Introducing Ice Explorers
The Ice Explorers program will introduce young children to the rink and the ice in a fun, safe and enriching way.
When skating directors Jenny Gwyn, Maureen Herr, Kerry Murphy, Janet Temer and Angie Tousignant were identifying program needs, they agreed on one issue most Learn to Skate USA programs faced.
“Every rink has children who cry, who don’t want to go on the ice, they don’t want to be separated from mom and dad,” Murphy said. “The rink is a strange place. We have to give so much time and attention to them that it’s difficult to balance those that are excited and those that are scared.”
To address this issue, the group of directors (which they aptly named themselves the “think tank”) came up with a solution: Ice Explorers.
Designed for children ages 2.5 to 3.5 years old (and expandable to include 4- to 5-year-olds), Ice Explorers is an introductory program to Snowplow Sam classes that begins with age-appropriate activities off the ice. The eight-week program can be tailored to fit any facility’s Learn to Skate USA schedule.
Children begin Ice Explorers with an introduction to the rink alongside their parents. They then begin learning key skills off the ice, including falling down and getting up, dips and marching. Instructors can also teach them a song to the tune of “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” while singing “Skates, Laces, Tongue and Blade.”
By the end of the program, kids are stepping onto the ice more confident and ready to learn.
Tousignant, who runs Ice Explorers during her Learn to Skate USA classes at the Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena in Kankakee, Illinois, said the program has been a great way to introduce younger kids to skating without the “full-fledged class,” where skaters must pass or retry skills.
“We wanted to help with something for that younger group as well to start introducing them to skating and we wanted something that was more pre-school based,” Tousignant said. “With Learn to Skate USA classes, it’s all fun-based, but this is more interactive. It’s more or less just to get them on the ice to start enjoying skating.”
Tousignant’s rink is one of several in the Chicago area that has been running Ice Explorers for the past eight months. Murphy said there’s been nothing but positive reviews.
“Now, there’s a place for these children to go on the first day,” Murphy said. “The skating rink is a big scary place to a 3-year-old. They don’t understand where everything is and it’s really important that they get introduced slowly.”
Check out the Ice Explorers program here.