Boots to Blades program offers an alternative for young skaters

By on October 1, 2015
The boots to blades skaters   play with toys and put them in the dino's spots. Photo: Julia Lovett

The boots to blades skaters play with toys and put them in the dino’s spots. Photo: Julia Lovett

FORT ST. JOHN – Learning to skate is a right of passage for any child and for the tots who are part of the Boots for Blades and Ice Penguins programs, it’s an hour of fun, playing on the ice and learning how to skate at the same time.

“They’re both different programs that kind of make younger children that are just learning how to skate more comfortable on the ice as well as comfortable being on the ice,” said Lisa Rowbotham, community development coordinator with the city.

The Boots to Blades program, which is currently in its third week of six and starts at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays, teaches the youngsters the basics of ice skating and learning how to fall safely.

“We learn different skating skills like how to do a bunny hop, turning in a circle, we learn how to do side step, even backwards steps all in our boots so it’s safe, it’s comfortable and kids can slowly build that confidence within themselves,” she said.

This program is the first of its kind in the city as there isn’t a transitional skating available for younger skaters. She explained that although the Fort St. John Figure Skating Club does offer a “Learn to Skate” program, it is for older children. Another aspect of the program that is different then most other programs is that it is parent participation based.

That means that the parents get down and dirty with their little ones and also take part in the ice games.

“It’s great to kind of have a parent…help with that success,” Rowbotham added.

Each group comes together for an hour on Wednesdays to improve their skills by playing little games. During the first half hour, they take part in he lessons and afterwards have free time to play.

“It’s fun and it’s engaging and it’s different,” she said.

The Ice Penguins program, which is held right after Boots to Blades, runs along the same lines, however, the lessons are structured differently. For the first part of the hour, the children are on the ice for about 25 minutes and then they come off the ice to listen to the instructor tell a skating themed story or colour a skating themed picture. After the stories have been told and the colouring has been completed, the children and their parents go back out on the ice to have a free play time.

“It doesn’t overwhelm you with that ice time,” Rowbotham said, noting the mini-chunks of instruction are easier to handle for some of the young skaters.

Both programs, while not unique to B.C., are unique to Fort St. John. They are the only ones of their kind in the area and are geared towards children between the ages of 2-6.

One of the games involves the skaters to pick up toys and put them in a circle. During the first couple of weeks the circles were hula hoops but this week, they needed to place the toys in the spots on a dinosaur that was drawn on the ice.   

“Last week we did ring-around-the-rosy to show them that falling’s fun,” said Kelsey Maclean, the skating instructor, referring to the multiple games they have the children play during the hour. Maclean explained that the first week it was a bit hectic because the children didn’t wanted to play on their own and wouldn’t listen. She said now that they are coming up to their fourth week, it’s as though it is a different group all together.

“They like to listen and they like to all those things (play games). One of the kids actually came up to me and said, ‘instead of playing playtime, can we go play that game with the dinosaur again,’ so that’s awesome,” Maclean said.

The group of 12 children took some tumbles and spilled some tears but the in the end, it was a fun lesson.

Four-year-old Beau Almeida said her favourite part of the class was to “jump on bunnies” (do the bunny hop) and falling down.

According to Alpina Polotskaya, the program has given her twin boys, Rafael and Maxim, both two, a place to grow and learn skills.

“We love it, we really love it, [the] boys love [to] come here,” she said.

Polotskaya said that whenever she or her partner tell the boys that they are getting ready to go to Boots and Blades, they get excited.

“We live in the north,” she said, noting that whether they chose hockey or speed skating, it is best to start them out early.    

Although this program is half way through the six weeks, there will be another five week program starting up November.

For more information on either Ice Penguins or Boots to Blades, call 250-787-8150   

Julia Lovett

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