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Safety tips for ice skating

Ice skating is a wonderful winter tradition, but it can also be a dangerous one if you aren’t careful. Keep your kids safe and happy on the ice with these helpful tips.

Two little boys outside skating with mom on a rink

Tony Kovacs has been doing everything having to do with ice skating — from teaching learn-to-skate programs to choreographing ice shows — for 16 years. He shares some of his tips on how to keep your kids safe when you hit the rink this season.

Find the right helmet

The most important safety precaution, Tony advises, is to get your kids helmets that have been approved by the American Safety Association (ASA) or the Canadian Safety Association (CSA). You can find them at the same location where you buy your skates, so there’s no excuse to not get the right helmet at the same time.

Maintain your skates

Skating on dull skates can be dangerous. That’s why Tony recommends having them sharpened after 15 to 20 hours of skating. The blades of skates differ by the type of skates; figure skates should be sharpened at places that specialize in them, such as a figure skating club or boutique, but hockey skates can be sharpened at the rink.

Teach your kids the basics

Just as you taught your kids to walk before they could run, make sure you set kids up with the basics of skating before sending them out on their own. Tony suggests beginning by teaching kids to do a two-foot glide while keeping their feet straight. From there they can move on to making snow with the insides of their skate blades as a way to stop. When they’re ready, the two-foot glide can be progressed into doing turns and squats to improve control and balance.

Choose safe rinks

Unfortunately not all rinks are created equally, and this can affect whether or not a rink is safe enough for your little ones to learn to skate. Tony recommends going to indoor skating rinks — at community or private centres, for example — as they use Zambonis to flood the ice. Outdoor rinks should be avoided, since they often don’t have smooth surfaces or side boards for safety.

Skate safely with your little ones

Tony suggests making sure you skate properly with your child when you’re on the rink together. He encourages skating side by side, and if you’re skating in circles, keep your child on the outside of the circle. If, for instance, you’re skating counter-clockwise on a public rink, you should be holding your child’s hand, and he should be on your right side.

Sign them up for skating lessons

Although there are some things you can teach your little ones about skating safely, professional lessons are an invaluable resource. Many parents can struggle on occasion to keep control of their own skating, which can make teaching little ones difficult. Tony explains that professional coaches can take better control of children when they’re on the ice with them and can introduce basic skating skills in more technical detail. They can also more easily identify any potentially dangerous or incorrect habits kids are making and fix the problems. So if you want to ensure your kids enjoy safe and happy ice skating experiences for years to come, signing them up for classes is the best way to do so.

To find out more about Tony or to sign your child up for ice skating lessons if you live in the greater Toronto area, check out Skate Toronto’s website.

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