Nice on Ice

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By Kristina Schnack Kotlus

I personally like ice skating in the summer months when the frosty, perma-chill inside Prince William Ice Center in Dale City offers a welcome respite from the sauna of a typical Virginia summer, but apparently most people consider ice skating to be a winter activity.

Fine, I’ll meet you where you are.

I actually figure skated competitively growing up. I wasn’t Olympic material, but I did make Regionals once, a proud moment even if I was in the “older girls who aren’t that impressive” category. You don’t have to do it competitively for skating to be an enjoyable way to exercise.

For those just getting started, teaching a child to skate, especially if you don’t know how yourself, can pose a challenge. I’d like to pass along some pointers:

  • Ice skates should be snug, but not painful. If the child’s ankles look like they’re buckling, you either need to use smaller skates or tie/buckle the ones you have a little tighter.
  • Expect the child to fall down. In fact, when I taught figure skating lessons, my students practiced falling first—and I recommend you do too. Find an empty patch of floor, have the child tuck their fingers into fists (out on the ice, other skaters fly by wearing what are essentially knives on their feet, so it’s best to keep the fingers in during a fall), take the fall and then stand up. Have them practice this several times until they’re not afraid of falling and are comfortable getting up.
  • When you skate out onto the rink, clear the doorway quickly, but then practice falling and getting up again. Once you’ve
    mastered that, have your child “march like a soldier” to get them moving across the ice. Don’t hold their hands; it’s a recipe for disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. You could fall on top of your child, or take a tumble and pull the child down on top of you. Turn them loose and let them make their way around the rink as best they can. Most kids improve rapidly and speed around the ice after a few laps.
  • Be sure to take a break as needed, but don’t wear your skates on the metal bleachers or outside on the concrete. Blades ruin
    easily, and if they’re not sharp, your feet will just slide out from under you.

If you don’t feel confident skating with your child alone, you can always sign up for group or private skating lessons. Ice skating
centers frequently schedule camps and classes during school breaks as well. Prince William Ice Center and the Haymarket Iceplex offer “Learn to Skate” and more advanced classes, in addition to public skate hours.

If you find your child likes the ice and wants to move to the next level, both the Haymarket Iceplex and the Prince William Ice Center offer hockey, while the latter also hosts speed skating and curling. In addition, twice a month Prince William Ice offers “Snow and Story Hour,” a program for toddlers and preschoolers who can enjoy the ice without skates.

So embrace the season, and take to the ice. You’ll be giving your children the gift of an exciting winter sport they can enjoy all their lives—even on the balmiest summer days.

Kristina Schnack Kotlus is a local mother of three children and the owner of PWCMoms.com, a resource for parents and families in
Prince William County.

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