Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Holiday ice skating with kids is the best! Gliding on the ice surrounded by trees before a hot chocolate is the perfect holiday experience, a classic tradition that gets kids outside easily during short winter days. Even if you don’t live in Canada near a frozen pond for ice skating, chances are you live near a ice rink set up for the holiday season. As my 11-year old says, ice skating is more fun outside because it feels more real and it’s very true. Here are a few tips to prep your next ice skating adventure.
As soon as the ice rink near my daughter’s school was open, we looked for an afternoon to take to the ice. Some ice skating rinks, you can just drop by and know that you’ll be able to rent your skates within minutes. The skating ice rink near my daughters’ school (at the Natural History Museum in London) offers 50-minute sessions that begin on each hour. Since online booking was less expensive, advance planning made total sense. A week ahead of time, I went on their ticketing website, booked an hour of ice skating exactly an hour after the end of school, and organized my day around it. It worked perfectly.
For your local ice skating rink, if advance booking gets you discounted rates and if you plan on coming back for more, ask about season tickets.
Get There Early
We arrived at the ice skating rink 40 minutes early. Granted that’s very early, but the tickets suggested it. Unsurprisingly on a Wednesday afternoon, we had the ice skating rink pretty much to ourselves and found no lines. However I bet that closer to Christmas, the rink gets more crowded and 40 minutes is a good time to line up for your skates and check your coats and bags.
We traded our regular shoes for ice skating shoes and checked my daughter’s school backpack. After fitting the ice skates standing up several times for the best fit, we still had 20 minutes to wait until our slot opened. Eager to see the ice, my daughter asked that watch skaters and after they were gone, the wonderful “ice machine” that re-ices the rink between each session. She rather enjoyed the mechanical intermission and seeing how the tractor spills water that freezes and recreates a layer of ice on the rink.
Use Penguins For Little Kids
Most ice rinks offer plastic penguins (for hire or free of charge) to steady little kids who are learning to skate. Children only need to hang on to the top of the penguin and push it onto the ice, thus keeping from falling when they are learning how skates glide. It’s a great ice-breaker for toddlers and preschoolers but every single time I go ice skating, I see penguins ditched after a few minutes as kids learn to keep their balance. They’re cute, anyway.
Unless you’re very comfortable on skates, I recommend to delay your ice skating prowess until you’re confident on two blades. Ahead of time, I had watched this Ice Skate and Gliding for Beginners Tutorial.
It proved very useful once on the ice and was a good reminder of the basics to get started.
Leave The Walls If You Dare
Beginners like me tend to hug the walls like they are lifesaving buoys at sea. However with a little practice (and some additional shoe tightening, as my foot had too much wiggle room and was curled up), I decided to brave the center lane of the ice rink and mingle with the others. Initially it’s a bit intimidating but as my confidence built, my fears went away and after 40 minutes, I was really happy to glide on the ice.
Dress In Layers
While we were happy to start skating with our winter jackets on, we couldn’t wait to find a spot to leave after a few rounds around the rink. Ice skating is exercise and it makes you hot! A simple sweater (like the brown one that my daughter is wearing) or an open jacket does the trick after the first 10 minutes.
Enjoy the Health Benefits of Ice Skating
Health and fitness might not be on your mind when you go ice skating but this activity is hard work for your body! A good thing that it’s low-impact too. To me, ice skating is the perfect painless family workout. You work out and you don’t even know about it!
Just consider. Obviously, there’s a huge balance and coordination component in ice skating that uses muscles around the thighs as well as your hips, knees and ankles. Skating is all about propelling yourself while maintaining a controlled upper body position, which also tones your core and your glutes. Last but not least, ice skating strengthens small stabilizer muscles that you don’t use everyday and that will be useful when you go skiing this winter.
The perfect rewards to an icy feat: a hot chocolate finish! Not only is a cup of hot chocolate a long-standing winter tradition (and boy, do we love those) but for kids who often forget to drink liquids when they exercise, it’s also a great way to re-hydrate after an hour of ice skating.
Ideally, we would have found a hot chocolate with mini marshmallows because it’s my little girl’s favorite hot chocolate.
Tough luck, there was no hot chocolate in sight but all was not lost in the chocolate department. There was a Lindt Christmas Chalet strategically posted before the exit and they were giving away chocolate bonbons. Oh, the smile on my little girl’s face! They also had a Santa’s mailbox (with a promise to win a lot of chocolate) and my daughter dutifully sent her request for American Girl doll accessories and hair detangler. I see Lindt promotional material in my crystal ball.
Come Back For More!
After our initial session, my daughter and I are hooked on ice skating for the season and we’re looking for other dates and other ice skating rinks to keep the tradition alive. We might even go in the evening, when there’s disco music and all. And we’ll bring my other daughter and my husband and perhaps a few friends. The more the merrier. Wouldn’t that be perfect?