Skates: Finding the first pair

After SkaterGirl had taken several lessons in rental skates, and I felt sure she was going to stick with it, we bought her her very own skates! I had heard good things about the Play It Again Sports in Minnetonka, MN. I think the best thing we got there on that first visit was a professional fitting. Here in Minnesota, resellers like Play It Again deal in a lot of skis and skates. If you live somewhere less frozen, you may have to search a little harder. Ask at your skate school where to go for a good fitting. It doesn’t mean you have to buy them there if they’re too expensive, but at least you can get a really good measurement. And you’ll be acquainted with the pro shop when the time comes eventually for more advanced skates and blades (sold separately! I’m not even kidding!)

Things I learned about fittings:

  1. Wear (or bring) the socks Kiddo’s going to skate in
  2. Take notes
  3. Don’t feel obligated to buy anything right away. You can always “think about it.” Unless you find good used skates for a good price, then snap them up immediately!
  4. Especially for the beginner skates, shopping around and on the internet can really pay off
  5. At this point, Kiddo does not need the fancy skates sold separately from the blades, unless you have a private coach and they’re telling you differently.
  6. When buying used skates, expect a few scratches and scuffs on the boots. If you look closely at the accomplished skaters’ boots at the rink, they’re a mess! It’s about the quality of the boot and blade. And magic erasers and sneaker whitener are inexpensive.

QueenMommy tip: look for a quality used skate with a properly fitted and properly sharpened blade. We stumbled upon a leather pair of Riedells for $20! They were dirty on the outside, like maybe they had been thrown in the bottom of the hall closet and forgotten, but the inside was good and the blades still had life. And most importantly, they fit SkaterGirl. So we bought them, and I took a magic eraser to the boots when we got home. Add a little elbow grease and they looked good as new! Now I always carry a magic eraser in the competition bag.

Why not adjustable skates?Kids adjustable skates

There are these things called adjustable skates. They are inexpensive (for new skates) and they’re kind of cute and seem like a great bargain, as the boot can be adjusted to fit 4 shoe sizes. What a deal! Except…

Think about it with me: only the boot adjusts; the blade does not lengthen or shorten. So when the boot is at its smallest, the blade sticks out way beyond the boot, making it very difficult to do what is asked during a skating lesson. Likewise, when the boot is fully extended, the blade is too short. I’m not a skater, but it seems like that would add a lot of frustration to an already difficult sport.

Better Options

Here are three (of many) beginner options under $75 from quality brands, Riedell and Jackson. I have heard from skate school pros that something like these would be a fine choice:

Riedell Model 18 Sparkle Jr. Skate Set
Riedell Model 18 Sparkle Jr. Skate Set


Jackson Ultima Girls' SoftSkate 181
Jackson Ultima Girls’ SoftSkate 181
Riedell 10 Opal Figure Skate
Riedell 10 Opal Figure Skate

I’ve been happy that we’ve had good luck finding white skates for SkaterGirl. You may not think you’ve got competitions and ice shows and teams and whatever else in your future, but… it happens before you know it. And you’ll probably want and/or need white figure skates for girls and black figure skates for boys.

I’d love to hear your first skates stories and questions in the comments!

Next up: Caring for your skates

Getting Started: Expectations for Beginners

January 2015: Four-year-old SkaterGirl is all bundled up. Hopes and knee socks high!

The class gathers off the ice in the Skate School coaches’ room. They exchange names, go over safety, check to see that the skates are all tied properly, that everyone is wearing helmets and mittens, and then… to the ice!

Beginning Skate School class gathers off-ice

SkaterGirl spent the first 4 weeks just struggling to learn how to stand up after falling. I’m not exaggerating. If her determination doesn’t get her somewhere someday, I don’t know what will.

Beginner Skate School class learning to stand on ice

Not being a skater myself, I feel that it’s a wonder anyone ever makes it beyond that first class.

But very quickly it went from that to this:

Young beginner ice skaters make progress during group lessons

(Note her choice of lighter coat and heavier mittens)

And that’s really all that was expected to graduate to the next level: Consistently standing up on her own after a fall and moving in a forward-ish direction. Mission accomplished!

Would love to see your beginner class photos! Please post pics and stories in the comments.

Getting Started: What to wear to that first lesson

Your Olympic hopeful is taking to the ice for the very first time! Hooray!

Will they be expected to wear a sparkling skating dress with matching scrunchy? Or full hockey pads? Not yet. That all comes too soon. For now a helmet, warm jacket, water-proof mittens, socks, and snow pants will do you just fine. As with all activities, we do what we need to do to keep SkaterGirl’s hair out of her face.


From the Plymouth (MN) Skate School website :

  • Beginning levels are required to wear helmets.
  • Skaters will benefit more from a lesson while wearing proper skates. We prefer boots be of leather rather than vinyl, and they should have strong ankle support. Blades should be of high tempered steel and properly sharpened. Double runners are not allowed.
  • It is important that all skaters are warm and comfortable while skating. We suggest dressing in layers and request all skaters to wear mittens or gloves.
  • No shoes allowed on the ice.


Beginner Skate School Class


We got by with a properly fitted bicycle helmet. Of course a winter sports helmet would be great.


Kiddo’s going to want skates with a sharp blade and really supportive comfortably-fitted boot. Not the adjustable skates or the ones with double blades. Those are fine on a pond in the backyard, but we’re paying for lessons here. Let’s get our money’s worth!

Rent Skates

Most rinks rent skates. Maybe a good place to start for two reasons:

  1. What if they get on the ice and realize it’s waaayyy harder than it looks on TV and decide right then and there that skating is a silly sport anyway and their new dream is to play soccer in the World Cup. Then you’re just out the $3 rental.
  2. If they decide they want to pursue skating, you’ll have the chance to try the skates and figure out which size is best before you commit to buying a pair. It also gives you the time to look for good used skates to buy.

Buy Skates

If/when you’re ready to own skates, I highly(!) suggest looking for used ones first. Ask around at the rink first and do a little googling. Kids are constantly outgrowing their skates. Look for a reputable brand that makes beginner skates, like Riedell or Jackson. We had really good luck at the Play It Again Sports in Minnetonka, MN. We found used Riedell skates for $20! Maybe you have a re-sell place like that near you? If not, check out this Facebook group (please tell me if you know of any in other countries as well):  Figure Skating Swap – USA (National)

Next time: Expectations for Beginners

Kiddo wants to learn to skate: After the Winter Olympics


Your kiddo watched the winter Olympics with great interest, and is now inspired to become a world-class ice skater. Welcome to the club!


You, yourself, are not a one-time Olympic skater, nor has your child ever had skates on their feet. You don’t quite know where to start.

Group Lessons!

I’ve heard coaches say that kids really won’t get any further in the very beginning stages of learning to skate with private lessons than they will in a group lesson. And in fact, they often do better seeing that other kids are having the same challenges as they are. So go with the group option – it may be your last inexpensive choice! *kidding, not kidding*

My SkaterGirl watched the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics carefully, spinning and jumping in the living room as the Senior Ladies spun and jumped on TV. I believe it was during Gracie Gold’s “Sleeping Beauty” program that my 3 year-old SkaterGirl turned to me with stars in her eyes saying, “Mommy, it’s my dweam to be an ice skatewr!” (she didn’t get her “r”s quite right for another several months)

I remembered seeing the words “Skate School” in the local Parks & Rec winter/spring catalog. As soon as she was old enough (age 4 in this case), I tried to sign her up. The morning that parks & rec Fall registration opened, I made coffee and went online to sign my daughter up for her dream… Oops! The classes were already full. Registration had opened at midnight. Dweam deferred. For the following session registration, I was at my computer at 11:55pm, ready to go for my successful midnight registration. Step 1 (of 1,000,000,000) done! Dweam on!

Lessons learned:

  1. Similar to swimming lessons in the summer, beginning levels of skate classes tend to fill up quickly. Particularly the most desirable dates/times in the colder month sessions, and probably especially following the winter Olympics.
  2. Find out in advance what you will need to register for classes. You may be required to sign-up with the skate school before you’re allowed to register for classes.
  3. Be sure you know what time the online registration will “go live”, and then get there several minutes early.

I’d love to hear your first-time registration stories. Thanks for sharing them in the comments!

Next time: What to wear to that first lesson