I want to start out with huge thanks to everyone who offered assistance in our search for teeny tiny toddler figure skates.
Three moms from SkaterGirl’s club offered their daughters’ first skates for TinyTot. All are too big, but we’ll hold on to one pair as a long-term loan. She’ll grow. And then the Facebook community responded immediately with help and heartfelt well-wishes from all sorts of sources -some expected, some surprising. That’s how we ended up finding TinyTot’s skates.
One helpful response included a link to a pair on eBay. I lost that pair in a last-second outbid situation. I was bummed, but sometimes these things really work out for the best. I kept searching eBay and found a brand new pair of pink Jackson Softec skates – for less than half the price of retail and free shipping! Still more than I intended to spend going into this adventure, but every time I got my hopes up, and every day we got closer to the first lesson, the price expectation rose just a little. Funny how that happens. Ha.
I wasn’t sure whether soft skates would be ok or if she needed leather boots. So I texted SkaterGirl’s coach (who was very kind to respond while on well-deserved vacation). She said they’d be great starter skates. Sold!
Look how happy she is with her new skates! Aww… worth it.
The tiny skate socks arrived in the mail, too. I found all the winter gear, washed it, and labeled it with her name. Now all TinyTot needs are soakers and hard guards…
I measured TinyTot’s feet according to charts and instructions on the Riedell and Jackson websites, but I figured I should take my own advice and get a good professional fitting.
Not only is it good to get a professional opinion, but it’s really fun for the little skater.
When we got to the skate & ski shop, I filled out a brief survey about her skating level and intended use of the skates. They carefully measured her feet and got out little skating socks for her -“just like (SkaterGirl)’s,” TinyTot giggled. (Shopping note to self: get a little pair of skating socks)
I mean. Seriously! How cute are those itty bitty skates?! And they fit perfectly! Jackson skates, at least for girls, run smaller. A 7 in Riedell is an 8 in Jackson (approximately). So I asked the big question: What do these cost? Jackson Mystique, Toddler Size 8 = $119. So… yeah… more than I had planned to spend for first-lesson-on-the-ice skates.
I haven’t given up on finding used skates (yet!) so, for now, the search continues…
I have finally been convinced (read: worn down by pleading) that SkaterGirl’s little sister TinyTot, age almost-3, is ready to take her first skating lessons! #HerTurn
I successfully signed TinyTot up for a beginner ISI Tots class that starts in June. I figured summer would be less stressful from a family scheduling point of view. We’ve got the snow pants, mittens, helmet all ready to go! Queen Mommy is so far ahead of the game this time around! (see first child MomFail)
Oh no no no. Not nearly that easy. The rink doesn’t rent skates small enough for TinyTot! She needs an itty bitty size 7. I have driven to and called sports resellers all over town. I’ve posted “ISO teeny tiny skates” on the Facebook sites. Nothing. Hmm… Could it be that TinyTot gets brand new skates before SkaterGirl?
*sigh* I hope she doesn’t change her mind about wanting to skate.
You’re now committed both to owning skates and your Kiddo’s increasing interest in the sport. I’m going to share what I’ve learned so far about how to protect your investment…
What you’ll need: Hard guards and a towel/washcloth
What Kiddo will want: Hard guards, soakers/soft guards, towel/washcloth, cloth skate bags, some sort of larger bag to keep everything in, extra laces (just in case), magic eraser pads, maybe “stinkeez”…
Hard guards (must have):
In order to protect those shiny newly-sharpened blades, you need hard rubber skate guards. SkaterGirl puts them on when she puts on her skates, takes them off at the door to the ice, puts them back on the minute she steps off the ice, and then puts them away when she takes off her skates. Please don’t let kiddos walk around more than necessary on naked blades.
The guards retail for $5-15. The hockey/winter sports store can cut them to fit the skates.
The hard guards that SkaterGirl and all of her young SkaterFriends consider a must-have are called Rockerz. They retail for $30-50. Because of course they do.To be fair, the Rockerz are evidently much easier to walk in, and they stay on the skate better. But like everything else, the price… *sigh*
They need to be cut and fitted to the specific skates on which they will be used. We bought SkaterGirl’s first set from a vendor who fitted them to her skates at a competition last year. They come in seemingly every color, and can be mixed and matched. I have to admit that they do seem to be really good quality hard guards.
**SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE**
DO NOT leave the hard guards on the skates when you take the skates off! I had no idea this was a no-no prior to beginning my SkateMom education. But it makes sense. The hard guards trap in any remaining moisture that will rust the blades. Noooo! The pro (and I mean PRO) who sharpens SkaterGirl’s skates even suggests taking the skates out of the bag to breathe without anything on them overnight. We don’t have a good space in our entryway where naked breathing skate blades can be safe, so we compromise by just unzipping and opening the skate bag for now.
These are soft blade “guards” that do two things, as I understand it. 1. They soak up any remaining moisture from the blade and 2. Protect the blade when it’s in the skate bag. They are not meant to be walked in.
Like everything else, there’s a wide variety of soakers. They retail from $8 or 9 to $25ish.
Basic soakers are also really easy to make with a little bit of elastic, cotton terry cloth, and either cotton or fleece material. (pattern coming soon to QueenMom.me)
Towel/washcloth (must have):
When SkaterGirl is done, she thoroughly dries her skates and blades with an old (clean) washcloth. Pretty important that they get put away dry to prevent mold and rust.
Towels/Cloth Skate Bags:
At some point kiddo’s skates will cost as much as an iPad. You wouldn’t just throw your iPad in a skate bag and let it get banged around in transit without some sort of cover. Neither will you want to transport those skates without some sort of protection. For a while we carefully wrapped the skates in hand towels I found on clearance at Target. Then I realized I could pretty easily turn those clearance hand towels into bags that are more secure and easier to use! Watch for more on that little sewing project soon.
The Skating Bag:
We started out with a backpack. Which worked just fine.
But SkaterGirl and her SkaterFriends are all about the Zuca bags. Again, if you can find one used, do it! The sturdy metal frame and bag insert are sold separately. So even if you find a used frame, then you only have to buy the insert. Santa brought SkaterGirl a Zuca two Christmases ago. Still a big hit! The best part about it is that I have somewhere to sit while tying her skates. And it rolls (on light-up wheels!) so she can get it out to the car herself. The light-up wheels are fun, but they also serve a purpose. All winter it’s dark by the time we leave the rink. Those wheels really show up in a busy parking lot!
The older girls mostly use duffle bags, not Zucas. I’m sure, when it’s time, Kiddo will let you know what she/he wants.
Making Skates White Again:
Get a Magic Eraser. I am not paid in any way to say that -though if P&G wants to pay me for that opinion, I won’t say no 😉
I’ve heard that sneaker whitener also works, but I haven’t had to use it yet on SkaterGirl’s skates.
Skaters work hard and get sweaty just like any other athlete. Sometimes skates and skating bags smell less than daisy fresh, if you get my meaning. Throw what you can in the washing machine as often as you can, keep the sweaty socks in breathable pockets on the outside of the bag, and leave the bag open overnight. If/when that doesn’t solve Kiddo’s problem, kick it up to the next level.
You need small packets filled with silica gel, like the little packets you find in the pockets of new clothing or in shoeboxes. Silica gel absorbs moisture and odor, like baking soda or rice. Stinkeez are often sold at competitions. They are usually in cute shapes of lizards, snakes, or other animals. They are also relatively easy to make. I’ll post some ideas and patterns soon. They make great gifts for athletes of all kinds.
What are your can’t-live-without skate care must-haves?
Please use the comments section to add to the list!
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:
Wear (or bring) the socks Kiddo’s going to skate in
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!
Especially for the beginner skates, shopping around and on the internet can really pay off
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.
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?
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.
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:
(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.
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.
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.
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!
Most rinks rent skates. Maybe a good place to start for two reasons:
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.
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.
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)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!