Sunday, January 4, 2015

Taking the Kids Ice Skating For the First Time--Skating in Rental Skates

It's winter, and I bet the grandparents have given your daughter a cute little skating dress and she really, really wants to skate. Or maybe your little boy has been watching hockey and wants to skate too.  And there's always a chance you have a girl who wants to play hockey or a boy who wants to figure skate. Or maybe, you just want to stick the kids on the ice and read Fifty Shades of Gray on your Kindle--you won't be the first.

What you can do to make the experience happy for your child:
Dress your kid warm. Gloves and a hat are good ideas. Girls should wear pants. Yes you see girls in skimpy costumes on TV but those are professionals. Your kids will be uncomfortable with their first experience if they're cold. If your kid gets hot, you can always take off the hat and jacket, but keep the gloves on. The gloves will help protect tiny little hands from getting torn up when the kid falls on the ice.

Gloves are also important so little kids don't have an excuse to put their hands in their pockets. If your darling has their cold hands in their pockets and falls, you can be facing an expensive dental bill. You'll see teen age boys skating with their hands in their pockets. Well, we all know teen age boys have really good reflexes and if they're not your kid, and you're not paying for their dental surgery. Still  don't let your little ones copy them.

A helmet is usually recommended. If you have a bicycle helmet that fits your child, you might as well take it. 

Rental Skates

 I assume you're going to be renting skates.  I just want to say that the conventional wisdom is that the following kind of skates are the easiest to skate on:
The toepicks up front make it easier to stop, and the relative flatness of the blade make it easier to balance. These aren't 'figure skates', they're 'regular skates'

I'm now going to give you some Tips:
Important safety tips:


I've seen so many kids waddling on the ice on their ankles because the skates are degraded to the state of scraps of canvas and a piece of lace. I don't think they're safe to skate in, especially if the blade is loose.

If there are no skates in your size that are in decent shape, try to go up a size or in a pinch, down a size. You're only going to be out on the ice an hour.  

Secondly, even if you have all the eyelets, and hooks, and the blade is securely attached, rental skates are crap.   The canvas boot is almost always broken down and give no support, and the last time the blades were sharpened was probably last year, if they have ever been sharpened since their manufacture.

Maybe the man in the family wants to put his little boy in hockey skates rather than regular rental skates. Just a word of warning, hockey skates are notoriously hard to skate in the first time. If the man in the family only want his boy skating in hockey skates because figure skates will make him gay, then you've got more problems than I can give you advice on.

How to have a good time on rental skates

BEND YOUR KNEES! Bend your knees so deeply you feel you're going to sit down, that's about right. Most adults keep their legs stiff and hunch over. It's scary to watch them teeter on the edge of doing a face plant. The fact that it happens so seldom is a real miracle on ice. Most young kids adapt to skating really quickly, even in crap rental skates. They don't seem to mind falling and are so light, that even in crap rental skates, they bounce right back up. Teenagers are hopeless. Worried more about not looking bad than anything else. The girls scream and grab people when they start to go down, the boys like to go fast and don't know how to stop. I won't give any advice about teenagers. 

Hope you enjoy your trip to the ice rink!


  1. Great post, Babbette! The other thing parents need to keep in mind is that if they want their young babies (under 2 years old) to skate, then the parents SHOULD NOT CARRY THE KID ON THE ICE! I cannot emphasize this enough. Although I am extremely comfortable on the ice, I still wouldn't carry a baby in my arms while skating. It's so dangerous - especially if the parent isn't stable on the (cheap) rental blades.

  2. Generally good ideas. I would add unless the bike helmet has a flat back (like a skate board helmet) it's not a good idea.

  3. Can I also add that if your rink offers skating aids such as penguins please don't use them. Either your child is too small to be able to push them around in which case all they are doing in leaning as far forward as possible to get enough force on them for them to move (and have we ever seen anyone skating on their toepicks at a 45 degree angle to the ice???)...or they are much bigger than the penguin in which case they have to bend in half (also a really good skating position!!). There is no way that they will ever learn anything about how to stand up on ice by pushing a lump of plastic around.

    Balancing your child on the penguin and pushing them round the ice is also not recommended!!! It's an ice rink not a set of dodgems. The horror of the rink that actually rents out "seals" for children to sit on while their parents push them around is still with me!

    Babies under 2 can skate on strap on double blades...they have about as much edge as a banana but will keep the little ones balanced enough to walk around on the ice and think they are doing it.

    If your child is really small then holding their hand right up past their head because that's where it goes when you hold hands is going to pull them right off balance too!

    Oh and make sure that a) you haven't got really thick socks on - it doesn't actually prevent blisters, b) your socks/trousers aren't tucked into the boots with big lumps of material pressing on your legs c) your skates are done up reasonably tightly ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP...d) your laces are not dragging on the ice under your blades.

    Don't wear long flowing scarves that other falling beginners can grab onto...

    AND DON'T CHEW GUM (pet hate anyway...but the thought of beginners chewing gum on the ice, falling over and choking terrifies me)...

  4. Great Suggestions!

    In addition to teaching skating, I also work at the rink skate guarding and at the rental counter. Something else that has become way too common is people skating with their smartphone in one hand and trying to "help" their child skate with the other. Please put your phone either in your pocket or just leave it off of the ice all together. I understand that you might want to snap a picture or two...and I am always happy to take the photo for the public skaters.

    Also, if your rink does have the gliders/walkers for beginners to use....they are usually intended for quite young children. Make sure that you are within arms reach and have them stand up straight and just push it for balance. I have seen kiddos flip over the front of the bars....and it is not a good sight.

    One last suggestion is to arrive at the session right away. If it is a multi-hour session, the last half of the session is usually a MAD house. If you arrive early then you will get your pick of the skates. At the beginning of the session, I am always trying to make sure I put people in our best skates but as the pairs in the popular sizes dwindle, I have no choice than to give out the pairs that I think would be best served in the trash.

  5. Those are all great additional suggestions! I just started out meaning to rant about rinks passing out broken skates, but you all really made this a complete post.
    Thanks !