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Teaching Kids to Ice Skate

Winter often arrives late in the Chesapeake Bay area, forcing many of us to seek out a frosty environment to match our children’s winter anticipation. Nonetheless, when there is insufficient snow to satisfy a child’s yearning for winter’s pleasures, head indoors to one of the area ice-skating rinks for the thrill (and chill) of the season.
    My wife and I first laced skates on our toddler shortly after his second birthday. Sure, he learned to walk early, so adapting to ice should be no problem – right? After a few cute pictures, and very sore backs from bending to hold him up, we called it quits after less than thirty minutes. Two years later, though, our now-four-year -old was excited about the idea of learning to skate and strong enough to manage the awkwardness of a first time on the ice. Not surprisingly, he was equally eager to see the Zamboni circling the rink.
On both sides of the Chesapeake there are several options to ice skate. The Talbot County Community Center Ice Arena is an excellent facility for a first-time family skating adventure. Equipped with a café and a small pro shop, the Easton rink has everything you need to get started, including sturdy rental skates. Suspended heaters above rinkside seats keep non-skating family members warm and serve as a perfect resting area to sip whipped-cream topped hot cocoa. On the ice are cones to segregate beginners from others, leaving parents comfortable in the middle of the rink to teach (and possibly re-learn themselves) how to glide across the ice.
    In Baltimore’s Patterson Park, the Dominic “Mimi” DiPietro Family Skating Center is a great complement for a trip to the city. Sunday open skating sessions can be quiet and the glow of the afternoon sun through the rink’s translucent dome is perfect for photos of your budding Wayne Gretzky or Kristi Yamaguchi. However, be sure to have someone else take the pictures, as a camera dangling from your neck is likely to hit your child when bending down to catch a fall.
    Parents should consider dressing the kids in enough layers to prevent the cold from penetrating rear-ends resting on the ice. A helmet (snug bike helmets work well) should be worn when children strike out on their own without a walker or a parent to hold. And don’t forget a hat or earmuffs, and gloves to keep fingers warm.
    Virtually every rink has learn-to-skate programs and, for boys and girls equipped with enough experience, beginning hockey and figure skating programs. Ice skating is a parent-on-one child activity. An adult whose skills are as rusty as the blades on the skates from the attic may not be able to keep enough hands ready to help more than one child. However, after several sessions, you will be amazed to see how quickly your children will push themselves across the ice alone.

Local Rinks to Explore

The Talbot County Community Center (TCCC) Ice Arena, Easton
Wed.1-3pm; Sat. 12:45-2:30pm; Sun. 2:30-4:15pm
Admission: $6/person; skate rental: $3

Dominic “Mimi” DiPietro Family Skating Center
Patterson Park, Baltimore
(Oct.-Apr.) Tues. 12-2pm; Fri. 12-2pm, 7-9pm; Sat. 3-5:00, 7-9pm; Sun. 3-5pm
Admission: $4 /person; skate rental: $2

Piney Orchard Ice Arena, Odenton
Open skate times vary – call or check online at marylandiceskating.com/rinks-piney-orchard.htm
Admission: $6, $5 (under 12),
skate rental $2.50

Dr. John Jay McMulle Hockey Rink
Brigade Sports ComplexNaval Academy, Annapolis
Open skate sessions expected to be announced in Jan. 2008.  

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