It’s time to be brave. Spread your wings. Get over it! In-line skating is here to stay. It’s one heck of a way to get in shape and have family fun, too.
With the arrival of warm weather, it’s time once again to brush up on favorite sports or even acquire some new skills. Roller skating and in-line skating are great outdoor activities the whole family can enjoy. Even a toddler can learn skating skills.
Roller skating has been a favorite family activity for years, and its modern cousin, in-line skating, has proven itself more than a fad of the ’90s – it’s here to stay! First developed in the Netherlands for land racing, in-line skating was then adapted for summer hockey practice in the United States. These days children and adults of all ages are enjoying in-line skating for fun and fitness. In-line hockey has also become a popular sport.
Skating is a low-impact exercise that develops the cardiovascular system, burns fat and increases strength and endurance. While in-line skates are more maneuverable than traditional roller skates, rollerskating may be easiest for small children to learn.
EQUIPMENT SKATES: Unlike traditional roller skates, in-line skates have four polyurethane wheels in a row (three wheels on some small skates and five wheels on some racing skates) that are bolted to a rigid frame. The straight line of the wheels reduces friction, allowing the skater to travel at rapid speeds.
Choosing the proper skate for your child is a must. Have your child try on the skate while wearing cotton socks. Her toes should come to the end of the liner. Have her bend her knees. The toes should pull back slightly from the front to the back and still be comfortable.
Since children’s feet do grow quickly, some boots allow for two different sizes of liner. Instead of replacing the whole boot, you can just buy the next size liner. Other skates – such as the X-10 Xtendblade, which fits children’s sizes 1 – 4 – are adjustable and fit several shoe sizes. Choose a boot with vents that allow feet to breathe. Skates for young children generally fasten over the shoes. Choose skates that:
- Can be expanded as your child’s foot grows. Many kinds are available and generally fit shoe sizes 6 – 12.
- Have adjustable straps securing the skate to the shoes.
- Have a lock to keep wheels from rolling backward when your child is first learning.
HELMET: Your child doesn’t necessarily need a helmet made especially for in-line skating if she has a bike helmet that fits well. The front of the helmet should be less than an inch above the eyebrows to protect the forehead. The sides should protect the ears and the back should cover the little bump at the base of the skull. The helmet should fit snugly.
Choose a fabric-covered foam helmet for small children. These helmets are lightweight and won’t strain the neck muscles. For older children, choose a hard shell helmet which will resist puncture by rocks or other objects. If the weight of a hard shell helmet is uncomfortable, opt for a lighter microshell helmet. Be sure to choose a helmet with an easy-to-use snap or buckle.
Children should use the helmet each time they participate in biking, roller blading or in other sports that could cause injury to the head.
PROTECTIVE GEAR: Protective gear is a must for in-line skating. Broken wrists are the most common injury because skaters often try to break their fall by putting their hands out. Wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, and a helmet are necessary. You can buy wrist, knee and elbow guards in a combination pack.
You can help your child learn to skate:
- Let her walk on grass or carpet until she gets the feel of the skates. Once she is comfortable with this, move to a flat surface such as a tile or linoleum floor. Take short steps with toes pointed out. Then proceed to a level area free from sand, pebbles and cracks.
In-line skating is a series of glides. Your child should start in a crouched position, put her weight on one foot and push off sideways and backward with the other. Repeat with the opposite foot.
- Have your child take small steps. Offer encouragement. Support her if needed. If she doesn’t appear to be ready to skate, put the skates away for a couple of months and try again. Children as young as 2 years old can learn to skate, but many are not ready at this age. By the age of 4 a child develops the large motor skills necessary to skate.
- More important than moving is stopping! Press hard on the brake pad as if you were “crushing a bug.” Because skaters can move at speeds up to 25 miles per hour on flat surfaces and even faster (obviously) downhill, braking should be mastered before you venture out to new areas such as the local bike path.
- Make skating fun! Praise any effort or success and allow plenty of time for new skill development. Skate for small periods of time frequently – 10 minutes a day – rather than for a long stretch of time once a week.
Be sure to take the proper safety precautions while in-line skating:
- Wear protective gear every time you skate.
- Know the basics of gliding, turning and stopping.
- Stay in control – never travel too fast to stop.
- Keep right; pass on the left.
- Yield to pedestrians.
- Stay on flat surfaces until all skills have been mastered.
- Avoid wet or sandy surfaces.
Katrina Cassel is a freelance writer.