Teaching a young kid to ice skate is a classic activity that is both challenging and fun for parent and child. Although most children do not express an interest in ice skating until they are at least three years old, any child who can walk can technically learn to skate. If your child wants to begin learning, be sure to work carefully with them, teaching them both the technique and safety involved in ice skating.
Dress for the Occasion
The ice skates you purchase for your child should be tight and snug on their feet, but should not cause them any pain or discomfort. Tie the laces up as tight as you can (without hurting your child), and have them stand up and walk around to be sure that they fit properly. The child's ankle should remain completely motionless inside the boot, so that they do not twist an ankle if they should fall. They should also be dressed comfortably and prepared for the cold. Lastly, proper protection should be used, including but not limited to helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and shin guards.
Accustom the Child to the Feel of the Skates
Have the child walk around on the rubber mats outside the rink while holding your hand, so that they can get used to the feel of the skates on their feet. A good tip is to tell them to take large steps, as if they were marching, until they are comfortable walking around in the new skates.
Teach Your Child How to Safely Fall
It is inevitable that every skater will fall at some point. Some fall immediately, while others will take a long time to do so. Regardless, it is extremely important to teach your child the proper way to fall so that when they do so, they do not get hurt. The best way to do this is on the rubber mats outside the rink. Have the child get on their knees and lean to the side enough to fall over, instructing them to land on either their forearm or upper arm. This will prevent them from landing awkwardly on their hand or hitting their elbow -- both of which are much more fragile. Then teach them to safely return to their feet by getting back onto their knees, putting one leg up in an L-shape, then putting the other leg up and standing.
Start Small on the Ice
When you finally enter the ice surface, have the child skate near the wall in case they need to hold on for balance. Have them take slow, small steps up the ice, until they get a feel for the balance required to stand on the slippery surface. It may be helpful to have the child hold their arms out in front of them to gain more balance and confidence as they begin to move around the ice surface. Continue this until the child is comfortable enough to skate slowly on their own.
Teach Them How to Stop
When at a stop, have the child stand with both feet together. Have them take their dominant-side foot, tilt the top of their foot toward them, and push the bottom of the foot outward onto the ice, as if they are trying to scrape a layer off the ice surface. Continue doing this until they are comfortable with the feel of smoothly scraping the ice surface with their blade. Repeat with the other foot until they are comfortable as well. Once they have an understanding of how to scrape the ice with their blades, have them skate very slowly, and then turn their feet into an inverted V (their heels should be pointed away from them, while their toes should be pointed inwards in front of them). Again, the heel of their blade should be angled away from them, causing their blades to scrape against the ice and stop their forward momentum. Be sure that they understand how to properly distribute their weight, as the stopping motion will naturally push their body forward. They should lean slightly away from the stop so that the top of their body does not fall forward.
Keep Practicing and Learn to Speed Up
As the child becomes more confident starting and stopping at slow speeds, they should begin to feel more comfortable speeding up on the ice. This should provide them more confidence and comfort moving around the ice in various positions. Be careful, as the faster they go, the higher risk there is for injury. Keep providing positive feedback, and continue to monitor any areas that need improvement. The more the child skates, the more they will develop their own style of skating and their own preferences for getting around the ice safely.