Roller skating is a fun activity for children and adults alike. And it’s good exercise too. Rolling skating uses 80% of the muscles in the body, and it gives you a great cardio workout.

Many of us have had a pair of skates at some point, and now rolling skating is making a comeback. With its cool retro vibe and summer just around the corner, rolling skating could be the perfect excuse to get the little ones away from the TV and out into the fresh air. You can pick up a pair of kids’ roller skates pretty cheaply, and they provide hours of fun. And roller skating is a great way to spend time together as a family. But if your skills resemble ‘Bambi on ice’, then you might be wondering how you can teach your children. Well, do not fear, help is here! We’ve set out some tips and advice for parents looking to help their children to start roller skating.

How long have roller skates been around?

Roller skates are an ultimate icon of the 1970’s – but their history actually goes back further - a lot further. Roller skating was invented almost 300 years ago, by Belgian John Joseph Merlin. He famously introduced his new metal wheeled shoes at a party in London and promptly crashed into a large mirror. That probably wasn't the best advert for the new invention, but that didn't stop the idea from catching on. Monsieur Petitbled patented the roller skate in 1819, although the Frenchman’s skates were inline, with only three wheels and no way to turn!

Then in 1863, clever American inventor James Leonard Plimpton designed ‘modern’ roller skates that had four wheels aligned two by two. This allowed skaters to turn on a smooth curve and even skate backwards (something not possible before) which greatly increased the popularity.

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Skating fell out of favor in the 1900’s until the waitresses at drive-ins started wheeling meals to customers. Roller skating became a popular hobby once more, hitting its peak in the roller-disco era of the 70’s and 80’s. Inline skates took over in the 90’s, but quad skating is now making a comeback.

What are the different types of roller skates?

Roller skates have evolved greatly over the years, making major advances in a relatively short time period. And they’ve come a long way from the earlier roller skates which had wheels made of wood or steel, and which strapped onto your shoes. Modern-day inline skates have polyurethane plastic wheels arranged in a line so that the gliding action is much like that of an ice skating blade. Let’s take a look at the different types of roller skates in a little more detail:

Quad Roller Skates:

Quad roller skates are the traditional kind that many of us had as children. They were also a 1970’s icon, as roller discos were popping up all over the world. These skates have four wheels in a two-by-two configuration, which gives them more stability. They are used in artistic skating, roller derby, and are standard in most indoor tracks. They may be best for many beginners because they’re more stable. Quad skates come in either a high-top or low-top skate boot.

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Pros/cons:

  • A little slower
  • More stable (good for beginners)
  • Better for indoor skating
  • Not much ankle support

Inline Skates:

Inline skates (or rollerblades) also have four wheels, but they’re arranged in a straight line. This makes them better for outdoor use as they make it much easier to maneuver to avoid obstacles. Inline skates also provide more ankle support and speed compared to quad skates. They feel much like ice skates, and are generally used in roller hockey and speed skating.

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Pros/cons:

  • Made for exercise and speed
  • More suited for skating outside
  • Provide greater ankle support
  • They take more practice to master

Another big difference between quads skates and inline skates is how you brake. When you’re wearing quads, you brake with the toe, whereas inline skates require braking at the heel.

Having the right equipment makes it easier to teach kids to skate. If you need help choosing your kids’ roller skates, our skating brand OXELO can help you choose the right skates for your child's age and ability.

What age can a child learn to roller skate?

At around three years of age, most kids have reached the stage where they don’t have to concentrate on their balance for everyday movements such as walking, running and jumping. Though they may still have to concentrate on more complex actions, like standing on one foot. Children don’t normally develop the balance and coordination of an adult until four or five years old, so it’s best to wait until around this age before introducing them to roller skates.

Roller skates can be either quad skates or inline skates. Quad skates are generally easier to maintain balance due to their wider wheelbase. This makes them a great choice for younger children and beginner skaters. They’re also more maneuverable than inline skates, allowing your little ones to do tricks and fancy footwork with practice. Inline skates are harder to balance on when you are first starting out, which makes them better suited for older children or more competent skaters. But inline skates are usually more comfortable for long periods of skating because of their padded boot, and they make it easier to build up and maintain speed.

What equipment do children need to roller skate safely?

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Roller skating is a fun activity for kids, with lots of health benefits. But it can be dangerous, so wearing the right safety gear is essential. As well as buying your child a pair of skates, it’s also advisable to invest in the following:

  • A helmet: Choose a helmet specifically designed for skating or skateboarding. They will be lower at the back (towards the base of the skull) for better protection if they should fall backwards. Make sure the helmet fits your child properly, and always fasten chin straps snuggly so the helmet doesn’t bob around.
  • Knee pads: It’s inevitable your new skater will fall over while learning the basics, so knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards will help prevent scrapes, as well as cushioning the bones. You can usually buy all three together in a set, and you can often find designs to match the helmet, or even the skates.
  • Light gloves: Yes, even in the summer! These can help keep little fingers safe in the event of a fall.
  • A mouth guard: This one might seem extreme, but a mouth guard will help protect the teeth and mouth in case of a crash or fall.

You should avoid buying used safety equipment as you don’t know how it’s been stored or what damage it may have sustained previously. There can be microscopic damage that you can’t see, which massively lessens the level of protection.

How can I teach my child to roller skate?

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Now your little one has the right gear, it’s time to teach them the basics of roller skating. There are three key ways you can help children learn anything, from basic tasks to more complicated activities like roller skating:

  • Instructions: This is simply explaining how to do something. Everyone gives instructions in everyday life, but here are some tips to ensure you’re giving good, clear instructions to your child:
  • Wait until you have your child’s full attention before giving them instructions. Use their name, and encourage them to look at you while you speak.
  • Remove any background distractions and get down to your child’s physical level to speak.
  • Use a clear, calm voice, and short, simple sentences that your child understands. And use gestures if need be to emphasize what you’re saying.
  • Modelling: This is where your child learns by watching what you do. Modelling is usually the most efficient way to teach children a new skill. You can use the following steps to make modelling work for you and your child:
  • Get your child’s attention and make sure they’re looking at you. Get them to watch first, then move slowly through the steps so that your child can clearly see what you’re doing.
  • Be sure to point out the most important parts of what you’re doing. Then give your child lots of opportunities to practice once they’ve seen you do it.

Step-by-step: Some tasks are complicated, so it’s a good idea to break these down into smaller steps. The idea of step-by-step teaching is to teach the steps that make up a skill one at a time. When your child has learnt the first step, then you can move on to the next step. You then keep going until your child can do the whole task for themselves. Here’s how you might break down the instructions for roller skating:

  1. Start by getting your child to bend their knees and lean slightly forward, as if they’re about to do a sprint.
  2. Get them gently walking in their skates first, which will help them develop the balance they need to skate.
  3. Afterwards, while holding their hand, encourage your child to roll to build up their confidence.
  4. Finally, let them alternate each skate slightly off the ground while stepping forwards in a diagonal direction and propelling themselves forwards.

These four steps may take some children more time than others. But it’s important not to rush them, and allow them to move at their own pace, when they feel confident. If you feel your child needs to build their confidence a little first, it’s a good idea to let them practice indoors. This will allow them to learn to balance, and it will hurt less if they fall on carpet. Encourage your little one to keep practicing even if they fall. After-all, falling is all part of the process. And just like riding a bike, your child will never fully forget how to roller skate once they’ve learnt how. So once they’ve mastered the basics, there will be no stopping them!

Roller skating is an excellent way of being physically active while having fun. It’s so versatile because you can skate alone, with friends, or with family. Plus, you can do it indoors and out. Feeling inspired to give skating a go yourself? If you’d like to meet a few people to go skating with, we can tell you how. After all, everything’s more fun with a friend. And check out our short guide on the best places to skate.