When Should You Take Your Child Ice Skating?
Ice skating is a popular winter pastime. When small children are involved we often wonder when and if we should sit out on the fun or put them in ice skates. Toddlers are often the biggest risk takers and this is a great reason to consider taking your toddler ice skating. Children as young as 2-years-old can be found shuffling around skating rinks, and for good reason. Once your toddler is walking and able to balance on one foot they are likely ready to try out ice skating.
We recently went ice skating for the first time (Stazi has now been a couple times) and the growth in her abilities further encourage her to get out on the ice. Toddlers don’t have the inherent fears that many adults have when trying something new. By age three or four you can surely invite your toddler to enjoy some time ice skating at your local skating rink or while you are on vacation. If you are in New York City or plan to visit, we talk about how you can skate for free at Bryant Park’s ice skating rink here.
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1. Buying The Right Ice Skates for Your Toddler
Some people feel like the cost of ice skate isn’t worth it, but with just a few visits to an ice skating rink with your toddler, you have already paid for the cost of the skates. There are also many places, like Poshmark, where you can buy second hand skates. At our ice skating rink of choice you rental skates start at $18, meaning that in two trips to the rink we have essentially paid for a pair of skates. If you only plan on skating once a year then renting ice skates for your toddler is the better option.
Junior, which are toddler size, ice skates typically run a size small so you should consider buying one size up to ensure a proper fit. Stazi wears a ice hockey style skate and seems was able to quickly begin walking in them with some ease. While her ice skates are lace up, there are some like the Lake Placid adjustable ice skates that provide a similar structure. Since she wears a size 9.5/10 in shoes we went with a size 11. They do have a little extra room, which isn’t always advisable, but we haven’t had any issues.
2. Visit Ice Skating Rinks Off Peak
If you’re heading out to the ice skating rink with your toddler for the first time consider visiting early!! This may seem obvious, but weekend and evenings usually mean larger crowds. Avoid having your toddler surrounded by 200 wobbly-legged adults that may bring your child down with them if they fall.
Early mornings and weekdays before 4:00pm (before most children get out of school) mean more space on the ice to get your toddler used to ice skating. When your toddler falls on the ice, which is bound to happen, you’ll have less fears of a collision while they’re down. During off peak hours you will find more toddlers ice skating. Make your toddlers first time ice skating as enjoyable as possible by avoid the mega crowds.
3. Allow Your Toddler to Test Their Limits
We all love our child and don’t want to see them get hurt. With ice skating your toddler has about a 99.2% chance of falling (not scientific data). I made that statistic up, but they will fall. It is okay for your toddler to fall and will help them overcome fears on the ice. You can rent skating aids for children to use as they acclimate to the slippery surface. We chose to forgo the skating aids and alternate between handholding and testing out how far she can walk along the ice.
Stazi has come to enjoy falling so she can touch the ice. Go figure! Since she is still pretty close to the surface, and wearing a puffer coat, the falls aren’t as hard as with an adult. With just two visits to the ice skating rink my toddler can walk short distances across the ice and likes to shout, “Go, go, go!!” as she tests her limits. It’s quite exciting to see how much toddlers progress. all (again…not scientific data)
4. Take Breaks
Ice skating is a full body workout. Toddlers need time off the ice to rest their muscles. It’s exciting to make your way around the rink a few times, but take a little time to relax and watch other skaters take to the ice. We love that Bryant Park’s Winter Village offers a warm place for us to sit back, play games and watch other skaters for a bit.
After a short break, even if it’s during the ice cutting, assess how your toddler feels and if they have an interest in getting back in the rink or are ready to leave. During our second trip to the ice skating rink Stazi wanted to skate for almost two hours. I have no idea how she had the energy as my legs were tired.
5. Consider Investing in Safety Gear
Other than a pair of gloves and a fluffy, puffer jacket, we don’t use any safety gear at the moment. This is obviously something that you can chose to invest in or skip. Keep in mind that you should take the safety of your child in mind when making this choice. Many ice skating coaches suggest helmets and elbow/knee pads for toddlers beginning to ice skate. If your toddler already has these items (bike or scooter helmets) they can use these at the ice skating rink as well. There are quite a few sets, like this one, available online at places such as Amazon.com.
6. Don't Expect A World-Class Figure Skating Overnight
Every toddler’s ice skating progression is different. For us, Stazi excels at gross motor skills and is a bit of a risk taker. While this is great for us with regards to ice skating, not every toddler will put on ice skates are begin pushing off on their skates the first few tries.
If you toddler appears to enjoy ice skating remember to let them keep at it, even if they appear to stand in place. A great way to get them started is to give them time to walk around in their ice skates on dry ground first. Once they are able to balance and walk in their ice skates move to a ‘marching technique,’ where they get used to marching in place. This helps toddlers grasp the concept of walking and apply it to completing the task in ice skates. Eventually your toddler will go from marching in place to a forward motion and eventualy pushing off and moving along the ice.
There are varying thoughts on using skating aids because many toddlers and children lean forward. Since you want to skate upright, they may not be the best idea. If you aren’t comfortable on ice skates then you may opt for a skating aid to help you both get around the ice skating rink.
7. Positive Reinforcement is Important
It’s easy to forget to provide positive reinforcement as you make your way around the ice skating rink and watch other toddlers, teens and adults take tumbles on the ice. Whether you are holding their hand or using an under the arm technique to get your toddler around the rink, remember to praise them.
Toddlers react to our emotions. You want your toddler to be excited about trying something new and ice skating is no easy feat. Clapping, smiling and using encouraging words make a world of a difference in building a toddler’s confidence on the ice and in ice skates.
8. Take Lessons if You Need To
Ice skating lessons are always an option. Remember that most ice skating rinks charge a fee for group and private lessons. If you don’t feel comfortable trying to teach your toddler how to ice skate that is perfectly fine.
Ice skating lessons will help your child grasp basic concepts, learn techniques that will help them on the ice and interact with other toddlers (and others) who are learning to ice skate as well. This can be a great way to meet other parents and toddlers ice skating in your area.
9. HAVE FUN!
The most important thing to remember is to just HAVE FUN! Ice skating can be hard, but it should always be fun. Laugh when you fall, brush off the ice and get back up and keep going. Toddlers are sponges and the simple skills that your little one will learn on the ice skating rink can be applied elsewhere. Get out and take your toddler ice skating this season!