When Kids Should Learn Figure Skating

a young girl holding skates at an ice rink

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Some parents get their children on skates and on the ice as soon as they are able to walk, but the ideal age to begin tot ice skating lessons is at about three or four. Some ice arenas will not accept children under three into their skating classes.

At Age 5 or 6, Much Can Be Accomplished

Parents of three- and four-year-old ice skaters may see some marching and gliding on the ice, but complex figure skating techniques can't be mastered until a child is about five or six. There are some exceptions. Many ice arenas offer tot ice skating lessons or "Parent and Me" ice skating classes.

Tip: Introduce very young children to skating at a roller skating rink where toddlers and preschoolers can walk on locked roller skate wheels. Children don't get wet or cold in roller skating rinks and usually don't cry even when they fall while roller skating. Once a child can roll around on roller skates, the transition to ice skates comes easily.

What to Expect at Group Tot Figure Skating Lessons

Weekly group tot ice skating lessons are usually no longer than 30 minutes.

  1. Before the lesson begins, the ice skating instructor will meet the children in the class off the ice. The teacher will first check that skates are laced properly. Also, all participants should be wearing gloves or mittens.
  2. Off-ice instruction may take place next. The teacher may have the children practice falling down and getting up off the ice. The children will also learn how to walk on ice skates and walk towards the ice.
  3. The children will now take to the ice. The instructor will lead each child, one by one to the ice. The children may be frightened and cold, but also may be excited. Each child will hold on to the rail at first.
  4. Each child will now move away from the rail and sit on the ice. The children's hands should be placed in their laps. The teacher may explain that it is important to not put hands on the ice so that fingers are safe!
  5. Then the children will try to stand up on the ice. This is when some children might get frustrated. The teacher will have the children first get on all fours and then have them put one skate between their hands and then the other. Next, the teacher will tell them to push themselves up and to stand with their feet in a "V" like a duck.
    1. Be aware that some children might stand up and fall down immediately. The instructor will encourage each child to stand up on the ice on his or her own. Crying may occur.
  6. The instructor will have the children practice falling and getting up over and over again. The main thing young children need to know is if they are going to skate, they are going to fall.
  7. Once the children are comfortable with falling and getting up, it will be time to do some marching on the ice. First, the teacher will get the children to lift up one foot and then another and march in place. Next, the children will march forward.
    1. If small toys or stuffed animals are available, the instructor may ask the children to try to march forward to get one of the toys that are laid down on the ice. (This works miracles!)
  8. Don't expect young children to glide for a while. Parents of young children should be happy if their children are smiling and happy. If the child does glide on two feet for just a few inches, progress has been made.
  9. Expect some tears. If an instructor has assistants, he or she may have the assistants deal with the crying children. Parents should watch from behind the rail and be visible to the child.
  10. The teacher may play games with the class. Games such as "Ring Around the Rosy" or "Hokey Pokey" are popular games played in tot ice skating classes.
  11. The teacher may end the class by instructing each child skate to the rink's entry door without assistance (if possible) to reunite with his or her parents. If the child is able to even skate a few feet on his or her own, the parent should be pleased.
  12. Be sure to make time to practice. If a parent knows how to skate, he or she should take their children to public ice skating sessions for extra practice between lessons.

What You Need to Know

  • Skaters should wear gloves or mittens
  • Skates must be laced properly
  • Helmets are recommended
  • Skaters should wear long pants or tights and a light sweater or jacket