How to introduce kids to figure skating

If you are thinking of starting your kids in figure skating, Skate Canada has developed CanSkate, a new program focused on a child’s long-term development in the sport. No matter whether your kids are learning for fun or planning to skate competitively, the program will teach them fundamental skills that they need for figure skating as well as other ice sports such as hockey and speed skating.

Kids can start skating lessons as early as 3, but keep in mind that your 3-year old may not be ready to be away from you or have the attention span for a 20 to 30 minute lesson. By 5 to 6 years of age they’ll have the balance and coordination needed to master the more complex movements of figure skating.

Another way to begin is by taking your kids down to the local rink and skating together as a family. Warm them up by letting them walk on the ground in their skates before taking them onto the ice. Let them know that they’ll fall – everybody does, even Patrick Chan! – and that falls are just a part of skating.

Many facilities will rent skates – and helmets, which are mandatory in many jurisdictions – that you can wear to start. When your kids start bugging you to go to the rink every day, you can find good skates at your local sports swap.

The skills they need

Figure skaters need to be able to glide, spin, turn, jump, hop, skip, and stop.

They also need to develop agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, and the speed that comes from the explosive “quickness” of muscles.

Understanding rhythm – being able to skate to a beat – is also important for figure skaters.

Activities your child can do now

Here are some AfL activities you can do at home with your kids to help them develop these skills:

Find out what skills can be introduced to children at different ages using our Skills Builder tool.

Here’s a six year old girl performing an artistic program, and the same skater two years later.

2 responses to “ First steps to becoming a figure skater ”

Wow great you can see how much she has learned her personality came out i hope to o see her someday in the Olympics good luck

I would like to know more about Ice Skating lessons for my 6 year old.

Ian has been involved in the figure skating world for almost a decade as a parent to a USFSA gold medalist and as a volunteer at events.

Learn to Skate

Figure skating is a great sport for all ages, and most households have a rink within easy reach. In this article, I’ll explain:

  • How to get started without spending too much money (in case your skater decides it’s not really for them).
  • What to expect in terms of lessons and costs.
  • What the next steps will be if your skater wants to get more involved.

In the U.S., the national governing body is U.S. Figure Skating, or USFSA.

How to introduce kids to figure skating

Step One – Find A Local Club

The USFSA web site has a great tool on their website which can search for clubs near you. It covers the U.S. and Canada.

You should look for a club that offers group lessons. This is the best way to start, and there are several advantages. Group lessons follow a curriculum that’s been developed over years of practice

Step Two – Start With Group Lessons

The majority of beginners get started with group lessons, either Snowplow Sam or Basic Skills. If your skater wants to keep progressing after completing the Basic Skills lessons, you’ll want to look at a private coach. But group lessons are a very affordable way to see if it’s a passing interest or something that will keep going.

Group lessons help to keep the costs down in a couple of ways. By spreading the cost of ice time and coach time over several people, it’s a lot cheaper than a private lesson. The other key is to rent skates for the lessons. Figure skates rapidly get very expensive, so hold off buying a pair until you know if your skater is going to continue with the sport.

There are two levels of group lessons, Snowplow Sam and Basic Skills.

  • Preschoolers start with Snowplow Sam.
  • Ages six and above start with Basic Skills.

The three levels of Snowplow Sam cover all the same skills as the Basic Skills 1 course, but they’re separated out into more manageable chunks. This is much easier to handle for very young skaters.

Snowplow Sam and Basic Skills Compared

Best for preschoolers

Aimed at six or older

Three or four levels

Cost: $120 to $170

Cost: $120 to $200

Up to seven in the group

Up to ten in the group

How to introduce kids to figure skating

Snowplow Sam Explained

USFSA’s program has three levels; Learn to Skate USA is just the same three levels plus a fourth level that covers some more difficult skills. Your rink will use one or the other.

Snowplow Sam lessons are aimed at very young skaters who are just beginning, and they’re designed to make a non-skater feel more comfortable on the ice. These are really to build confidence. If your child has already been on the ice, the rink might suggest they skip these levels and move on to the basic skills course.

Skaters move through these levels at their own pace. The instructor will let you know when they’re ready to move on to the next level. Some skaters need a few sessions to build their confidence, while other kids just seem to click.

Basic Skills Explained

Basic skills is where your skater will start getting into the fundamentals of the sport. They’ll learn different turning techniques, how to skate backwards, and even get started with spins and jumps.

The Basic Skills program consists of eight different levels. Skaters move at their own pace, and might even skip some levels. The Basic 1 level teaches all the same skills as the Snowplow Sam program, so young skaters who are moving up from that program might start at Basic 2.

  • Basic 1 & 2 are beginning levels
  • Basic 3-6 are intermediate levels
  • Your rink might use Basic 7 & 8 or Pre-Freeskate to describe the last two levels, but the content is the same

Moving On – Private Lessons

As your skater is moving through the Basic Skills program, you’ll probably be wondering what comes next. Group lessons are ideal for starting figure skating, but to move beyond Basic Skills, you’ll need to start working with a private coach.

To get the most out of coaching, your skater will have to decide what kind of figure skating is most interesting to them. They may choose to focus on freestyle, dance, or some other form of figure skating. One option that is very popular in larger clubs is the team sport of synchronized skating.

Figure skating combines strength and grace in a sport that builds many skills.

Catherine Holecko is an experienced freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting, health and fitness.

Sean is a fact checker and researcher with experience in sociology and field research.

How to introduce kids to figure skating

Whether or not you live in a wintry climate, kids’ figure skating is a year-round activity that can lead to several other competitive youth sports. Or it might be a hobby your child will enjoy their whole life!

The basics: Skating starts with learning how to balance on skates and move from point A to point B, usually in a “Learn to Skate” or basic skills program.

From there, kids can branch out into freestyle figure skating, ice dancing, hockey, synchronized skating, or speed skating. And on dry land, roller skating or in-line skating!

Age kids can start: Toddlers of two and three years old can begin to skate, sometimes with a metal bar to hold onto for balance. Learn-to-skate lessons can begin at about age 4.

Skills needed/used: Flexibility, muscle strength, endurance, balance and coordination.

Best for kids who are: Patient and persistent—it can take time to see results. Figure skaters need to be both athletic and artistic.

Season/when played: Winter; many (but not all) indoor ice rinks are open year-round, and competitions happen year-round too.

Team or individual? Figure skating is performed individually, in pairs, or in small groups for artistic events. Synchronized skaters compete in teams. And don’t forget that boys can and do figure skate. In fact, they are in demand as pairs and dance partners!

Levels: The U.S. Figure Skating Basic Skills Program has a series of levels that young skaters pass through depending on their performance of specific sets of skills.

Competitive skaters also take a series of tests in several disciplines: moves in the field (formerly figures), freestyle, and dancing.

Appropriate for kids with special needs: Yes. Kids with intellectual and physical disabilities can even participate in a Special Olympics skating program.

Fitness factor: Recreational skating burns 250 calories or more per hour; the rate is higher for competitive figure skating. As with swimming, if your child is taking lessons, make sure they get plenty of active ice time (vs. waiting-their-turn time).

Equipment: To start, skates (can be rented at ice rinks) and warm clothing, especially water-resistant mittens or gloves. Helmets are recommended for kids 6 and under and all beginning skaters. As figure skaters progress, they will need costumes for performances and competitions. You will need to pay for ice skate sharpening after every four to six hours of ice time. (When you buy skates, find out if the retailer offers free sharpening.)

Costs: Group lessons for beginning skaters cost about $10/half-hour, often including rental skates. Rental skates cost a few dollars per session, as does open skate time. But competitive figure skating can be very expensive, when you add up costs for private coaching, gear, ice time, costumes, fees for tests and competitive events, and travel.

Once a figure skater is receiving private coaching, they typically join a figure skating club for access to ice time, as well as special events such as ice shows.

Time commitment required: For beginning skaters, weekly lessons (usually 30 minutes) and some practice time. As skaters progress, they will spend significantly more time on the ice. Serious skaters practice or take lessons at least four to five days a week, plus train off the ice. Competitive figure skaters also travel for testing and competitions. Top figure skaters may turn to homeschooling or online learning to balance skating and school commitments.

Potential injuries: Falls onto the hard surface of the ice can be risky, which is why novice skaters should wear helmets—and learn the correct way to fall down and get back up. More experienced skaters who do not wear helmets should know how to prevent and treat concussions.

Skaters can be susceptible to both overuse and traumatic injuries, usually to the hips, spine, or lower extremities. Get a tip sheet on preventing figure skating injuries from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

Associations and governing bodies:

  • U.S. Figure Skating
  • Professional Skaters Association
  • Ice Skating Institute

If your child likes figure skating, also try: Roller skating or in-line skating; ballet; gymnastics; ice hockey; speed skating.

By Elisa Murray

Published on: December 19, 2019

How to introduce kids to figure skating

Going for a spin at a local ice rink is a quintessential winter activity. And during the holiday season, you can choose from not just one of the classic indoor skating rinks around the region but also festive seasonal rinks in cool spots such as Seattle Center, Tacoma’s Point Ruston, downtown Olympia and Bellevue’s Downtown Park. Cue the steaming mugs of hot cocoa.

There’s only one problem: Ice skating isn’t the easiest sport to pick up. At any local public skate session, you’ll see kids big and small hanging on to their parents for dear life — while the parents are wondering how soon they can schedule a trip to the chiropractor.

So what’s your strategy for helping kids learn to ice skate without breaking your back? We asked local experts and here are their tips.

Dress for success

Success on the ice starts before you leave the house. Make sure kids are wearing tall, lightweight socks, and layers of lightweight, warm clothes. But don’t layer the socks. “Parents think that two pairs of thick socks are helpful but it cuts off circulation,” says Patti Brinkley, director of the Learn to Skate Academy at Lynnwood Ice Center.

Also: Don’t wear jeans because they restrict movement. Choices like sweatpants or leggings are better.

Get the right fit

Terry Green, whose family owns Highland Ice Arena in Shoreline, says, “Skates need to fit snug like a ski boot and not loose like a tennis shoe. If your foot moves inside the skate, you can’t balance on the blade.” Rental ice skates are usually available for children as young as age 3.

Learn the basics off the rink

Once kids are laced up, they can practice basic ice skating skills before they get on the ice — a strategy that Lynnwood Ice Center instructors use with beginners. Step one is to march in small steps instead of walk. “It’s one of the best ways to learn to transfer their weight,” says Brinkley. “We talk to kids about being dinosaurs.”

Learn to fall

Before they’re on the ice, kids can also learn how to fall down and get up. “Try not to have them fall too far forward,” says Brinkley. “Urge them to try and fall slowly and collapse down without trying to flail.”

Kids will get frustrated, and that’s okay. You can tell kids that everybody falls, even professional skaters, and it’s part of the learning process.

Build to a glide

Kids should continue to march on the ice instead of walking, and eventually they will build to a glide. Skating instructors at Lynnwood Ice Center encourage kids to switch from loud feet (marching) to quiet feet (keeping them still, which facilitates a glide). “I relate it to kids learning to swim; I tell them your glide is like a float,” says Brinkley.

Be safe

All ice skating instructors agree: Don’t EVER carry your child on the ice. Also never walk on the ice in street shoes, thinking you can provide support to your child without your own skates on (pro tip: you can’t). And although ice skating rinks don’t always require it, it’s a good idea for kids to wear helmets to protect their noggin. A regular bicycle helmet works well.

Consider a class

Many Puget Sound-area ice rinks offer ice skating group lessons for kids ages 3 and older. Check for starter lessons or multi-week series lessons.

Don’t push it

Some children will be ready to start ice skating as soon as they are big enough to fit in the boots, but others may have better luck waiting until they’re school-age. Be patient, have fun and remember the power of that cup of hot cocoa!

How to introduce kids to figure skating

Editor’s note: This article was first published in 2017 and updated for 2018.

Click HERE to register for programs

USFS Basic Skills Membership
All skate school participants, for both figure skating and hockey classes, must have a valid United States Figure Skating (USFS) Basic Skills Membership purchased in their name. This is an $20 mandatory insurance that lasts for a year. The calendar year for Basic Skills is June 1- May 31. Please purchase this before you register for your skate school class, as you will not be able to register for skate school classes unless you have this purchased. Choose ‘Register’ on the menu bar on the homepage of our website, then choose ‘Memberships’. Each skater is required to have this membership.

Please note: Children ages 3-5 must start in Snow Plow Sam classes before taking Basic 1-8 classes.

Snowplow Sam 1 (previously Tot Beginner) age 3-5
This class is for young beginners who have never skated before. The class focuses on introducing young children to beginning skating skills in an atmosphere of fun, using games and ice-safe toys to help teach basic skills. Elements include proper falling and getting up, marching, gliding and forward swizzles.

Snowplow Sam 2 (previously Tot Beginner 2) age 3-5
This class is for young children who have become familiar with skating. Skaters in Snowplow Sam 1 progress to this level. Elements include forward skating, one foot glides, forward and backward swizzles, curves and beginning snowplow stops.

Snowplow Sam 3 (previously Tot advanced) ages 3-5
Prerequisite: Snowplow Sam 2. Elements include forward pumps and stroking, advanced backward swizzles, one foot glides on a circle and beginning forward crossovers, backward pumps and backward stroking.

Basic Skills

Basic 1
For those who have never skated, or have never had formal lessons, skaters will learn the basics of figure skating, how to balance on the ice as well as forward and backward skating. These levels are the fundamentals of the sport.

Basic 2
This class has a prerequisite of Basic 1 and continues to teach the beginning elements of skating including: one foot glides, forward and backward swizzles, and snow plow stops. Other elements include two foot turns, one foot glides and backward two foot glides.

Basic 3
This class has a prerequisite of Basic 2. Elements include forward stroking, forward pumps, backward one foot glides, forward slaloms and beginning two foot spins.

Basic 4
This class has a prerequisite of Basic 3. Elements include forward inside and outside edges on a circle, forward crossovers, standing outside 3-turns, backward pumps, backward stroking and backward snowplow stop.

Basic 5
Prerequisite is Basic 4. Elements include backward inside and outside edges on a circle, backward crossovers, beginning one-foot spin, hockey stop and side toe hops.

Basic 6
Prerequisite is Basic 5. Elements include standing inside 3-turns, backward to forward turns, t-stops, bunny hops, forward lunge and forward spiral.

Pre-Free Skate
Prerequisite is Basic 6. Elements include standing inside mohawks, forward and backward edges on a circle, backward crossovers to backward edge glides, forward pivots, ballet jump, forward inside and outside 3-turns in a moving circle, combination moves of crossovers and edges, one-foot spin, waltz jump and mazurka jump.

Freestyle

Freestyle 1
Elements include advanced forward stroking, forward outside and inside edges, backward outside 3-turns, scratch spin, waltz jump and half flip jump.

Freestyle 2
Elements include backward outside and inside 3-turns, progressive chasse sequence, waltz 3’s, beginning back spin, waltz-side toe-waltz jump and toe-loop jump.

Freestyle 3
Elements include forward and backward crossovers in figure 8 pattern, waltz 8, advanced forward consecutive swing rolls, backward inside 3-turns, back scratch spin, salcow jump, half lutz jump and toe-loop combination jump.

Freestyle 4
Elements include spiral sequence, forward power 3-turns, backward progressive chasse, sit spin, loop jump and waltz/loop combination jump.

Freestyle 5
Elements include backward outside 3-turn to forward inside Mohawk sequence, spiral sequence, forward outside slide chase swing roll sequence, camel spin, forward to backward upright spin, flip jump, loop-loop jump combination and waltz-falling leaf-toe-loop jump combination.

Freestyle 6
Elements include alternate backward crossovers to backward outside edges, five-step mohawk sequence, camel-sit spin combination, split or stag jump, waltz-half-loop-salcow jump combination, lutz jump and walk-through axel jump.

Freestyle 7
Elements include edge work and skating exercises, axel jump and double Sal.

Jump & Spin
Skaters learn how to jump and spin on the ice.

Introduction To Synchronized Skating
This class is for skaters involved in the Basic Skills Program who would like try Synchronized Skating. The discipline of synchronized skating is where 8–20 (the number of skaters on a team depends on the level) skaters skate on ice as a team, moving as one flowing unit. This would be the first step towards possibly joining our in-house synchro team the Fox Valley Ice Stars.

Coaches are responsible for teaching and inspiring competitive and recreational skaters, sharing the joy of figure skating and creating a lifelong love of the sport. A coach is an instructor, a role model and a support system, and U.S. Figure Skating adheres to high standards of excellence for its coaching community.

How to introduce kids to figure skating

Become a Learn to Skate USA Instructor

The first step in becoming a figure skating coach is to join Learn to Skate USA as an instructor and work with your local Learn to Skate USA program to introduce new skaters to the ice. Each program has its own coaching requirements, but basic requirements set forth by Learn to Skate USA include a Learn to Skate USA instructor membership, background check and SafeSport certification for all instructors over the age of 18. All Learn to Skate USA instructors 17 and younger must have a Learn to Skate USA instructor membership and must take the instructor certification course and exam.

Become a U.S. Figure Skating Coach

Coaches with more experience who wish to move beyond the Learn to Skate USA curriculum to teach private lessons and coach at test sessions, competitions and other figure skating events must be a member of U.S. Figure Skating, complete an annual background check and adhere to designated coach compliance requirements for their desired level of activity. U.S. Figure Skating works in cooperation with the Professional Skaters Association (PSA) to standardize these requirements and offer various learning opportunities for the coaching community.

Select coaching activities require the completion of mandatory continuing education requirements (CERs) that are conducted by the PSA, and some require a PSA membership in addition to the U.S. Figure Skating membership. Review the Coach Compliance Requirements to determine the requirements associated with your desired coaching activities.

Coach Compliance

U.S. Figure Skating appreciates the cooperation and understanding of all members to help implement these minimum requirements to ensure that the environment in all U.S. Figure Skating programs is as safe as possible for all participants. This will help give parents the highest degree of confidence that their children are not only receiving good care and proper instruction but are safe from improper conduct.

CONTACT US

Have a question about coaching? Let us know!

The Learn to Skate Program is part of The Skate School at Fox Valley Ice Arena. This Program is primarily focused on teaching the fundamentals of skating children, teens and adults.

USFS Basic Skills Membership
All skate school participants, for both figure skating and hockey classes, must have a valid United States Figure Skating (USFS) Basic Skills Membership purchased in their name. This is an $20 mandatory insurance that lasts for a year. The calendar year for Basic Skills is July 1 through June 30. Please purchase this before you register for your skate school class, as you will not be able to register for skate school classes unless you have this purchased. Choose ‘Register’ on the menu bar on the homepage of our website, then choose ‘Memberships’. Each skater is required to have this membership.

Program Opportunities:

Click HERE to register for programs

The Skate School at Fox Valley is excited to announce its transition into theUnited Skates Figure Skating USFS Basic Skills program. This program was specifically designed by US Figure Skating to be the best beginning and continuing ice skating program that serves the needs of both recreational and competitive skaters.

We welcome you to visit www.usfigureskating.org for information or feel free to e-mail the Skate School Director, Rockne Brubaker [email protected] with questions.

MISSION STATEMENT
The mission of the Basic Skills Program is to provide a goal-oriented program that encourages ice skating at all levels and to enhance the quality of skating skills at these levels.

CLASSES AND DESCRIPTIONS

Parent / Tot Class
This class gives a parent and their child a chance to learn how to skate together at the same time. BOTH THE PARENT AND CHILD NEED TO REGISTER FOR THE CLASS. The first few weeks, parents will skate along with child, helping them if needed. Eventually, we will split the class into two segments. The first half of each class the parents will work with one coach and the kids with another. The second half we will all skate together.

When registering, you will need to register both you and your child for the class. The parent / tot ratio must be 1:1.

Learn to Skate 1 (previously Snowplow Sam 1) age 3-5
This class is for young beginners who have never skated before. The class focuses on introducing young children to beginning skating skills in an atmosphere of fun, using games and ice-safe toys to help teach basic skills. Elements include proper falling and getting up, marching, gliding and forward swizzles.

Learn to Skate 2 (previously Snowplow Sam 2) age 3-5
This class is for young children who have become familiar with skating. Skaters in Snowplow Sam 1 progress to this level. Elements include forward skating, one foot glides, forward and backward swizzles, curves and beginning snowplow stops.

Learn to Skate 3 (previously Snowplow Sam 3) ages 3-5
Prerequisite: Snowplow Sam 2. Elements include forward pumps and stroking, advanced backward swizzles, one foot glides on a circle and beginning forward crossovers, backward pumps and backward stroking.

Adult Learn To Skate
Its never too late to learn how to skate. If you are are 18 or older and want to learn how to skate, then this class is for you. This class is for those who have little to no skating experience or have never had formal lessons. Skaters will learn the very basics of skating, balance and forward and backward skating.

Figure skating is a sport that tantalizes much of the world every four years during the Winter Olympic Games, yet relatively few people ever gain first­hand experience. Given the fun nature of the sport and the skills that ice skating instills in its practitioners, this is a shame. If you are a parent who is fond of the rink and looking to introduce your child to the wonderful world of figure skating, let us guide you through the process.

Research Lessons and Facilities

In a large metropolitan area like New York City, there are dozens of places where your child can learn how to figure skate. Research those that are most accessible to you, taking into account cost, reputation, ease of commute, lesson times, and any other factors you deem important. If you can, try to get a look at the skating rink where your son or daughter would learn how to skate.

Pick Up Necessary Equipment

Once you have seriously considered lessons and are sure that figure skating is something your son or daughter will try, a trip to your favorite sporting goods store should be in order. A pair of well­-fitting skates, a safety helmet, a pair of gloves, and comfortable clothes should be all that your child needs until he or she gets more serious about the sport.

Stress Importance of Safety

It is great that your child has expressed an interest in learning how to ice skate. You should encourage him or her to have fun, but also to stay safe. As long as all safety precautions are taken and your child skates with care, figure skating is a fairly safe winter sport. Once you have put the legwork in and enrolled your child in a good ice skating school, you will have the amazing opportunity to watch his or her figure skating abilities transform before your eyes. With two of the nicest ice rinks in the New York City area, Aviator Sports and Events Center is a great place to learn how to figure skate. For more information about the “Learn to Skate” classes we offer for children of all ages, as well as adults, call 718-758-7514.