Skating is a lot of fun for kids—once they get the hang of it. For first-timers, however, it often feels like you spend more time falling than gliding. Keep the focus on fun while kids gain the balance, coordination, and technique they need to stay upright on the ice by introducing simple games that help reinforce basic skating skills. Everything is more fun with friends, so why not plan a group meetup and try out some of the suggestions below? Your children will learn to skate and will have fun doing it too!
Of course, safety first: Make sure your child is wearing an approved helmet and follows basic skating safety recommendations.
1. Red light, green light
Just like the classic children’s game, line the children up in a straight line and have them skate towards you, the leader, when you say “green light.” Shout out “red light” and have the kids try to stop. Keep the game non-competitive and encourage everybody to reach the other side of the pond or rink where the leader is standing.
As skating progresses, you can add an element of tag to the game where the leader tries to touch any of the children still skating after “red light” has been called. Those children tagged would then get to help the leader tag other children until only one child is left, or at least one child has reached the far side of the rink or pond.
Other popular games that can be adapted for the ice include British Bulldog and What Time is it, Mr. Wolf?
There are dozens of variations of the classic game of tag. A quick search will help you find a fun version you think your group would like and then you can take it to the ice. My only word of caution is to avoid tag games that require children to hold on to one another until they can safely skate without knocking one another down (where they’d be at risk of getting cut with a friend’s skate blade.)
3. Alphabet hunt
This is a great game for preschoolers. Scatter alphabet letters around the ice (I bought foam bathtub letters) and have the kids search for them in order. They must practice bending over and standing up again to pick up each letter and, as a bonus, they work on early literacy skills. This game can be played with a couple of children or with just one child. The game can also be played with chocolates or candies instead of alphabet letters for older children.
Related read: Starter guide to mastering movement skills on ice and snow
4. Set up an obstacle course
Find a quiet community rink and set up a fun obstacle course for children to skate around. Items you can use could include pool noodles, hula hoops, pylons, or other objects for kids to navigate around. You can also draw lines on the ice with a marker for the children to follow. Vary it by adding squiggly lines, circles, spirals, etc.
5. Smartie hockey
All children will love this game and all you’ll need is one hockey stick and a box or two of Smarties. An adult hits Smarties across the ice with the stick and the children take turns chasing after the candies. Try to keep it non-competitive for younger children, and call out each child’s name when it’s their turn to chase after the next candy. As children progress in their skating, they can take turns hitting the Smarties for their friends as well.
Other popular games that I used to teach my son to skate included regular hockey with child-sized plastic sticks and ice soccer, where the children would practice kicking a ball around the ice to practice transferring weight and balancing on one foot.
With a bit of creativity, most children’s games can be played on ice and they make for successful skating outings. Last tip: bring lots of snacks and a Thermos of hot chocolate for rest breaks!
Photo courtesy of Tanya Koob.