Just before Christmas, Lily and I dropped some stuff off at our local thrift store and found a pair of toddler skates. I can’t remember which of us saw the skates first, but she started hopping with excitement. I was surprised, because we’ve only been skating once, and I wondered how she even knew what skates were. The skates fit her feet and my budget, so we bought them.
Our Skating Experience
About a week later, I noticed an ad for an “everyone welcome” skate at our local recreation centre—only $3. It seemed like a good time to try the new skates.
Now, if you go skating much, you might already be smirking at me: pregnant mom with two toddlers who’ve only skated once before going to the arena for the evening…
As soon as we walked in, and I saw how packed it was, and how fast the crowd on the ice was moving, I realized maybe I should have asked more questions. But we were there, so we were going to try it.
I got the girls into their skates and they happily clumped around on the rubber flooring. We jostled our way to the edge of the ice and I jumped down, then helped them. A staff member caught sight of us and offered to help me get the girls to the middle of the ice, since most people were skating laps around the outside.
Once there, I couldn’t hold both girls at the same time, so they took turns sitting on the ice and skating with me.
Then we had to clear the ice for the zamboni, but the girls wanted to skate still. We watched it go around and around and then made a beeline to middle ice to try skating for another fifteen minutes.
Preschool Skating Lessons
After that, I decided to put the girls in preschool skating lessons. We tried going once more with my husband to the “family friendly” skate, but I still ended up with a sore back, and both Lily and my husband got sore feet. I also realized I can skate very well myself, but I have no clue how to teach the girls. I remember learning to skate by sliding on one foot and pushing with the other, but that didn’t seem to be working for Sunshine.
On Friday, Sunshine had her annual preschool skating party. She and Lily had only had two skating lessons, but already I noticed a huge difference in their abilities on the ice. Sunshine could stand up by herself and move forward. Even Lily had a bit more balance, but still required I stay close to her. We played on the ice for a whole hour and Sunshine didn’t want to leave when the skate ended.
Our rec centre offers several levels of preschool skating lessons. I put Lily in the parent and tot class (lowest level), which requires an adult who is confident on the ice to accompany the child. Sunshine went into Preschool 1, where she didn’t need experience but also didn’t need me to help. She does well as part of a group, participating in whatever the other kids are doing, so she had fun with the teacher and the other children.
At the preschool party, I noticed one little fellow Sunshine’s age who was quite confident on the ice and asked his mom if he’d done lessons for a while. She said he’d actually never done skating lessons. Her husband, who is a hockey player, took a one-day course on how to teach skating to preschoolers and then just took their son skating himself. I thought that was a great idea; instead of an eight-week commitment for the kids, find one day to take a lesson yourself and then take your kids skating at your own convenience.
If you do just drop in at the local skating rink, look for “family” or “kid-friendly” skates rather than skate times for the general public. Some rinks will put out toys and skating supports (the modern version of the plastic chair for kids to lean on) during family skates. If in doubt, ask your local skating rink about the best time to visit.
Finding skates to fit the girls was a bit of a challenge. We lucked out with Lily’s skates, but they are old skates (still in great condition) and don’t have very much ankle support. Her feet get easily tired because her ankles are often bent, so she usually takes a couple breaks during her half-hour lessons. However, the rink doesn’t rent skates her size (6-7) and I haven’t found any others for her yet.
We found Sunshine’s skates at a sports store that sold secondhand equipment. Hers are white plastic, so they offer more support, but they were the smallest size (and only pair) available at the store. One of the dads at Lily’s lesson found skates for his daughter (size 4) online, so watching similar websites might be good places to start.
For new skates, you can try Canadian Tire (which worked for my sister-in-law) or similar outdoor stores. For smaller sizes, BabySkates makes skates in kids’ sizes 2-8. Their skates look like traditional lace-up skates, but have two blades underneath, similar to the boot skates that some of us used when we started skating.
Have you tried skating (or other winter sports) with your kids? At what age did they start? What helped them learn and get involved?