptly.
- Carry the teaching sessions in the form of a game, especially if your child is under the age of seven years old.
- Make sure that your child’s skates are always put on correctly. Lace the boots tightly on the instep and slightly looser at the base of the skate and at the very top.
- Teach your son or daughter not to look down at the ice. Draw attention to yourself so that the child gets used to looking in front of them.
- Demonstrate the proper breathing techniques while riding: the child should inhale only through their nose and should try not to hold their breath.
- Always put the ice skates on the child right before going out on the ice rink to prevent them from getting tired even before they start to skate.
Learning to ice skate isn’t that hard – not much harder than mastering skiing. Parents will probably have to be persistent: make sure that the training will need to take place at least twice a week and, if necessary, you will need to go to the ice rink with the child. Your efforts will surely pay off, and even if the child does not become a sports star, perhaps you will be able to spend the best times on an ice rink together with your family!
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