Discovering the world of ice skating can be an intense experience. Take a deep breath, below are 10 tips for mums and dads of beginner skaters to help you take your first steps into this new environment.
#1 – Advice for parents of beginner skaters – choose lessons
The best age to start
You can start at any age and have a lot of fun.
Any child who can walk can also skate. However, lessons normally start from the age of 4. Because the child must be able to pay attention, listen to instructions, and interact correctly with the trainer.
To learn more about the age to skate, check out this article.
Artistic? Dance? Speed? Hockey?
Once at the ice rink, you will surely have the choice of skating clubs that offer beginner lessons.
Don’t stress. No matter which club the child starts in, all the basics of skating are the same.
Your child can then change.
If you do not yet know which discipline to choose, opt for the class schedule that suits you best or the club with the best reputation.
- Figure skating is ideal for children full of energy who like to jump around and do acrobatics
- Ice dancing is great for kids who like to express themselves to music but aren’t too daredevil (this was perfect for me!) – see my article on the difference between figure skating and ice dancing.
- Hockey is great for kids who like to play in a group and have a specific visual goal
- Speed is perfect for children looking for the sensation of speed and who like to surpass themselves
#2 – Send your child to lessons with adequate equipment
For lessons to be successful from day one, children must have the right equipment. Here’s what to think about:
- Thin socks – NO THICK SOCKS because the child must be able to feel the positions under the feet. He will be better able to control movements.
- Warm but not bulky clothes – Choose warm but light clothes so that they are not too bulky. No ski pants and avoid jeans as well (they don’t react well with water)
- Gloves – Their hands should be warm and protected if they fall on the ice while skating. Avoid mittens that limit control to support and get up.
- Helmet – Wearing a helmet is a big discussion. In some countries, clubs make it compulsory for toddlers. Like any sport there is a risk that the child hits his head when falling (just like when he climbs on the furniture at home…). See what the club’s recommendations are and make your decision.
And tell your child that it’s completely normal to fall. Falling is part of skating.
Believe it or not, you want your child to fall a few times on the first day to get used to it. This is an important step and knowing how to take it up is a useful skill in everyday life.
#3 – Learn to lace up skates (for when they’re young)
Skate lacing is important for anyone trying their hand at skating. Kids need to understand that just as they can’t run if their shoes aren’t tied properly, they can’t skate if the skates aren’t properly laced. They can even get blisters and chafing if they are attached incorrectly.
The foot should be locked into the skate boot in a natural position, in the correct way. This helps ensure that the skates work efficiently. This also helps to ensure that the pads wear well and have an extended lifespan. Ankle support is crucial . If the child falls, the ankle is vulnerable to twists and sprains, which can immobilize it for a long time.
As a parent, you must lace up the skates if your children are too young. Make sure the child is sitting on a bench and you stand in front of him with your foot raised up to the thighs while you strap him in – with this position, your back will thank you.
Be sure that:
- it’s not too tight at the toes. They need to be able to move a bit
- the tongue is well placed on the foot without rolling on itself
- the lacing is more intense at the ankle and at the bottom of the hooks
- there is a little weight in the top of the hooks so that the child can bend
#4 – Ice skater moms need to buy good skates
There is little point in buying skates right away for small children who have started recently, they can do just fine with rental skates during the first lessons.
However, as soon as you know that your child likes this sport, you should buy a pair of skates. Rental skates will prevent him from progressing, because their wear is significant and the performance of these skates is quite low. You can follow this guide to buy your child their first pair of skates:
- They should not be too large, as skating requires a high degree of control. They should fit snugly and not too tight either. If the skates are completely loose and the foot is pushed forward, there should be a finger’s clearance between the heel and the shoe.
- The skates should not be the adjustable type, as they are not very good for learning more technical figure skating moves.
- Choose skates with good ankle support. Often the cheap skates with lots of decorations end up being very soft. They are therefore dangerous. Read reviews carefully.
- Check to see if the child is comfortable. For sports or even as a hobby, you don’t want your child to suffer in an ill-fitting skate. Check if the padding is present, if it is enough for the child to feel good in it and if it is high density foam to protect their little feet.
- And don’t forget to have the blades sharpened!
#5 – Learn the basics, but don’t pretend to be a trainer
Always let the child have fun before making it a regular activity. But as the child learns and explores the sport, you should also learn about it.
- Read skating information to better understand your child’s movements so you can praise them more accurately
- Learn to skate yourself – take a few lessons, adult lessons are super fun
However, don’t pretend to be a trainer. This creates frustration for both the child and the real trainer!
Also, I recommend that you don’t sit near the track. If parents are allowed to watch, you should sit away from the track so your child isn’t distracted by trying to solicit your approval.
And don’t forget to say thank you to the coach at the end of the season – see my gift ideas for figure skating/ice dancing coaches (coming soon).
#6 – Teach your child to take care of their skates
Whether they are young and beginners or experienced, all skaters and athletes must respect their equipment. This is something that must be taught from an early age.
You need to teach kids these essential skate care steps as they begin to take lessons and learn.
- The child must wear plastic blade guards on his skates as soon as he leaves the ice. This helps protect the blade, as even a little damage can prevent it from skating properly (not included with rental skates, but as soon as you buy new ones you should get blade guards).
- The child must learn to dry the blades well after each practice. This prevents the blades from rusting. You can make drying more fun by giving your child a personalized towel just for him. See my article on Figure Skating Blade Towels.
- The child should carry their skates in a bag with cloth blade guards to protect the blades, as moisture on the blades can damage them.
- The child must remember to dry his skates as soon as he arrives home.
#7 – Make sure your child stays hydrated
For any sport, hydration is essential. Always have a bottle of water with you, as the activity can be taxing on the skater’s small body.
Sometimes, because it’s cold and the child isn’t going fast, you don’t realize the effort involved. But believe me, it’s a workout! You have to hydrate. This is essential in order to avoid injury .
#8 – Make sure your skater warms up and stretches
Warming up before and stretching after an activity should be automatic. We are not taught this enough.
Sport is all about muscle performance, and muscle performance can improve and injuries can be avoided if warm-up and stretching are done correctly.
Be sure to do some exercises with your child:
Warming up with
- back rotation,
- shoulder rotations,
- Neck rotations
And especially stretching:
- Thighs (there are a lot of ups and downs in ice skating)
#9 – Check Your Skater’s Feet
Ice skates can be uncomfortable if they sweat and create friction. It can also lead to blisters and foot pain.
Make sure you:
- Check and care for blisters.
- Change socks often and don’t always use the same ones.
- Use seamless socks that go over the boot.
- Check that the pads are properly adjusted.
- Learn how to lace skates better.
- Ask the child’s coach for advice.
#10 – Keep it fun! What to say and what not to say
Before being a sport, ice skating should be fun. Don’t be impatient and rush at the first fall.
Consider the following:
- Let your child down. Most of the time, falls are more surprising than painful and are part of the learning curve. Encourage them to get up with a smile. Do not run to the child with a worried face.
- Don’t congratulate them for not falling at all. It would put them to shame if they fell. Normalize the fall.
- Ask and make sure they had fun
- If the child whines a little Make up a story, make up a character and ask them to imagine if they felt like a penguin (for small children). But if it’s every time, it may be necessary to change sports.
- Praise them for good movement/good control.
- Never force them. Let them be. If they are not doing well even after a few sessions, maybe this sport is not for them. If not, it doesn’t matter.