My Toddler's First Time Ice Skating Experience
Recently, I wrote an article about taking a toddler ice skating for the first time. That article was the result of a great deal of research I did on the topic, but at the time I didn't have any experience to back it up. But since this past Saturday, my son and I hit the ice, and although much of what I already knew was useful, I have a few follow-up tips to go with the previous article.
Have a Plan
Oftentimes, when my wife and I take our son for a new activity, and not knowing quite what will happen, we'll pack a bag of everything, including the kitchen sink. If your child is still in diapers, as mine is, bring the normal diaper bag with an extra set of clothes. In addition, bring a sippy cup. Along with that, bring a separate bag of the items you and your child will be wearing onto the ice. This is, hats, gloves, helmet, padding, and skates. Know which bag is which, and bring change to put your loose items into a locker. Nothing else is needed, and keep it all organized.
Ice Skating Apparel
When getting ready, I dressed him in some jogging pants that were water-resistant. I also put a thick long sleeve sweatshirt on him and his winter coat, and assumed the knee pads and diaper he'd wear would be sufficient to protect him in case of a fall. Once we got to the rink, we saw a number of other kids there wearing snow pants or a snowsuit. We hadn't even thought of that before going, but once we saw how padded and warm they were, we realized that it was a great idea. There isn't much need for pads if a child is wearing a thick winter coat and snow pants. However, the helmet is a must.
Renting Ice Skates
If you and your spouse have your own skates, you'll only need to consider your child's. However, as was the case for my wife, she doesn't have ice skates, so we needed to rent for both her and my son. The sizes are drastically different. Adult sizes are straight numbers, and they are always approximately one size smaller than whatever shoe size you wear. If you wear a size ten sneaker, you'll need a size nine skate.
Children's skates are listed as a numeric value followed by the letter "J" for junior. This is important, and it's also important to note, they are sized small. My son wears size six sneakers, which was the original size we requested at the rental window. But after trying to squeeze his little foot into the tiny skate, we realized he'd need a size seven. We put two pairs of socks on him for added comfort, and the size sevens fit perfectly.
Also, I had called ahead to make sure they'd have the right size for my son, and they said the smallest size they carried was 6J. And all junior sized skates were figure skates--no hockey. That wasn't a problem, but it was good to know.
When I tied them, I tried to pull the strings until they weren't slack, but I didn't yank them as tight as I could get them. They fit snuggly on his feet, and he didn't complain about any discomfort at all. He even toddled all over the place without help, while on the rubber mats.
When Hitting the Ice
Some children love it. Some hate it. You will know instantly by the incessant screaming. My son luckily loved it, and didn't want to get off. We considered trying the walker for balance, but we decided it would be best if I crouched down while holding him up by his sides, and just tried to glide gently around the rink. I told him to march and kick his feet, and as he did it I'm pretty sure he thought he was pulling us around the rink, rather than me pushing him from behind. I felt it was the best way to get him familiar with how to ice skate, and it was pretty funny.
The problem was, even circling the ice once around, my back and arms were killing me. They stung so much that each time around I had to dart onto the bench for a rest. My son would scream to get back out there, but I needed a rest each time. Over the course of a little more than an hour, we probably only circled the rink five times. And by the end, I was ready to lie down.
After about an hour and a half in total at the rink, the whole family had about had it. Our little boy began screaming and crying about everything, and he just wanted a long nap.
On the whole, however, we considered it a great success. He seemed extremely happy for most of the time, and we hope to go again soon.