Learning to ice skate is probably the largest inhibitor that keeps parents from encouraging their children to play hockey. For one reason. It's not easy. It takes time and some money. Learning to ice skate is like learning to walk. Why? Because it does not happen without work and it does not happen overnight.
When many of us were growing up, our parents would have to drive one hour, one way to the nearest ice rink. Today, rinks are popping up all over the country. Let's be clear, if your child has no desire to learn how to skate, playing hockey is probably not in the cards. If you force your child to go skate, chances are they will dislike it and not want to skate at all.
LEARNING HOW TO SKATE
Most full service ice rinks now offer learn to skate classes for children (and adults) of all ages. Many local program allows kids as young as 3-years old to participate! If there is anything important to remember about learning to skate it is this. There is no child too young to learn how to ice skate......especially if they enjoy it.
There is some debate about what type of ice skates to start children in. Some hockey parents swear that children should start in ice hockey skates to get used to them. Most skating instructors would prefer that you use figure skates at first and their reasoning is this. Figure skates have a longer, flatter blade than hockey skates. Therefore it really helps their balance when they are just getting comfortable with the ice. At the end of the day, whatever your child seems most comfortable with is where you should begin.
Most rinks allow you to rent ice skates. If you're planning on going a few times a month, that could get expensive. There are several retailers where you can buy starter skates for kids. Do not leave room for your child's feet to grow into them as this can inhibit their ability to learn correctly. Make sure they are fitted properly and comfortably. If the skates are hurting your child's feet, they will not be able to concentrate on the task at hand........learning how to skate. You can also purchased used skates online or at a second hand sports store to help save some money.
Once your child has their skates on they are ready to step on the ice. Some rinks offer miniature walkers so they can glide around to get comfortable on the ice. Some instructors say not to do this because it becomes a crutch for your child. This is debateable. At least initially. Getting your child comfortable on the ice is the single most important step in teaching your child how to skate. If they aren't comfortable on the ice, they will never learn how to skate properly.
Most rinks offer a Learn to Skate (LTS) program for beginners of all ages. With most rinks, your child must go through their LTS classes before they can progress to Learn to Play Hockey (LTPH) classes. Each class builds on what your child learned in their previous class with the concept of "fun" being the cornerstone for each class. Again, if your child isn't having fun they won't want to come back. The instructors will give you an idea if your child is ready to progress or if they need to spend a little more time at any given level. Don't get too excited or discouraged if your child is moving along faster or slower than some of the other children. Learning to skate is a marathon, not a sprint. If you move them along too fast, they won't learn the necessary tools needed to become a strong skater.
Now, the cost. It's all about ice time. In areas of the country where skating/hockey is very popular, expect your "ice time" to be more expensive than others. Most rinks have fall, winter, and spring sessions of their LTS programs. Each session consists of one class a week for 4-8 weeks. The cost can range anywhere from $50-$150 per session. In one skating season (fall through spring), it could cost several hundred dollars for your child to participate in these classes. If you are on a strapped budget, many programs have "scholarships" based on your income level to help fund your childs class fees. Once your child is able to advance all the way through Learn to Skate classes, they are ready for Learn to Play Hockey Classes!