January is prime time to teach your kids to skate, but where to start? The beauty of skating is that it isn’t fairly simple and doesn’t require much – grab a pair of skates, a helmet and bundle up, and you’re set.
Most communities have free times at their arenas where anyone can come free of charge and if you’re lucky, you may even have an outdoor rink nearby for a truly Canadian experience. We took our kids out on the neighbourhood rink for the first time this month and here are a few lessons we learned along the way.
1. Skates Don’t Have to be Fancy but They do Have to Fit.
When kids are starting out, it’s not the time to go big on the best hockey equipment, especially when they’ll do more falling than actual skating and then outgrow their skates before next winter. Check secondhand sports stores or online for used skates in good condition and get them sharpened. The key with skates is that the blade is sharp and they fit right.
To get a good fit in kid’s skates – especially really young kids – is really challenging. Have them push their toes as far to the front of the skate as possible and then see if there’s any space between the back of their heel and the back of the skate. When you’re trying on skates, make sure they’re wearing the same cozy, warm socks they’ll be wearing at the rink to get a true fit, and lace them up tight.
2. Staying Warm is Key
Outdoor rinks especially, but even cold arenas can add to their discouragement when they’re learning. We dress our kids in base layers when they’re headed to the rink to help with the cold as best we can. Check out these base layers in our shop for boys, girls, and little ones. A full snow suit is also important for warmth and padding when they fall. You’ll need a thin balaclava to fit under their helmet as most toques won’t fit. And don’t forget two pairs of mittens!
3. Balance Help
They’re going to fall a lot when they first get out there, so bring along a foldable chair for them to push along the rink for balance. Arenas often have a few supports on the ice that kids can use. My husband taught our kids the same way my dad taught me – by pulling the kids with his hockey stick, extended horizontally. Sweet nostalgia…
4. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Skating is like riding a bike, you need to be consistent at first and then you’ll never forget. We’ve been taking our kids weekly and its fun to see them improve every week. On warmer days when our outdoor rink isn’t up to par, we’ll look for a refrigerated rink or an arena. Spring is only a couple months away and then they’ll have a long hiatus before they can skate again, so brave the cold and get out there.