Beginning to Skate
It is not too early for a child to begin ice skating at age two, but whatever the age, the first experience must be fun so that the child will want to continue. Constant moving time on the ice is the major component for developing into a great skater, and the adult must discern how much exposure the child wants and can tolerate.
Do not sign up a child for “learn to skate” programs until he/she is stable enough on single blade skates. It is much cheaper to pay for continual public skating at the beginning rather than to pay for instruction when the child will be “flopping around.” If a parent does wish to make use of “learn to skate” programs, this adult should also certainly maintain other skating times.
I favor that the child begin skating on single blade skates and never to use double blade skates because a beginner needs to adjust to moving on a thin piece of metal eventually – no matter what. Double blade skates are completely different and would only delay the adaptability to the sensation of stability on single blade skates. Those who refer to the example of training wheels on a bicycle as a parallel for using double blade skates to ease a child into skating should understand that all children use training wheels on a bicycle only for earlier enjoyment of that vehicle, but training wheels do nothing to hasten learning to balance on a two-wheeler, which is a totally different experience. Double blade skates are not a shortcut to mastering the functioning of skating on single blade skates.
When a child begins skating, it is absolutely imperative that he/she is equipped with knee pads, elbow pads, and a helmet with a full facial shield because a child could fall forward or backward. A beginning skater should never be allowed to skate without this apparel because the ice is extremely hard and an accident is potentially always “around the corner.” Be certain that skates are properly fitted because tight skates will be painful and loose skates will provide no support while requiring greater expenditure of energy.
When a child is on the ice for the very first time, the adult should support him/her from behind and under the shoulders, while gently guiding him/her along as the child coasts. After a while, perhaps four to six times (assuming that each session lasts approximately 30 minutes), the child should be encouraged to push into the ice from the hips down through the entire leg with one skate, then the other, in order to propel himself/herself. While developing stability, the child can also stand behind a chair and push it as he/she skates. This principle is similar to an elderly person using a walker for safe movement and in order to remain upright. Also, after the beginner has gained some stability but still needs support, another technique for fun and practice is having the child hold one end of a 4-6 foot pole while gliding and being pulled by the adult. Later, while still being pulled (and perhaps using two poles), the child can push (stride) into the ice with one leg after the other. It will be easy to detect when the child can be left to himself/herself for development without any physical assistance.
It usually takes approximately one dozen outings before a child is comfortably able to skate alone, albeit unsteadily, although children's progress will vary. At this stage, the child should keep skating (ice time is critical) so that he/she can eventually begin practicing different maneuvers, such as backward skating, crossovers, stopping, etc.. Careful evaluation and the child’s willingness will dictate when the individual can expand his/her program. The best hockey players are always the best skaters.