Push, glide. Push, wobble. Push, glide. Push, wobble. Whoa, this ice-skating thing is harder than I remember. That's what was going through my mind on a recent weekday visit to the Ice Barn in Milton.
My husband, Kevin, and I brought our 3-year-old son, Oliver, to Milton's family-oriented recreation center for his ice-rink debut. We rented skates, strapped on Oliver's helmet and grabbed a stack of milk crates from the Ice Barn's supply to help him steady himself as he got started.
When Oliver tried it for the first time, he slipped, slid and fell. He got up, fell again, got up again, then finally managed to stand still behind his milk crates. "I can not ice skate," he said emphatically.
No, bud, you can't ice skate right out of the womb. Although, now that I think about it, some kids do seem to have an inborn affinity for hockey, especially if they hail from the frozen North.
However, skating takes practice, and the effort is worth it. Watching kids glide around gracefully is amazing, and if you've ever smelled a mite's gear, you know they get sweaty.
If you haven't tried skating, or if your kids are new to the ice, try taking a lesson. The Ice Barn offers a Learn to Skate program — a four-to-six-week session for kids as young as 3 that teaches the fundamentals.
Or you can visit the Ice Barn during one of its daily public-skating periods. Your kids won't get instruction, but they'll see others having a good time.
When we skated, I needed to help support Oliver to prevent any high-speed crashes. This ensured that I warmed up my hamstrings and glutes, as I was essentially crouching behind him in a semi-squat the entire time. My legs didn't enjoy it as much as Oliver did. He was amazed at how fast we slid along and how quickly we could turn. Little does he know I'm more Raggedy Ann on skates than Kristi Yamaguchi.
Of course, once you master the basics, skating opens a world of activity possibilities for families. Everywhere you turn in the winter you'll find pond-hockey tournaments and lake-skating events. The Ice Barn also offers broomball, curling, lacrosse on ice, figure-skating programs and pickup hockey. You can skate there during the summer, too.
If you go, be sure to dress warmly, and don't skip the ski pants.
When you're done skating, check out the pool tables and arcade games in the large, heated lobby, or visit the snack bar for a cup of cocoa. It's a comfortable spot to sit with younger kids and relax between sessions on the ice.