Growing up, ice-skating was an activity that every kid in my area participated in, at least for long enough to teach them how to stay up on their skates and make it once all the way around the rink. It could have just been the thing to do where I grew up, but either way, it was an amazing experience and a lifelong skill. Whether we went on to be little ice princesses/princes, hockey stars, or just casual rink goers, we all started in the same place: tot class. So if you are interested in having your child start their life on edges, let me get you started.
Best Age to Start
It will be important to decide when you want to start your little one out. Technically speaking, if you are feeling adventurous, you can start your child on skates once they are able to walk. But it is more common for children to start between the ages of 3-5 once they’re already established
on solid ground, and then have them learn to balance on two blades. Some rinks have a specific age in which they allow children on the ice as well, so that is something to be mindful of when you are looking around for programs. Once you have decided they’re ready, it’s time to find a tot class in your area. Some places will have tot classes separated into figure skating and hockey classes, but it isn’t necessary to pick right away if you are unsure of where to go; they’re just learning the basics.
What You Should Expect
Tot classes are group classes for children ages 3-5 and are meant to be a fun way to learn and master the fundamentals. What does this mean exactly? Well for starters, you and your child are going to learn how to correctly lace up the skates to ensure maximize safety before stepping onto the ice. Then the instructor will teach the kids how to fall and stand back up the right way because, lets face it, falling is inevitable with this skating and they have to learn not to be scared of it. Being taught how to fall and get back up correctly will hopefully avoid any injuries when it does occur out on the ice. Your child will then move onto marching, often times in a long line across the ice (this can vary though), just to get the feeling and balance of being on blades. They will move to gliding on their blades once they understand the marching concept. After these basics are covered, 2-foot jumps will be added in addition to beginning swizzles and snowplow stops. Throughout the session, the instructor will teach these movements while simultaneously playing games or adding fun activities to keep your child’s attention and interest.
Getting Them Ready for Class
Hanging out in the rink can get a little cold for the little ones, especially if the lesson lasts for a ½ hour or longer. To maximize their safety and warmth, just start with a few basic items. Tights, leggings, or fitted sweatpants are going to be your best option to keep your tot warm and covered. It you do decide to dress them in leggings or pants, make sure they have warm socks on but not ones that are too bulky to fit in their skates properly. If the socks are too bulky, then you won’t be able to pick out the correct size skates, which is dangerous. Similarly to the pants, have your kid wear a fitted long sleeve shirt and/or jacket so that they are warm but not in too much that it makes moving on the ice difficult. Pair these with a pair of gloves so that their hands don’t get too cold in the rink, especially if they do fall! Last but not least (and definitely not least important), you kid will need a helmet. Even if they don’t want to wear it, they have to when they are starting out. I know that you agree with me on that! Let them decorate it or pick out a fun color to match their skating outfit so that they will want to show it off every week. Many places will offer skate rentals, so you won’t have to worry about buying any off the bat if you don’t want. Just check before the first class. Then they will be set to go.
Tot class is just the beginning for your little skater. Whether they want to move to hockey groups or figure skating groups, starting with the basics will get them ready to take on the ice! From there you have competitions and/or games to look forward to. But before we get ahead of ourselves, just let them have fun learning their way around a pair of skates. If you really want to have some fun, some rinks even offer parent/kid classes so you can learn together, even if you already know what you are doing!