Inspiration to experience figure skating may come from being invited to a birthday party at the local ice rink, watching a Disney prince or princess spin and jump in a “Disney on Ice” production or from viewing a televised figure skating competition. Then, one chilly day, your youngster decides that becoming an ice skater is the best idea ever! Before you dig through the basement for cousin Susie’s old double runner skates and send your child onto the ice, let’s look at the ABC’s of knowing whether or not your child is ready for skating.
A is for Age. Children reach maturity milestones at different times. So, to avoid frustration and distress, be sure that your potential skater is physically and emotionally ready to tackle those first glides.
- Your child must have enough muscle control to be able to balance on a single skate blade; double runner skates are not allowed on the ice during basic skills programs. Don’t forget to consider bladder control, as cold temperatures can sometimes trigger immediate bathroom needs, and it will take a while to pull off layers of warm clothing.
- Your child must be able to deal with following step-by-step instructions without overt frustration reactions. Coaches are professionals and trained to handle occasional tears with encouragement, but patience and a reasonable attention span are needed in lessons. A typical lesson is 30 minutes of instruction divided into 5-minute segments and an additional 30 minutes of on-ice play time.
- You and your child must both be willing to deal with separation. Parents are not allowed on the ice during lessons, so skaters should see happy, encouraging faces at the boards. Most basic skills programs begin at age 4 but offer some low-stress toddler programs, which often allow parents on the ice at the same time.
B is for Budget. Start slow, check out all the options, and you won’t have an empty wallet at the end of the day.
- Know what you can comfortably afford. Basic skills sessions vary in length and cost depending on the area, facility, and coaches. A typical 8 ‒10 week session in basic skills may cost from $80‒$180. So be sure to ask the exact cost at your location.
- Don’t worry if your budget or your child needs a little more time to grow, it doesn’t have to be winter to enjoy skating. Many rinks are open year-round and learning to skate in warmer months means less people on the ice, more individual instruction, and an escape from the summer heat .. shhhh … it’s usually cheaper, too.
- Compromise … parents can choose to “test the frozen water” by attending public skating sessions and renting skates for about $10‒$15 per person. Great family time that won’t break the bank.
C is for Caution. Coaches and assistants are well-trained to handle groups of young, skating newbies, and they know that FUN is still the most important part of learning the FUNdamentals of skating.
- Ice is slippery and skaters fall. That can be difficult to watch and your first inclination may be to rush out on the ice. Coaches have trained assistants to help in beginner classes who will be there to assist your child before you could even convince the ice monitor to open the gate.
- Try not to worry. Safety always comes first! Helmets are almost always required for basic skills skaters, you can dress them in layers that add additional padding, and a fall on the ice is a softer landing than on pavement because of the slick surface distributing the impact.
- Consider all the options. Children with physical or developmental limitations can skate too! Many rinks offer excellent therapeutic recreational skating programs with specially-trained instructors.
Congratulations! You’ve answered all the ABC’s and are confident to move ahead. Next time we’ll look at some important questions to ask your future Olympian. Make sure that you can answer their questions about skating. The best place to do that is on the Skaters Landing website. Start by reading through the General Skating FAQ in our Buyers Guides and you will be well-prepared to answer what comes next for your budding ice star.