Summer with my son is fantastic. My work schedule allows me many days spent raising him and playing around. During the summer months we have a plethora of things to do. Between the splash pad, the zoo, fishing and general fun in the sun, it’s endless hours of energy being burnt. However in the winter months it’s tough. The days are shorter, the weather is more difficult to handle, and getting a toddler dressed for snow is torturous at best. We always enroll him in some programs with the community centre, but this kid needs more. He’s like a Dalmatian that needs to be run for hours on end until he’ll “behave”. Now that he’s 3 (and a half, depending on who you ask) he’s able to do more. This winter I decided it was time to teach my boy how to skate. In Canada, this is a rite of passage, and just short of mandatory.
Personally, I didn’t learn to skate until I was 20. My parents felt if I played hockey as a child, I’d end up breaking my nose (or so they say). This put me at a severe disadvantage among my peers, but 13 years later and I’m holding my own among the best of them. Whether you play Hockey or Ringette or Figure Skate, I think skating is an imperative skill. It’s amazing fitness and the skills learned can be used in many sports that require balance and lateral movement.
Once our community activity booklet arrived in the mail, I signed him up almost immediately. We had about 6 weeks until the first class, so I used that time to gather the proper equipment and bring him out on the ice myself for his first skate. His first time out was scary at best. His very first words when he stepped on the ice were “I want mama”. I was terrified. My boy needs to learn to skate, what will the other parents think? We ended up making a game of it, we tried some balance games and every few minutes I would pick him up, skate as fast as I could and then let his skates skim the ice so he could feel what the speed was like. It was actually a lot of fun; the more we skimmed the ice, the more games we came up with. Eventually we were jumping over imaginary crocodiles and hippos hiding in the goalies crease. The more of a game it was, the more he enjoyed being on the ice. He was doing well, but we weren’t getting enough time to practice, the ice was only available for “Parent & Tot” skates a couple times a week and only for an hour. This wasn’t going to cut it if my boy was going to get any use out of the lessons we paid for.
I decided to do a bit of research and tap into my handy side and build him an ice rink in the backyard. Now as you’ll see from the pictures, I don’t have the biggest backyard, but I’m not holding NHL tryouts either. He only needs a rink big enough to learn some balance and how to get up when he falls. I measured out a flat spot on my patio pad and went to home depot. It was very simple, grab some 2 x 4’s, a tarp and some deck screws. I could have gone with the super large white tarp made for ice rinks, but since mine is miniature, I only used a 6mm plastic drop sheet doubled over. I cut and screwed the 2 x 4’s and wedged wood under the slope to level it out (Since my patio slopes away from the house to divert the rain). I used a staple gun to attach the plastic and duct tape to cover the staples and give the edges a bit of a cushion if he fell on it. Then turn on the hose and let the boy fill it. Then we wait and wait and wait a bit longer. It took a week for the weather to agree, but once it did, we were on the ice. He did amazing, I would play music from my iPhone in my pocket and we both would dance and try to balance. It served the exact purpose I intended it too, and allowed us to bond even further. Now he’s comfortable during his lessons and he’s learning more and more everyday instead of just how to balance.
When it was all said and done, the rink cost me $47 and a few hours to build, fill, and maintain. Every bit of it was, and continues to be, worth it. My boy may never play in the big leagues, in fact he may never play at all (at $500+ a season), but at least when he’s old enough to decided and pay his own way, he’ll have the skills to participate along with everyone else.
Keep Your Head Up and Your Nuts Covered