Take Your Toddler Ice Skating for the First Time
So, since your child's birth, you've been chomping at the bit to nurture the next Mario Lemieux or Peggy Fleming, or perhaps the very first Peggy Lemieux--or maybe you just want to share your interest in ice skating with your little one, but you're not sure where to get started.
How Old To Start Ice Skating
When is it time to take your child on the ice? Most experts say, once he or she can walk, your child can balance on skates. This may vary, depending upon your child's physical capabilities, as well as your natural trust that they will do what's expected of them. Also, it's best to wait until your child can understand simple instructions before taking to the ice. Most believe the best time is somewhere between two and three years old. But as all children are different, ages may vary.
Best Ice Skates To Start With
The best ice skates for a toddler to learn to skate in, are skates with solid plastic skate boots and adjustable straps that can work with ever growing feet. It will be a strap that looks similar to a ski boot strap, and can be adjusted per each time on the ice. These types of skates come with a soft inner bootie that is typically adjustable, as well, and can give extra comfort to sensitive little feet.
Children's ice skates are sized in junior sizes, so it would look like 6J or 10J. These sizes run small, so it's best to choose a size or two above your child's shoe size, and bring two pairs of thick socks just in case.
Many believe toddlers should begin with double-bladed skates for added balance. But most experts say the double-blades can get in a child's way, causing loss of control, and hinder a child's ability to learn the technique. The best to choose are single-bladed adjustable skates, with blades that extend back further than the skate boot to help prevent falling backwards. The rocker style blades, such as on most ice hockey skates, assist in agility, but allow for falls more easily.
One thing a beginning skater should avoid from a figure skate, is the toe pick. A toe pick is a jagged serrated edge at the toe of the skate blade. This toe pick is meant to help a skater stop gracefully, but young children find it will usually send them face down on the ice. There are many brands of skates that do not have the toe pick. However, if you find yourself with a pair that have the toe pick, you'll either have to instruct your child on its proper use, or have it ground down until smooth.
As far as buying ice skates for a small child, it's best not to buy skates right away. New skates can be expensive, and a child may only use them once before the end of the winter. Most ice rinks will have rental skates that fit small feet. You should call ahead before going and be sure they have your child's size. Most rinks offer battered awful skates for rental, but for beginners, this can be fine. However, if you want to buy your child skates, a good place to look is on EBay, for lower prices. There's no reason to worry about quality. Toddler sized skates don't get much use before a child grows out of them.
The two best brands of skates for toddlers are:
Bauer Lil Champs (For Boys) and Bauer Lil Angels (For Girls)
The Bauer toddler skates are two pieces, one as a plastic boot with a strap for tightening, and a bootie for foot comfort. These come in navy blue, teal and pink for girls and boys.
The CCM Tyke is similar to the Bauer version, but it has an adjustable plastic boot that can be extended to work for more than just one season, which can be a great benefit for growing children. These skates come in both black and white versions.
Other Ice Skating Accessories
Beyond the skates, there are a few items your child should wear to ensure a good time, when ice skating.
- Helmet - The ice is hard, and most children don't understand what will happen to them when they fall on ice. A helmet is a great way to ensure that the day isn't shortened from a crack on the head. Many consider a hockey helmet the best with a cage to protect the face, but a bicycle helmet with an extended brow is all that's necessary. This will protect your toddler's head, and the extended brow will protect his or her face.
- Knee Pads - These are great for simple falls, as children either fall backwards or forwards, and forwards means knees. Wearing knee pads can prevent a plethora of bruises.
- Gloves - When toddlers fall, they need to learn to push themselves up off of the bitter cold ice. Many consider ice hockey gloves to be the best, because of extra padding, but they're not necessary. Simple mittens can offer the needed warmth.
- Elbow Pads - Along with knee pads, elbow pads may be necessary, if your toddler consistently falls forward onto his or her forearms.
- Wrist Guards - When little ones fall forward, often they try to brace themselves with little hands. This can be painful for their wrists, if it happens over-and-over.
- Padded Pants - If your toddler falls backwards onto his or her bum enough times, you might consider padded pants, which will prevent bruises on the back-side.
How to Teach Your Toddler To Ice Skate
The best way to teach a toddler to skate is to strap the skates on, while still off the ice, and ask him or her to take big steps, similar to marching and keep balance as much as possible. A hand, or both hands, may need to be held to start, but after a while, your child should catch on, and be able to do it without help.
Once your toddler has grasped the concept, take him or her onto the ice. Some parents like to begin with a sliding walker for a child to be supported, but others just hold hands for a while. Either way, the goal is for your child to skate around the rink without assistance, so the walker may be an added expense only holding your child back.
Planning an ice skating excursion for you and your little one can be a great activity. But be prepared, and remember safety first. Happy skating!