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Safety Tips: Ice Skating

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
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Whether it means solo turns around the ice rink or being part of a fast-paced competition, ice skating is fun, great exercise, and suitable for kids and teens who like team sports like hockey and those who prefer to go at their own pace. But sharp blades on a hard, frozen surface means there’s a real risk of injury.

To keep your kids as safe as possible, follow these tips.

Safe Skating Gear

Before kids start skating, get them the right equipment and make sure they know how to use it correctly.

  • Skates: Choose skates that fit well. If they’re too big, they won’t give proper ankle support, making kids more likely to fall. If they’re too small, they can cause blisters and make it hard for kids to feel comfortable on the ice. Skates should have sharp blades. Dull blades are more likely to get caught in ruts in the ice, leading to falls.
  • Safety gear: New skaters and young kids, especially, should wear helmets, wrist pads, knee pads, and elbow pads.

Getting Started

Ice skating lessons are the safest way for kids who want to learn. If that's not possible, teach your kids the basics before they lace up.

Most important, kids should learn how to fall. They should know how to protect their head and to keep their arms and legs away from their (and other skaters’) blades if they take a tumble.

All skaters lose their balance occasionally, especially those who are just learning. Have them practice falling on the ground first:

  • For a backward fall, they should tuck their chin into their chest and land with most of their weight on their bottom (like they’re going to sit on a chair), not their arms.
  • Forward falls are trickier, as kids will need to use their arms to protect their face and head. Keeping their elbows slightly bent can help prevent serious wrist injuries.
  • Be sure kids know not to grab another skater to try to break their fall. Doing so usually leads to injuries to both skaters.

To get up again, they should roll onto their side, get into a kneeling position, then stand up. It’s important to get up or out of the way quickly after falling. Other skaters might not see them or be able to stop or skate around them.

When they’re ready to get on the ice, kids should learn the basics. They should practice:

  • forward gliding while looking ahead and keeping their knees bent
  • safely stopping
  • keeping a safe space between themselves and other skaters

At ice rinks, new skaters should stick close to the edge so they can grab the handrail when needed.

Skaters should look left and right before entering a skating rink. After entering safely, they should skate in the direction of other skaters and not cut in front of anyone.

Balancing on skates is not a simple thing. Mastering the basics of forward skating and stopping takes time. Advanced moves like skating backward, rotations and spins, and jumps should only come later, if at all. Kids should feel proud when they learn even basic ice skating.

What About Outdoor Ice Skating?

While skating at an ice rink is safest, outdoor skating is a popular wintertime activity. To do so safely:

  • If possible, skate on an approved outdoor skating rink.
  • To skate on frozen natural bodies of water:
    • The ice should be 8 inches (20.32 centimeters) thick or more to safely support skaters. Many local police or parks departments check to see if ice is safe for skating. Contact yours before your kids skate on a local pond, lake, creek, river, or other outdoor surface.
  • Kids should never skate alone.
  • Kids should know to never walk on an untested frozen surface.
  • Make sure kids are dressed warmly. Include warm socks, gloves or mittens, neck warmers, hats, snow pants, and waterproof jackets.

An adult should always supervise kids while they skate, whether at an ice rink or outdoors. Besides the hazards of outdoor skating and the possibility of falls on any icy surface, new skaters can get overwhelmed by more experienced skaters. Be ready to get your child off the ice if this happens and wait for a less crowded skating opportunity.

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: December 2022