Snow is, in most cases, children’s best friend, but oftentimes, when trying to make the transition from simply playing in the snow or sledging to a complex winter sport such as skiing, parents are confronted with frustrations, oppositions, setbacks. How can we best prepare the little ones for the first ski lessons so as to make their acquaintance with this sport as smooth as possible?
Here are some tips for the months preceding the actual skiing experience, tips that will help you prepare your child in all respects and make you all enjoy the experience to the fullest!
The right age
„The earliest age a kid can start skiing at is three, but don’t set yourselves too high expectations at this age… at 3 a kid will only manage to get used to sliding, to walking around in ski boots and with the skis themselves… All exercises have to be designed so as to look like a game!” recommends Maria Popovici, ski instructor at Ana Ski School.
„The skiing lesson is not really a lesson, it has to seem more like great fun in the snow”, is also Mircea Bularca’s opinion, ski instructor at the same school.
4-5 months before the ski season:
- Enroll your child in a sports-type activity such as gymnastics, dance, martial arts. Such experiences will improve balance, coordination, motor skills in general and will tone muscles; „More than improving their physical condition, such activities will make the kid get used to listening to and following the instructions of a new person, other than their family” says Mircea Bularca. „A kid who has some sort of exposure to practising a sport will certainly not start crying for mom on top of the ski run”, he adds.
- Become outspoken fans of snow and winter sports; in your free time together, tell your child stories about the wonders of winter fun in the snow, about your childhood memories in the snow, of how you learned to ski or how your friends have; obviously, you will need to filter only positive experiences with a happy ending!
- Start simulating falling situations in a playful context. It is important to learn to fall before learning to ski, just as it is important for the child to understand it is perfectly natural to fall while practicing it. You can even imagine a game in this respect.
- If you can, opt for a workout on skates. Rollerblading or ice skating are an excellent preparatory work- out because it will get the child used to maintaining balance in motion.
One month before the first ski lessons:
- Ensure that you have booked the lessons and the instructor well in advance and ask about details such as the length of lessons, the number of daily lessons, ski slopes they will first slide on etc. You can view with your child the slope in advance via webcams and imagine together funny scenarios.
- As far as frequency of lessons, both Maria and Mircea recommend 1 hour per day at 3 and 4 years old, for 1 or 2 weeks. „From 5 years onwards, I recommend 2 ski lessons per day, 1 lesson in the morning and another 1 or 2-hour lesson early in the afternoon”, Mircea Bularca says.
- It is important to book accommodation as close to the slope as possible so as not to waste time with transfer. In winter conditions, any extra effort takes its toll on the child and it would be a pity to make them tired before the actual lesson.
- Buy and familiarize your child with ski equipment. Ski overalls, gloves, helmet require quite some time to get used to. Children should master the whole routine of getting equipped for skiing before the big day, so that they have one less stress factor when on holiday.
- Browse YouTube for interesting videos with your children. You can look both for professional skiers and for kids skiing in order to give them a choice of possible models.
A week before the first lesson:
- Make sure you have the entire equipment ready:
- – There is a debate between coverall ski pants and simple ski trousers. Some say coveralls will better protect children from contact with the snow and cold; Others, like Mircea, recommend simple ski trousers, for the mere reason that it is easier to deal with when an emergency kicks in „and you have to take the kid to the first tree on the way!”
- – Turtleneck blouses, cotton and fleece jumpers; You should follow the principle of successive layers, and make sure the first one will be cotton;
- – Gloves, cap and helmet – the latter is a compulsory safety measure with children; besides, it will help you more identify more easily your kid in the crowd;
- – Ski goggles – they may seem an unnecessary accessory at first, but they can significantly increase your kid’s comfort level, especially in the event of snow or frost;
- – Enquire about renting ski equipment – boots, skis, etc. The sticks will not be needed in the first week.
- Check weather forecasts and slope conditions so as to know what to expect;
- „Pack your kid’s favourite toy! It will make him / her feel more comfortable on the slope!” Maria Popovici recommends.
The more inclusive your holiday package is, the more you can concentrate on the kid and give them the full support they need!
„Get ready to support your kid every step of the way, to congratulate him / her and award him / her for every small success!” Maria Popovici concludes.
So do dare put your little one on skis, with some preliminary training and the right instructors, everything will be fine!