Roller skating is a popular sport for kids and adults alike, but it can be difficult to teach someone how to skate without having them take a few spills.
It’s all part of the fun but it can take a little time to build up a child’s roller skating skills until they gain confidence, and a little patience on the teacher’s part too.
1. Safety First
While learning how to skate is a lot of fun, it also comes with its share of risks.
Like any sport on wheels, it is essential that alongside the obvious – your child’s first roller skates – you buy them the proper protective safety equipment.
- A dual-certified skating helmet
- Wrist pads
- Elbow pads
- Knee pads
Wearing these items won’t entirely prevent accidents but will certainly soften the fall and prevent serious injuries to important parts of the body.
2. Start With The Right Attitude & Right Position
Even before that first skate lesson starts, work on your child’s confidence.
They will understandably feel nervous before trying a new sport, especially one where falling down and potential injuries are par for the course.
Go through some of the motions involved in starting, slowing and stopping in roller skates before the skates are even on their feet.
- Have them start by holding their arms in front of them and their knees slightly bent.
- Hands to their knees is their “safe position”.-
This will be fundamental for everything we’re about to teach below.
3. Familiarise Your Child With The Feel of the Skates
Even strapping on the skates can be an unusual feel for your child, to begin with. Unlike most sports in their regular trainers, skates are likely to feel tight. Make sure they’ve been properly fitted and adjusted without toes being pinched before your lesson starts.
You’ll want some time to familiarise them with how the skates feel and work before they hit a smooth flat surface. Can you start on carpet or grass while they get a feel for the skates?
Avoid places such as staircases, steps, and other areas where a person could easily slip and fall.
Get them walking with the skates on, with a soft surface first so if they fall over, they will have a much easier landing. Having something to grab will help too, such as the back of the couch or a fence or railing.
Find a comfortable position for you both when in motion, be it holding one hand to their side, or both hands in front of them. Avoid gripping your child from behind or under their arms.
Once you’re both comfortable and confident – it’s time to find a smooth flat surface and get rolling properly.
4. Start Simple – From Rolling to Gliding
If you want your child to become a proficient skater, you’ll first need to make sure he or she knows how to stand and then roll properly before moving on to more advanced moves.
The simplest form of roller skating involves just rolling forward and backward along the ground, so this is a good place to begin.
- Keep knees bent and lean slightly forward.
- While holding a child’s hand or hands, encourage them to roll forward.
- Get them to pick up one foot at a time and start walking/marching to practice balance.
- Once confidence grows with basic rolling, encourage them to start gliding.
- They do this by continuing to step forward but lengthening their stride.
- They’ll eventually be able to push off with their back foot while rolling forward on their front foot.
- Gliding can take several sessions to master so stick with it; if they’re struggling, stick to a simple march.
Note! It’s also highly recommended that the parent or teacher NOT be in skates for this first lesson. You are there to provide stability only, not drag them along.
5. Learning How To Stop
Going forward is a great start, but knowing how to slow down and safely stop is just as important and will be their best line of defense against tumbles.
- Start by practicing how to use the brakes (this is the stopper at the front for a quad skate) before they set off.
- Practice the motion of bending their knees and putting their hands on their knees to stabilize and slow down when they feel the wobbles coming.
- Instruct them to lean their body forward and push down with one foot, digging the skate into the ground to come to a complete stop.
It may take some practice at first, but once they get the hang of it, they’ll find it easier than ever to keep up with the rest of the crowd.
6. Learning To Turn
Once they can go forward and stop, you’ll want to teach them how to turn. Turning is about shifting body weight during a glide to change the direction they’re headed.
- Have them shift their body slightly to the right, their body should naturally start to veer right. Try this on both sides of their body so they can feel how much weight they need to turn left and right.
- This can be tricky at first as they need a good sense of balance. To start, have them simply hold your hands in their skates and press their weight from one side to the other so they can feel which muscles they need to engage.
- Once they’re feeling confident, start gliding then shift their weight in the direction they want to turn.
- Let go of their hands and let them move their weight independently.
- With this move mastered, they should be able to start making laps in a skating rink.
7. Gaining Speed
Once they have these fundamental maneuvers down, they’ll want to build up some more momentum.
- Instruct your child to lean forward a little further and pump their arms backward and forth, just like when they’re running, whilst continuing to glide their skates.
To get some speed up, it’s essential they push off on their back foot, making sure they’re on an even, flat surface.
8. I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again
It’s completely normal to take a few tumbles at the start when learning to skate (or even after you’ve been skating for years!)
If they fall, remind them of the importance of getting back up. Their safety gear is there doing what it needs to do. Remind your child that they’re doing a great job and they’ll only get better with practice.
Your reaction counts as much as anything; a smile with reassurance is far better than “OMG, are you OK?” or “You’re doing it wrong!”.
If your child isn’t injured, give them just a few seconds to process what happened and perhaps get over the shock and get them straight back onto their feet. They’ll probably need a helping hand or make their way to a railing to start, getting upright on your own with wheels on your feet is no mean feat!
Teaching them how to stand on their own though is an essential skill in itself.
- Step one – always tuck fingers in and make fists – you don’t want other skaters running over those digits!
- Then, from a seated position, have them roll their bottom to one side
- Get up on one knee
- Place their hands on this forward knee and pull up the rest of their body weight.
9. Learn Skating Etiquette
Remember if they’re practicing at a roller rink, there’s some common etiquette that applies.
- They need to move with the flow of other skaters – most rinks will mark the direction of travel
- Try not to weave in and out of line if they can help it
- If they want to stop, look for a safe spot to do so, heading to an edge or an exit, not dead in front of other skaters.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice… And Have Fun!
Learning how to skate doesn’t have to be all work and no play. As soon as they feel comfortable enough to move around freely, try taking part in some fun activities like a roller disco or roller derby. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the sport and have a great time doing it.
Don’t ever push your child before they’re ready. There’s no sooner way you’ll find those skates shoved to the darkest depths of their wardrobe. Work at their pace (not what friends, siblings, and other kids are doing) and be there right alongside them at the start until their confidence grows.
If you are struggling with your patience or feeling frustrated, remember your child will pick up on this. It may be time to take them to a skating rink and get some professional help.
More Frequently Asked Questions Teaching a Child to Roller Skate
Can I Teach My Kid To Roller Skate Myself?
Yes, even with only a little knowledge of the basics of roller skating you can teach your kids how to skate. However, you’ll need to do it right. First, you’ll need to know which age group your child falls into.
Children who are younger than four years old usually learn how to skate by watching their parents. If your child is older, then you can model for them how to do it. Once they understand the basic movements, you can progress to more complicated moves.
What Equipment Does A Kid Need To Learn How To Skate?
The most obvious thing a child needs to learn how to skate is a pair of skates. These can be borrowed from a skating rink or their very own set of skates.
Roller skates come in two designs – quad skates with two axles and two wheels on each axle, and inline skates (also called Rollerblades) that have 3-5 wheels in a row.
Both types of skates have their pros and cons. However, we’d recommend for a brand new skater that quad skates are quicker to grasp as they can easier find their balance. With the basics mastered, they can move on to inline skates.
They will also need all the appropriate safety gear to protect their body from inevitable tumbles, including a skate helmet, elbow, wrist, and knee pads.
You can find our complete guide to the best skating accessories to invest in for your child over here.
Do I Need To Go To A Rink To Teach My Kid How To Skate?
No, you don’t need to go to a formal skating rink to teach your kids how to roller skate. Instead, you can teach them at home or outside. Just make sure that there’s a flat surface where they can practice. Try and avoid hills and uneven surfaces for a beginner.
Is Roller Skating Easy For Kids?
Yes, it is. Most children can easily pick up the basic skills needed to become good skaters. All they have to do is follow instructions and practice.
If you start your child too young, however, they may lack the coordination and confidence to get going.
If at first, you don’t succeed, try it again a few weeks or months later. Their bodies and their confidence can grow at a rapid pace. Learning to skate is as much about mindset as it is the physical action of skating.
Are Roller Skates Expensive?
No, they aren’t, if you start with beginner recreation skates. The best way to get started with roller skating is to just buy a set of cheap skates. This way, you won’t spend too much money.
If your child grows a love for the sport, proper roller derby and racing skates can start costing several hundreds of dollars.
Does My Kid Need Lessons To Learn How To Skate Well?
Yes, unless you’re a pretty good skater yourself, your child may benefit from professional lessons to improve their skills.
A skating coach will be able to help your child improve on the basic starting, gliding, and stopping skills you’ve already taught them.
What If My Kid Gets Hurt While Learning How To Skate?
Even keeping a close eye on your child learning to skate, tumbles happen.
Most accidents for beginners involve simple bumps that an ice pack should fix (it’s a good idea to make sure you have some ice packs on hand before you get started!). And they’ll learn pretty fast why the first rule of taking a tumble is to make your hands into fists.
If your child seriously hurts himself or herself while learning how to skate, you should immediately seek medical attention.
Even more important than physical injuries can be their confidence. Reassure them that falls are part of the learning experience and very common in the sport, even for professional skaters. Getting them back on their wheels as soon as they are able to will help with their confidence.
Ready to Start Teaching Your Child to Skate?
Roller skating is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world today. It has been around as a sport since the 19th Century and has recently seen a resurgence in popularity.
Many people think that it is just for young adults because of the high speeds involved. But this isn’t true. Anyone can learn how to roller skate and even master the sport, even from as young as toddlers!
Whatever type of roller skates your child chooses, be it classic quad roller skates or inline skates for speed, taking them through these beginner steps will see them on their way to growing a love for a new sport.
See It In Action – Teaching A Kid How To Roller Skate
This is a good video courtesy of Fritzy at Skate World San Diego to show you how kids learn to roller skate.
In conclusion, teaching a kid how to roller skate can be done in just a few simple steps so long as you follow the tips in this article and ensure that you are being as encouraging as possible.
Making sure that the child is wearing the proper protective gear will mean that they can get all the benefits from roller skating while reducing the risk of injury.
And practice, practice, practice!
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