If you love to ski, skate, snowshoe or snowboard, you are probably excited about getting your kids into “your” sports.
And if you are a “gear” person, you may be tempted to get your preschooler the best skis, skates etc.
But, before you go out and invest a ton of money on your little one, I’m going to caution you to think before your buy.
Over many years at Mountain Baby, I have observed that parents are sometimes “ready” for serious activities before their kids are.
They buy the best sports equipment available only to discover that their little ones “freak out” when…
they have to go downhill,
or balance on the ice.
But, having just spent all that money, you want your kids to do it no matter what.
Then the pressure is on the kids, they get more freaked out and on it goes.
So, a fun, easy going introduction to a sport you love, turns into a stressful, tear-filled, time of misery.
And guess who doesn’t want to get on skis or skates again?
So, what’s the best way to introduce your kids to your winter sport?
If you have checked out Mountain Baby’s winter sports equipment at the store, you will see that it is, in fact, introductory, and significantly less expensive than the “real” stuff.
Our skis are made to be worn with regular winter boots and to be used in your back yard, or the local sledding hill or an easy cross-country trail- not for the actual ski hill.
Some of our snowshoes do not require the child to master snowshoe “technique” but allow them to easily walk on top of the snow. Kids think that’s pretty cool! Our
Our Bob Skates have two blades on the bottom and can also be worn with regular winter boots. Your child only has to master the “sliding” part of skating, not the balance part.
All of our introductory gear is made so that your child has a safe, non-threatening first experience. Once they are relaxed, secure and comfortable, they can graduate to “the real thing”.
And once that happens, then it’s worth the money to invest in “real” gear.
Awareness and thoughtfulness are key.
When it comes to wintertime sports for your kids, your ultimate goals are for your children to enjoy the outdoors, get healthy exercise, feel confident, capable and good about themselves, have fun and (you hope) develop a love for the sport so you can enjoy it together as a family.
Know your child’s readiness to engage in “your” sport.
Readiness depends on a number of factors that vary greatly from child to child. Age is one factor in readiness. While some two-year-olds are ready for the ski hill, most are not. And even if a child seems “old enough”, they still may not be ready.
Take into account your child’s unique level of physical development, including coordination, balance, flexibility, and agility.
While you yourself may be super coordinated, your child may not be and may find the skills needed for balance and control beyond his or her capacity.
Being pushed too soon can result in a sense of failure for your child and frustration for you.
If you are introducing your child to skiing, no matter how coordinated and confident your child is, flying down the hill at top speed without learning some basic techniques, is not an option.
Consider the use of a ski harness so you can move down the hill together with your child, safely.
Psychological readiness is equally as important.
Some children are just naturally “fearless” and will try anything with great enthusiasm. These children need to be taught the importance of safety and maintaining awareness of the environment around them.
Other children are more naturally cautious and approach new things, especially physical activities with fear and resistance.
Pushing a cautious child too hard or teasing them can feel frightening and demeaning to them.
Some children just need to move slowly into new activities. They will learn at their own pace and comfort level.
Whether your children are super enthusiastic or cautious and hesitant, limit the structured teaching time you have with them. Learning a new skill is fun, but it’s also stressful.
Again, if you are unsure that your child will like an activity, consider buying “play” versions of the equipment to try in a safe and familiar environment such as your backyard or a local park.
With play skis, snowshoes, and bob-skates, your child can wear his or her own comfy, friendly winter boots. This is psychologically more comfortable.
Allow your children to have lots of free play time in the snow, so they enjoy and appreciate being outdoors.
Being respectful of individual differences in children, even within the same family, will help to ensure that your child has safe, non-threatening first experiences with the winter sports that you love.
It may take years but before you know it, they will be relaxed and capable, and together you’ll all be engaged in your well-loved sport as a family.