A lot of times when you think about ice skating, you picture scenes of bundled, rosy-cheeked children gliding effortlessly across frozen wonderlands. But the cold hard reality is that ice is, well, cold and hard.
We asked Rick Stephens, vice president of Highland Ice Arena in Shoreline, and Ashlee Evans, a skating instructor at Castle Ice in Renton, to share their tips for a successful first outing on ice with kids. Here's what they had to say:
Dress for Success
Exercise creates body heat. Dress warmly, but don't overdress. Make sure your kids wear a light jacket, gloves, mittens and pants that they can move in. Many girls like to wear pretty skirts, like the skaters they see on television, but they can end up with ice burn (ouch!). Skaters should wear thick socks that go up past the ankles to avoid blisters.
New skaters should wear helmets. Any type of helmet will do: bike helmets, skateboard helmets, ski helmets, etc. Mom and Dad, if you are first timers, you should wear a helmet too. Knee pads are also a good idea for beginners.
Size Skates Correctly
Make sure skates aren't too big: Skates need to be fitted, worn close to the toes, but not quite touching, unlike a tennis shoe. Go down a full size from the regular shoe size.
Try putting on your children's skates in the lobby, and show them what they will be doing before getting on the slippery stuff.
Ask kids to bend their knees, and put their hands out with a slight curve, palms to ice. They should look straight ahead at you, and not look down. Mirror this position for your children, and then have them march up and down to help establish a rhythm.
Once on the ice, stand four to five feet away from your kids and have them march toward you. Marching helps them gain confidence in balance and feel comfortable lifting their feet off the ice. Stand with your knees bent and arms out so little ones feel they can grab hold of your hands. If your children feel like they are going to fall, tell them to put their hands on their knees and stop moving. Once they have mastered marching, have them try lifting one foot up and gliding, so that they are doing a "march, march, glide."
Don't skate holding hands, or you'll pull each other down! Most rinks also offer walkers to rent for kids 5 and younger. They are great for new skaters who are establishing balance.
Of course, skating lessons offered at most rinks are a great way to go as well. They will teach beginners how to fall safely and gain confidence on the ice.
Pace, Don't Pressure
Have kids go around the rink once or twice, and then take a break. Drink some cocoa, get a snack and if they want to go again, then go for it. They will enjoy the experience more if they have frequent breaks, and get to go on and off the ice a lot until they feel confident. Taking baby steps now will pay dividends later, so resist the urge to pressure them; let them stop whenever they want to do so.
Ice Skating Rinks Around Seattle
- Bremerton Ice Center – 1950 Homer Jones Drive, Bremerton; 360-479-7465. www.bremertonicecenter.com
- Sno-King Ice Arena Renton – 12620 164th Ave. S.E., Renton; 425-254-8750. www.castleice.com
- Highland Ice Arena – 18005 Aurora Ave. N., Shoreline; 206-546-2431. www.highlandice.com
- Kent Valley Ice Centre – 6015 S. 240th St., Kent; 253-850-2400. www.familynightout.com
- Sno-King Ice Arena Kirkland – 14326 124th Ave. N.E., Kirkland; 425-821-7133. www.kingsgatearena.com
- Lynnwood Ice Center – 19803 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood; 425-640-9999. www.lynnwoodicecenter.com