Skating Aids – did you know how many different types there are?
We will detail the main 6 different ice skating aids and why they matter, such as the Penguin, Dolphin, Polar Bear, Snowman etc., these helpers are available at most family skating rinks.
Ice skating is mostly a family excursion and there is always one in the gang who doesn’t know how to skate….Dad! However, the ones who start at the beginning are our beloved children. Skating aids provide them with freedom to explore the ice, test a little speed with the confidence of stability, whilst enjoying the theatre of fun around them. But do they only come as Penguins or are there different aids to help?
First, what is a skating aid?
Have you wondered what those stacked skating aids are on the side of the ice rink? Skating aids are dedicated to younger children around 5 years of age, who are starting to skate for the very first time. They are stable fixtures that can glide and turn on the ice freely. Designed as fun characters, all have similar characteristics of stability & confidence on the ice for little ones. They are limited in numbers because many organised pop up rinks around the country lack the space to store the quantity that they need.
Most skating aids will be manufactured out of high impact bow plastic. They have to withstand all forms of knocks, kicks from behind. They are also resistant to cold temperatures and won’t crack, like all skating aids they are waterproof, sunproof and snowproof!
Why should I use ice skating aids for my child?
Ice skating can be an unnatural thing to attempt at first. Instead of a child hanging onto the side rail or their parent – destabilising you and potentially sending you or both down on the ice, you should hire one. When a person takes to the ice without fear, they will learn faster. Skating aids create a stable, confident and enjoyable experience for the kids, providing them the freedom to explore, whilst you can take off around the rink as fast as you dare, having some freedom yourself, and then catch them back up on the way around.
What ice skating aids should I use for my child?
We don’t tend to get much choice when we turn up at the rink. The popular skating aid is the Penguin which suits most age groups. However going in age, the Seal’s are ideal for families with small children. Toddlers can hop onto their backs, we talk about this further down. Upwards from Toddler is the Penguin and then Polar bear, which helps older children and even adults!
How many Ice-Skating Aids are out there?
Well there are 5 skating aids we have decided to focus on. These are the most common but all try to portray a friendly character mix, to provide fun on the ice with a familiar face.
The most popular aid is the Penguin. You will find these at £5 per hire (annoyingly) and they are the cutest safest mammal known to kids. On the TV they walk fine on ice, so that gives the impression to little people that these are their stable friend. The Penguin shape is flat at the back and narrow on the sides which enables you to lean forward on the handles and practice walking or stroke along the ice. https://skateperfect.com/how-to-skate-for-the-first-time/ Usually made of fibre glass and weighing between 20- 25kg (44 to 55lbs), the Penguin skating aid will have long feet (ski’s) meaning it won’t topple forward even if you slip backwards. The head is fairly narrow so you do have good control on changing the course of direction and being at approx. 900mm in height, it’s perfect for those around 5 years of age.
The Polar Bear
Now these are different characters to the Penguins in the real world (they live in separate Poles), yet they are designed in a similar friendly way, a trusted friend for the ice. Whereas the Penguins come suited like a Waiter, Polar Bears can come with different colour ties for the occasion. They have the same upright design like their see worthy South Pole friends, so expect the same level of control on the ice.
The Snowman is again fiberglass manufactured weighing 20kg/44lb, a perfect dancing skating companion on the ice. Due to the nature of its design however, some Snowmen have square bases and rounded backs. This limits your freedom behind to skate more upright and you will find a slight bend in your back to push him along. But Snowman aids are taller than the Penguin, so older children get around this issue. Picture below from IceAid of Redcar.
Another friendly character is the Dolphin. Much of these moulds are created out in China with high minimum order quantities (MOQ’s) per colour for a US or UK wholesaler. You therefore may find only 1 colour batch at your local ice rink. But they do come in Yellow, White, Blue, Red and Green. Main difference about the Dolphin is that it has a front seat with handle, as well as the rear handles for standing and skating. It’s like a buggee on ice. This comes in handy, because little ones sometimes need help pushing a Penguin or Polar bear – at times adults have to do the actual ice skating work and steering, whilst the kids just hang on inside!
Those parents with back issues will find themselves a little achy after bending down over their kid trying to reach the handle bars. It’s hard to keep a straight back as the skating aid is pushed ahead. Therefore, the Dolphin allows you the freedom to come closer to the bars, whilst your child can sit down on top of the Dolphins back in front. It’s a cheaper option too because an older and younger sibling can use it together. But the Dolphin (as does the Banana) seems to be copy of the solid reliable Dutch made Bobby® the Seal. Ice rink owners can find the manufacturer here.
Some ice rinks will have plastic frames, called ice skate training aids. These allow more forward movement of the ice skate shoe / boot due to the angled outward design. The skaters body can also bend slightly over allowing you to start placing more weight on the outstretched leg. You will also find these particular skating aids in roller arenas. These are very lightweight, allowing easy manoeuvrability. Even better for the ice rinks because they can stack them away vs lining up 20 penguins! Here is a good brand called Skatehelper if any rinks are reading this.
One to throw in here, if you are unsure of your ability to stay upright and don’t want the embarrassment of using Penguin, a simple hockey stick used out in front will help. You don’t have to make your own skating aid.
How much is it to hire ice skating aids?
Most skating aids come in at £5.00. Some rinks will charge you £10, with £5 of that being a deposit… Really, as if you are going to walk away with a penguin – they are heavy and won’t get far on concrete. And you won’t get much conversation from them. Skating aids do seem expensive, it’s like buying a bottle of wine in a restaurant, you know you will pay over the odds for it. Let’s face it, you have just paid for car parking, including the price of a family ice skating ticket and yet there is more to pay out.
For the flexibility of all to enjoy their time on the ice, ice skating aids are probably a price worth paying. Our kids will eventually walk from the need of one and we can all race together.
Finally, off track a little. A good Ice Skating film to watch is Ice the Movie. Learn how Maddison Bullock grew up and became a star in her on film. She may have started with a Penguin skate aid all those years back.