Child’s Play: 5 Tips for Teaching Your Kid to Skate
If your child is one of the many who have decided that they’re going to be the next pro skater, you’re not alone. All it takes is one visit to the skatepark or one clip of the X-Games for young thrill-seekers to aim at being the next Tony Hawk. But stepping onto a skatepark can be more difficult than it looks, especially when you’re watching seasoned professionals who make the hardest of tricks look like nothing. Here are five important things to remember for junior skaters starting out for the first time.
Don’t start on concrete. For serious newbies or really young skaters, it’s a good idea to practice balancing on the board before they get moving. Place the board, wheels down, on the grass first. This gives them more stability while they practice foot placement, getting on and off the board and leaning into their turns. If this seems a little too easy for them, you can try moving to a foam-pad flooring that’s common at many public playgrounds.
Practice riding goofy. Or if riding goofy comes more natural to them, then practice a regular stance. Many tricks require skating “switchfoot”, which just means that the skater is skating opposite to their natural foot placement. As your child goes through the movements of practicing, make sure they give some attention to their less dominant foot also. This will help them gain balance in both stances and maintain control as they learn tricks.
It’s all in their head. Learning balance can be one of the hardest things for first-timers getting on four wheels. A good way to help them keep control of the board is to have them focus on the position of their head. Their feet should be on the bolts of the skateboard (roughly shoulder-width apart or slightly more for smaller skaters) and their head should stay between their feet. If their head moves too much, their body will too, so if they can look down and recognize that their head is too far forward or back, they’ll naturally learn to correct their own posture to keep stability.
Learn how to tic-tac. Although it’s not really considered a trick, it’s definitely a little more complicated than just rolling around, so this will take some practice. Performing a “tic-tac” entails a slight lift of the nose of the board to pivot or turn without putting their feet on the ground. When your child learns to do this, it will also allow them to move forward on the board without having to push or rotate their feet, so it’s a great skill for skaters who want to learn tricks later on. See an example of how this works here.
Get into gear. Skateboarding is a blast — until you have to make a trip to the emergency room. Skateboarding can actually be way safer than its reputation, as long as a skater is wearing the proper safety gear. Make sure they know the importance of wearing pads and a helmet and that they know how to put it on themselves. It can also be very helpful to let them be a part of picking it out. They’ll be much more likely to gear up if they choose it.
One final thing to note is that as young skaters develop in skill, so does their ego. Make sure they're trying tricks that challenge them but are still at their own skill level. Jumping too far ahead and trying things way above their ability can be dangerous, so be wary of letting them run wild once they can easily push themselves around. Their control will naturally grow as they practice, so steady continual training will have them where they want to be in no time.
- Outdoors Staff