It is recommended that the minimum age would be around 3 years to start teaching kids how to ice skate. At that time children will have developed sufficient coordination and balance to be able to learn to how to skate and also how to fall correctly.
In addition to skates that fit properly make sure that you have all the supporting equipment to make the experience safe and enjoyable. Warm mittens and snow suit along with a safety helmet and skate guards are the tools that you will need. When you tie up the skates make sure that the lace is tightened at the top around the ankle to ensure support. Make sure that the foot doesn’t move around in the skate.
Before hitting the rink, spend some time with the skates on and let your children walk around in them to get used to the feel. This is where the skate guards come in handy.
Use a chair or skating aid for the child to use as support as they learn how to push and glide with alternating feet. The starting position should be like a V with the back of each blade almost touching. Push off with one foot and glide with the other. Keep doing that with alternating feet. Teach them to slow down or stop by turning the trailing skate at a 45 degree angle and dragging the blade to control the speed. Showing them how to fall and get back up is an important part of learning to skate.
I wish I knew the proper way to fall when I was a Kid, so here goes. The proper way to fall is on your side and not forward or backward onto your tailbone. Have your child tuck into a squat position with their chin tucked in towards their chest, pull the hands in toward the body and lean to the left or right, rather than putting the arms out to break the fall. I had to learn the hard way with a dislocated elbow because I tried to extend my arms to break a fall. Never do that!!
By teaching them how to fall you will actually build their confidence and they will learn and be comfortable on skates a lot quicker.
Just like skiing, it is important to practice getting back up on your feet after you fall. Here’s the easy way. Roll to a position of being on your hands and knees, put one foot on the ice between the hands. Pull the other foot between the hands and apply pressure to the toes so that they don’t slide forward while pushing upward to a standing position. It will become second nature after the first few failed attempts. In the meantime, take some pictures, they only learn once.
After a few times out on the ice you could give it a try without the chair or walker. Just standing with you holding their hand is good way to get them more comfortable. Soon they will be comfortable enough to let go of your hand and stand on their own. The proper posture for skating is something to show them right away before they can develop bad habits.
The knees should be bent a little bit, your back straight and your head up. The arms should be held slightly away from the torso. To become a truly good and graceful skater you should avoid short choppy strides except to initially pick up speed. Long and steady glides from one foot to the other provide optimum performance. Don’t worry too much at the start about teaching the kids leg crossovers when turning. This can be done eventually once they master the straight line and balance.
Wayne Gretzky’s dad taught him how to skate on their backyard rink. That seemed to work out pretty well, so have fun and take your time. All kids learn at a different pace.
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