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Skating Fun for Little Ones

by Karen Ung

How to make skating fun for kids

How to make ice skating fun for kids

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Ice skating is a fun, inexpensive activity the whole family can enjoy. My daughter got her first pair of skates at 1.5 years old! While she didn’t skate a lot, she loved it. To make sure your first skating outings are a success, follow these tips:

1. Get the right gear and maintain it

Look for comfortable ice skates that fit well. Hockey skates are easier for most kids because they can run on their skates (vs getting a figure skating toe pick stuck in the ice). Avoid buying skates that are too big because oversized = chafing and wobbling due to inadequate ankle support. Fortunately, used skates are quite affordable, so you can replace your child’s skates each year without breaking the bank.

For better handling and stopping, remember to sharpen your child’s ice skates at least once a season (when they get bigger and skate longer, skates should be sharpened every 10-12 times they are used). Canadian Tire and Sport Chek can do this for you.

For toddlers and preschoolers, consider bob skates (double blades that attach to winter boots) or Skateez (clip-on skating training aids like training wheels). My oldest never used either, but my risk-averse younger daughter preferred bob skates until she was almost 5! Bob skates are very inexpensive and great for toddlers since tiny skates are expensive and usually not used many times before they are outgrown.

2. Bring a sled (if the rink permits it)

When your little one needs a break, she can hop on the sled and have a fun ride. Seeing you and others skating will encourage her to try again. (Note: not all rinks allow sleds, so check before you go.)

3. Bring a skating support

Whether you bring a toddler chair, homemade skating support, or store bought skating support, your child will gain confidence from being able to skate on her own. Your back will thank you too (it’s no fun bending down and holding a small child up)! *Note: Most indoor rinks loan skating aids; some rinks do not allow them.

4. Always wear a helmet

Everyone should wear a helmet on the ice. You too, parents! A hockey helmet or snow helmet is best.

5. Padded pants for the win!

My youngest was afraid to fall, so we got some second hand hockey pants for her. She was a lot braver when she wore padded pants. 

6. Play tag

Games help kids skate faster and with more agility. Parents and older children can skate backwards to give younger kids an advantage.

7. Play pass

As your child develops coordination, toss a stuffed animal and get your child to retrieve it, or get two kids to race to it. Stronger skaters can up their skills by kicking a ball/hockey puck back and forth up the rink. We’ve even improvised with a mitten when we didn’t have anything to play with.

8. Dress for the cold

Warm kids are happy kids! See my story: Keeping Kids Warm in Winter for tips on what to wear. Snow pants and mittens also provide protection when kids fall.

9. Allow time for snow play

When my kids were little, half the time skating at outdoor rinks was spent playing in the snow. Over time, as their skating skills improved, they skated more, but no matter how much they skate, as long as they have fun, they’ll be excited to go skating again.

Where to Skate

For beginners, a maintained indoor or outdoor rink is preferable to natural ice as the ice is smoother and easier to skate on. As skaters get better, they can graduate to natural ice. If you plan to skate on natural ice, please read my Pond and Lake Ice Safety Tips.
We prefer outdoor skating rinks so we can combine skating with snow play and tobogganing (bonus: they’re free!). Check out Calgary’s Best Outdoor Skating Rinks for a rink near you! For places to skate in Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise, see my Winter Activity Guide.
What tips would you add to make skating fun for kids?

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