Ice skating has been popular for a long time. Back in the days when I was a child, we would enthusiastically head down to the ice rink on a Saturday morning for an inelegant, but exhilarating, skite about. In recent years, skating seems to have had a resurgence, perhaps thanks to a certain primetime telly show. Temporary skating rinks pop up all over the country around Christmas time, to tempt us into showing off our moves.
My little boy, James, is now two years old, and at this time of year I am particularly keen on finding indoor activities that keep him entertained and keep me out of the drizzle. However, I must admit that I hadn’t realised ice skating was an option for such a young child. In Perth, Dewars Centre sits right alongside the Leisure Pool, and skaters of all ages and abilities can enjoy showcasing their spins and speed on Olympic Standard ice. 2-5 year olds are welcome at the weekly Snow Babes lessons.
James and I decided to give it a whirl, and headed along one Sunday to try out his turns and jumps. I anxiously packed him into several layers of clothing to cushion any falls, and hoped that he could stay on his feet long enough to avoid any toddler meltdowns. The Snow Babes classes are run on a drop-in basis, so there’s no need to pre-book, and skate hire is included with your admission fee. I opted for a skate with two blades for James, which simply strapped on top of his shoe. The extra blade made him steadier, but lots of kids in the class were happy with a single blade. Adults can accompany their wee ones onto the ice, but it’s requested that you keep your shoes on and don’t skate.
Our teacher, Moira, gave us a warm welcome and James began to take a few tentative steps on the ice. Large, supportive ‘walkers’ are available in the shape of penguins and snowmen, and provide a fun way for the kids to get started with the reassurance of something to hold on to. Moira gathered the class together for some initial instruction - she showed the children how to move with little baby steps, keeping their feet turned out, and their arms out wide for balance – and we were off.
Now, to be perfectly honest, it was slightly to my surprise that it turned out James absolutely loved skating! My memories of him learning to walk feel pretty recent, and expecting him to navigate a strange, slippery surface, well … I had been expecting either comedy or tragedy. But the class allows beginners to take things at their own pace. There is no pressure; Moira zooms about offering guidance and encouragement wherever it’s needed, but James was able to totter around and find his feet in his own time. Although it’s a popular class, the ice rink is huge and we have it all to ourselves. There is loads of space for making mistakes without crashing into anyone else.
I remember the sense of freedom and joy that comes when you start to get the hang of ice skating, picking up speed and confidence. I could see that same feeling of delight in James as he puttered along with a big smile on his face. He seemed to think this latest madcap idea of his mother’s was a great laugh, and even when he inevitably fell over, that was funny too. The other kids in the class were skating with a wide variety of style and skill, but there was admirable concentration and good humour all around. I spotted a couple of little girls living the dream in pastel-coloured tutus!
Moira got the class together again and explained how best to slow down and stop on the ice. But she emphasises the importance of keeping things fun for young children, and getting them accustomed to the ice rink, much more than polishing particular tricks or techniques. By the end of the class, James was managing to move about without assistance.
There was a selection of small vehicles, toys, hockey sticks and balls laid out on the ice, and before we headed off James played gleefully on a little yellow truck. The forty-five minute class is a perfect amount of time to keep the kids engrossed. And if you find that the exercise has given you a bunch of hungry mouths to feed, the café overlooking the ice rink is a handy place to recharge with hot and cold drinks, snacks, or lunch.
For full details on Snow Babes, as well as Learn to Skate classes for age 5+, and public skating times, check out the Live Active page here https://www.liveactive.co.uk/Perth/ice-skating
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