TORVILL AND DEAN might make it all look so easy, but even if you don’t know your triple toe loop from your double axel, icestaking can bed a fun activity for all the family. There’s just one thing you need to bear in mind first: there are going to be tumbles! Another thing to consider is that it will be cold, obviously, and that iceskating boots are bulky and uncomfortable – both things that young children are not often the best at tolerating. But once you find your feet – it requires a mix of balance, coordination and confidence – it’s really fun and can become a lovely festive family tradition with the number of seasonal open-air ice rinks around the country growing every year.
Follow our handy guide to make if fun for all the family:
Dress the part
A nice pair of not-too-thick socks that go up around the ankle if possible, as this will help make the skates feel more comfortable, worn with jeans or trousers (nothing too tight or too baggy, but fitted to allow easy movement).
Children can wear knee and angle guards for added protection: this will help prevent bruising, but is generally not necessary. On top, wear light layers – a T-shirt with a sweatshirt or light jacket should suffice. Gloves or mittens are a must-have, but not scarves or anything that could dangle too much or get caught up. Make sure skates are well-fitting, andtighten the laces the mostwhere the foot and the ankle bends.
Have some lessons beforehand
Most indoor rinks will hold classes for children, and will teach children basic vital skills like falling and getting up again, as well as best techniques for skating – and stopping. And of course there are classes for adults too: if you’re nifty and steady on the ice, you’ll be better able to help your child. The best way to aid them is for you to skate backwards,allowing your beginning skater to rest his hands on your outstretched palms for support. This is much better than supporting your child from behind– but of course skating backwards may be beyond many parents’ talents!
Choose a family-friendly ice rink
Some ice rinks will also have balance aids for young children, like a perky penguin or an ice scooter (which looks a bit like a Zimmer frame) which can boost confidence.
Learn how to fall over
Learning to fall over is one of the first lessons. Encourage your child to fall on her bottom, rather than lean forward (most accidents are with broken wrists or elbows). When she falls– as she inevitably will – encourage her to get back up, but don't show extreme concern, as that might alarm her.
Keep sessions short
While your child is finding her feet, and don’t persist if she is not enjoying it. That’s the time to hop off the ice, grab a nice warming cup of hot chocolate, find yourself a cosy vantage point and watch everybody else either pirouetting gracefully or floundering and flailing about in a funny fashion.