By Debra Scott
Last year my daughter and I went to the rink every Tuesday and Thursday morning. We were often the only ones there and it was wonderful. So calm and relaxed. Sometimes we were there for half an hour other times she would get frustrated after five minutes. Never-the-less we went regularly and we made it fun. I never forced her to stay if she wanted to go and I just loved it on those days when she'd say "just a few more minutes mom". If skating was too much that day we'd spend time playing on the "SNOW MOUNTAIN" that appears every year right beside the rink and a favourite for kids of all ages.
I could still do it
When I started skating with my daughter 2 years ago I was a bit nervous that I was going to fall on my behind. I probably hadn't set foot on the ice since I was about Eight. So two years ago when I took my 2 1/2 year old skating I was surprised to find that I could still do it. I could still skate backwards, do the bunny hops, the snow plow and even managed a shoot-the-duck. Funny how skills taught at an early age stays with us for a lifetime.
A friend who I met through the outdoor network of moms, skating instructor Marie Jonsson, gave me a good tip: “A good way to prepare children to go on the ice is to let them walk inside the house wearing their skates and guards on rugs”, she said, “When they have the balance they are ready for the ice”. We used this tip and never even tried the two bladed bobby skates and it worked well for us, even at age 2 1/2 when she started. Every year we practice on in the living room for a few nights before we get out on the rink.
Step by step
Last year I took my daughter out Tuesday (and sometimes Thursday) mornings to our local rink. At first it was painful - she spent the whole time making snow angels on the ice. It only took a little while of going regularly that she got her balance. At the end of last year's skating season she could get up by herself and skate once around the rink holding my hand. She didn't go very fast but I could see her balance getting better every time we went.
The first few times we'd only spend 10 to 15 minutes on the ice. By the end of the season that had doubled and we had fun for about 30 minutes. She liked to use the helper (you know, that bar that kids push around the ice) because she can go really fast with it and even lifts one leg to imitate the figure skaters she has seen on T.V. I was worried at first that the helper might slow down her progress in the balance department but I've found that it has improved her confidence and now she asks me to take it away so she can 'try it on her own'. The other benefit of her being able to use the helper is that she can go at her own pace and I get to have a bit of free skate myself. I go around the ice and practice going backwards and spinning.
I'm very excited to see how she skates this year. At four and a half she's a whole year older, more capable, has better balance and longer concentration. I can't wait to see where she is this winter.
Feel like a kid
I don't think I ever skated 'just for fun' as a child. I was always in lessons. Now I feel a freedom in just being able to skate with no pressure. Just having fun and trying to do things on my own. We enjoy our time together and I hope that she enjoys it as much as I do. I hope when she grows up she will have great memories of skating with her mom and her friends. If she decides she wants to take lessons in the future I will support her, but until then we will be at the rink on Tuesdays and Thursdays having fun, skating and enjoying being outside.
Debra lives in Toronto with her family. She is among a lot of things a graphic designer for Active Kids Club and organizer of The Beach outdoor playgroup.
More ways to get outdoors in the winter :