How to Teach Beginning Group Tot Figure Skating Lessons

Father teaching daughter (2-4) how to ice skate, side view
Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images

A young child's first time on the ice needs to be fun, but also productive. This article gives ideas on how to teach group tot figure skating lessons.

Note: All of the techniques suggested in this article are original coaching tips developed by Thoughtco.'s former Expert to Figure Skating, Jo Ann Schneider Farris. Other games and ideas may also work when teaching young children to ice skate.

Here's How

  1. Before the lesson begins, the ice skating instructor should meet the children in the class off the ice.The teacher should first check that skates are laced properly. Also, all participants should be wearing gloves or mittens.
  2. Off-ice instruction should take place next.The children should spend time off the ice practicing falling and getting up. A good game to play is pretending to be "froggies," "doggies," and "duckies."
      • "Let's bend our knees into a dip and be froggies. Froggies say ribbit!"
  3. "Now, let's be doggies and get on all fours. Doggies say arf, arf!"
  4. "Next, let's stand up and put our feet like duckies. Let's kill all those bugs on the ground with our duckie feet and march in place."
  5. "It's time to walk to the ice. I'll be the mommy duckie and you be the baby duckies. Quack, quack! Follow me, quack, quack, quack!"
  6. The children should now take to the ice.The instructor should lead each child, one by one to the ice. Keep in mind that the children have never skated before. Remind them it will be cold. Each child should hold on to the rail and continue to move if possible along the rail while pretending to be a "duckie."
  1. Get each child away from the rail and have them sit on the ice.Make sure hands are put in laps. Explain that it is important to not put hands on the ice so that fingers are safe! Now, let the children rub their mittens or gloves on the ice. Have them notice that snow might be on the gloves!"
  2. Now it is time to be "doggies" and then "froggies" and to try to stand up. On the ice, repeat the steps that were done off the ice.This is when some children might get frustrated. Have the children first get on all fours and then have them put one skate between their hands then the other. Next, tell them to push themselves up and to stand with their feet in a "V" like a duck.
    1. Be aware that some children might stand up and fall down immediately. Encourage each child to stand up on the ice on his or her own, but when crying occurs, it is fine to pick a child up to get the child back on two feet.
  3. Practice falling and getting up over and over. Explain to the children that if they are going to skate, they are going to fall.Games can be played to make falling fun.
      • Have the children shout, "Falling is fun!"
  1. Have the children shout, "We all fall down!" Then fall down on purpose. Let the kids crawl on the ice like a "doggie" and then get up.
  2. Play "Ring Around the Snowpile" an ice skating version of "Ring Around the Rosy." "Ring around the snowpile, a pocket full of snowflakes...snowflakes, snowflakes...we all fall down!"
  3. Once the children are comfortable with falling and getting up, it's time to do some marching on the ice.
    • Have the children make "duckie" sounds and ask them to kill the "invisible bugs" on the ice with their skates. Get them to lift up one foot and then another and march in place.
    • Next, ask the children to march forward "like a duckie" and to continue to "kill those bugs."
    • If small toys or stuffed animals are available, ask the children to try to march forward to get one of the toys that are laid down on the ice a few feet in front of them (this works miracles!).
  4. Play games that keep the children marching forward on the ice. Don't expect them to glide yet.
    • A great game to play at this point is "Bumper Cars." Ask the children to bend their knees and to sit in their pretend cars and to turn a pretend steering wheel. Skate towards a child (in your pretend car) and just as you get close to them, turn the wheel and shout, "Eek!" Tell the children to shout, "Beep, beep." Encourage the children to move forward and "drive their cars."
  1. End the formal class with the "Cut the Cake Game."
    • Have the children hold hands in a circle.
    • Choose one child to go in the middle. Have the child hold his or her hands together which will be the "knife."
    • Teach the children this chant: '"Name" "Name" cut the cake! Make the pieces nice and straight!'
    • Tell the child to find a place to "cut" and then encourage the child to "cut" between two children on the circle who are holding hands.
    • Have the "cutter" hold up his or her "knife" and then have the two children that have been cut race in different directions on the circle. Whoever touches the knife first wins. Repeat.
  2. Have each child skate to the rink's entry door without assistance (if possible) to reunite with his or her parents.Give each child a sticker or a lollipop when they reach the door. Wave goodbye and say, "See you next week! Happy Skating!"

Tips

  1. Much patience is required when teaching a beginning tot ice skating class. Be aware that parents of young children will be happy if their child leaves the class smiling and happy, but also, it is important for parents to at least see a child standing unassisted on the ice after the first day of class.
  2. Encourage parents that know how to skate to take their children to public ice skating sessions for extra practice between lessons.
  3. Expect some tears. If an instructor has assistants, have the assistants deal with the crying children, so that the main instructor can give undivided attention to the other children in the class.
  4. There is a misconception that the most qualified figure skating coaches are "too good" to bother with beginning tot ice skating lessons. Skating school directors should try to get the very best coaches to teach young children since many little ones will become tomorrow's advanced figure skaters. If correct skating skills are taught from the very beginning, a child will be a better skater in the future.
  1. Introduce very young children to skating at a roller skating rink where toddlers and preschoolers can walk on locked roller skate wheels. Children don't get wet or cold in roller skating rinks and usually don't cry even when they fall while roller skating. Once a child can roll around on roller skates, the transition to ice skates comes easily.

What You Need

  • Every child will need to wear gloves or mittens.
  • Skates must be laced properly.
  • Helmets are recommended.
  • Instructors of tot classes need to have one to three assistants if possible.
  • Toys, candy, and stickers will encourage young skaters.
  • Skaters should wear long pants or tights and a light sweater or jacket.