Introduction to Ice Skating

When to Start

Once a child can walk, he/she is ready to learn ice skating.

I have two children, the first one didn’t learn how to ice skate until he was 7, the second one started when he was 3. I regret not having started my first child earlier (granted, COVID didn’t make getting ice time easy during his early childhood). The most important factor in developing a good skater is ice-time. The more ice-time a child gets the better skater he/she will be. If you start them at 3 they will have accumulated a ton of more ice-time by the time they are 7 than a child that is just starting. Easy enough right? But there is a catch: younger children have meltdowns.

I’ve never met a toddler that doesn’t cry the first time they go ice skating. When I go to a public skate, I often see some dad wearing his hockey skates all pumped up about sharing this sport with his child. And it often goes like this:

  1. Child is super excited to be trying something new with his/her cool new shoes with a blade.
  2. Excitement quickly turns into nervousness when they realize those cool new shoes are really unstable.
  3. Dad tries to keep the child excited but you can see a meltdown is incoming.
  4. Dad starts getting frustrated and is forced to pick the child up and get him off the ice.

For the most part, the younger the child, the more patience you’ll need. The first hour of ice time with them you’re going to be holding them the whole time. After that, you’ll start to let go a bit and you’ll be navigating that thin line between your child taking a few steps himself and him having a meltdown. You’ll let them go a bit longer every time, until suddenly they get it. You’ll be beaming with pride. I would say this process takes an average of 3-5 ice hours. I was personally lucky in that my wife was the one managing this release-hold-release cycle with my youngest, and she is much more patient than I am. At the time, I was working with my first son on more advanced stuff.

And well, my first son didn’t cry at all when he was learning because he was 7 years old. But I see now how many valuable ice hours he lost with that late start. Easier for me sure, but the learning curve for him was more difficult to navigate (things that took him months to learn, my youngest son has learned in one or two sessions).

So the golden rule is: start them young, the younger they are are the tougher it’ll be for you short-term but the easier it’ll get for them long-term.

How about skating aids?

Avoid them if possible. Skating aids mitigate the crying part but I would never recommend using them. Or rather, if you only plan on taking your child ice skating once or twice a year, sure, use them. They’ll have more fun. Skating aids are great for casual skaters. But if your goal is developing a strong skater, avoid them, they teach bad habits. The most most important aspects of skating are keeping a low center of gravity and opening up your hips. Aids teach you the exact opposite of these concepts: they keep you hunched over, leaning all your weight forward with closed hips. As a corollary, when you hold your child, only hold them from one hand skating side-by-side. He’ll try to reach out with his 2nd hand, but discourage that. Never let him lean all his weight on you, because that’s the same thing as using an aid. Skating is all about balance, when you are not holding your own weight you are not learning balance.

Ice Time

Once your child is skating alone, which means he is supporting his whole weight himself without needing your help and without leaning on a wall (which at first usually means he is just marching on the ice and typically just with one foot while dragging the other one – which is ok), the next step is simple: ice time. The more the better.

How much ice-time?

The more the better.

No, seriously, how much?

I’ve heard from coaches in the region that three hours per week is when they start to see a noticeable difference in development. So that’s the personal rule-of-thumb I aim for, and typically fail to reach. But we try. I think our average over the past year has been closer to two hours of ice-time per week.

Should I sign my kid up to Learn to Skate group lessons?

Learn to Skate group lessons won’t teach your child to skate. They won’t, that was not a typo. Not on their own anyway. I personally learned ice skating without classes and have seen many people take classes that still can’t skate. The only thing that teaches you skating is, and we’re getting repetitive here, ice-time. The more ice-time the better. And now that I’ve said all that, I love Learn to Skate group lessons. You just have to understand they are a tool and not a solution, group lessons give you 30 minutes of (semi-high quality) ice-time per week, 30 minutes of ice-time per week is not enough.

For me, Learn to Skate group lessons are great for these reasons:

#1 Since you are paying for them in advance, you’re not going to want to skip them. So they develop the habit of hitting the ice every week.

#2 They usually include free public sessions or practice time, which usually ends up making them a great deal. You are not just paying for 30 minutes of ice-time per week, you are paying for 90 minutes per week (typically, some rinks are more stingy with this *cough* Skatequest *cough*). But you have to use the ice-time.

#3 They’ll teach your child some really useful foundational skills: swizzles, skating backwards, and stopping are the big three in the early stages of ice-skating. These are simple concepts that your children could learn on their own by simply, here we go again, being on the ice a lot. But some kids, like mine, are very risk averse. Many new skaters feel hesitant to try out new things when they are skating with mom or dad. On a class setting, they are sort of peer-pressured into doing it. So that might help accelerate their journey through the learning curve.


To learn to skate, children need to be on the ice. And they need to be on the ice often and without aids or double-bladed skates or any other gimmicky devices. Once they get the balance, which takes 3-5 hours, it’s all about giving them consistent ice-time. The more ice-time the better. Consistency helps, 3 hours per week over 4 weeks is better than 12 hours of ice time one week and then none for the next three. You want moving on ice to become second nature to them, and that’s won’t happen on the ground.