When Can You Teach a Child to Roller Skate?

If you have fond memories of skating down your neighborhood sidewalk or spending weekends at the indoor rink, you probably can't wait to buy your child his first pair of roller skates. Technically speaking, you can strap skates onto your child's feet as soon as he can walk well and you can find skates small enough. Beginner skates come with safety features to help kids learn to balance while walking on skates before rolling away on their wheels.

What It Takes to Skate

Skating requires good balance and the ability to control body movements, since roller skaters must lean slightly forward when moving. By age 2, most kids have acquired this ability. Manufacturers who make beginner skates recommend their use for kids age 2 to 4.

Skate Types

Skates made especially for young children have safety features that allow them to learn to skate in several steps. They're adjustable, so they'll last through several shoe sizes and fit over your child's regular shoes. You can lock the wheels so your toddler can learn to walk in the skates before learning to stay upright on moving wheels. Once your little skater masters walking in the skates, you can adjust the setting so that the wheels move forward but not backward. When he has that down, adjust the skates so that the wheels move backwards and forward.

Safety Equipment

No child should roller skate without wearing safety equipment. Everyone falls when learning to skate, and even experienced skater take tumbles now and then. A helmet -- his bike helmet will do nicely -- wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads will lessen the sting of falling. Wrist fractures are the most common injury in roller skating falls, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in the June 1994 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Roller skating accounted for 10 percent of wheeled sports injuries in children in 2005, according to the Safe Kids website 3.

Rink Skating

Taking a little skater to the rink can be a bit scary, since so many skaters whizzing around -- many much faster than he is -- increase the risk of collisions. Some inside rinks have areas just for young children and new skaters. Most provide two-sided triangular wheeled plastic walkers, called skate mates, to hold onto while learning to skate; your child stands in the "V" and holds on to the bars to help keep him upright.