What was that Team Canada slogan during the Sochi Olympics?
Sure, and winter lives here, too. I get it. But it doesn’t make me feel much better about scraping ice off the car and going outside when it hurts to breathe. Instead, I’ll curl up in my blanket in front of the fireplace with a good book, while my flip-flops languish in the closet: #canibesummer?
I know perfectly well that being active, in spite of winter, makes me a healthier, more amiable person, and not coincidentally, a nicer mother. Thankfully, along with millions of other Canadians, I love to ice skate.
Skating is perfect, because a nice winter day offers great outdoor skating, with bonfires or beautiful lights, and the idyllic scenes of happy families gliding along. But, when it gets too cold, just head inside to skate! You’re still embracing winter, you’re just embracing it from a climate-controlled environment.
Back to the happy families gliding along, though. Easier said than done, to be sure. Learning to skate can really knock kids off balance (groan) so keep reading for 6 tips on getting your little ones skating.
Start off the Ice
Before you even get on the ice, learn to fall. It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen a lot. Teach your kids how to fall by bending their knees and gently falling to one side. Get up by moving to all fours, before placing one skate on the ice and pushing up. Practice in your living room and then practice on the ice. You can also get children to practice marching in small steps before you get the skates on, head up and arms out. They will naturally be stepping on the ice before gliding.
It’s not fun to skate if your feet hurt or your fingers are frozen or you just cracked your head on the ice. Make sure kids are dressed properly, are wearing a skating helmet, and have properly-fitting skates. You can buy skates used, if necessary, as there are lots of options out there, and be sure to sharpen them. (It’s more important to have older skates that fit properly, than brand-new skates bought with room to grow into.) Make sure your child is dressed warmly, especially if they are a beginner, as they may spend a lot of time on the ice.
This is really a life tip. My 3-year-old loved hockey and he was going to skate so fast around the ice and he knew that this would make him even more amazing than he already was! But skating looks easier than it is when you start. After a few times struggling around the ice, he decided he was done and skating was not for him. (I’ve since convinced him otherwise.)
Consider a Skating Aid
Some people prefer never to introduce a skating “crutch” that a child can become dependant on, but my back was more than happy to take the chance when I was teaching toddlers to skate. There are helpful skating aids available. That’s all.
There are no shortcuts and no replacements for just getting out and practicing. If you make skating a regular occurrence in your family, you will see progress. Some kids might be ready to skate as soon as they’re toddling around and most kids will see real progress between ages 3 and 5. If you go semi-regularly, by age 5 many kids will start getting the hang of it.
Make it Fun
Don’t plan long skating sessions and don’t push the little ones past what’s fun for them. A short skate that they enjoy is what you want. Make up small challenges for them to complete as they progress. Depending on where you are and how busy the ice is, you can use small pylons or wide-tipped washable markers. And hot chocolate is always a great way to finish. Never underestimate the power of strategically-timed sugar.
If your kids are totally new to the sport, it might take some time, but they will be whizzing around the ice eventually. Be patient and have fun. If nothing else, pat yourself on the back for not hibernating. While you’re at it, hashtag every picture #wearewinter, just like the Olympians. Teaching kids to skate is hard. You deserve a medal, too.
Wondering where to skate? Calgary is filled with terrific options, and it’s beautiful during the holiday season! The City of Calgary has a number of outdoor ice surfaces and there are LOTS of community rinks. Check out our directory for indoor skating or outdoor skating opportunities, but these lists are not exhaustive.