Great Skate #33: Gage Park, Brampton

On Sunday, March 1, the Great Skate Project revisited one of the rinks of my youth: the skating trail in Brampton's Gage Park. My friends Jennifer and Riubert joined me, with their two small boys.

The skating rink at Gage Park in Brampton
Gage Park is located in downtown Brampton - the quaint, slightly shabby part of Brampton that has been eclipsed by the mushrooming housing developments all around it. In the late 1980s, Brampton rebuilt its City Hall, and that project included the installation of a skating trail in the neighbouring Gage Park. I think it was the smartest thing that Brampton councillors have ever done.

It's been years since the last time I skated at Gage Park. This was the first time my friends had been there, so I was glad my memory of it lived up to reality.

I don't know how long the skating trail is, but it does a big loop around the perimeter of the park. There is a skate sharpening booth ($5 per pair), a snack truck and public washrooms. Parking (free on Sundays) is across the street under City Hall.

Jennifer and Riubert are determined to have the kind of family that enjoys outdoor winter activities. Riubert has even been taking skating lessons so he can set a good example. So far, Jennifer says, their outings could be called "The Great Hot Chocolate Project 2015, with a minor emphasis on skating." But it's a good start!

The boys hadn't really gotten the hang of skating yet. They lasted a little while on their skates, but then had more fun playing in the snow-covered jungle gym next to the rink. Jennifer and Riubert alternated supervision duties and skating with me. We all had an excellent time.

Teaching children to skate

Here is what I have learned about teaching children to skate, based on some Google research and my own observations:
  • Adjust your expectations. As long as kids are on the ice longer than the time you spend tying up their skates, it counts as a successful outing in my books.
  • Make sure the skates fit well, not too loose or too tight.
  • On the ice, face the child and skate backwards slowly, with the child's hands resting lightly on yours.
  • Repeat the following frequently: "Bend your knees. Look up, don't look at the ice. That's it, you're doing a terrific job!"
  • Children need to fall a few times to learn to keep their balance.
  • Pushing a small chair or prop around the ice can give children confidence but I don't think it helps them learn to keep their balance on their own.
  • If you can, go skating with other children who are slightly better skaters. Peer pressure can be an amazing teacher.
  • Lots of short outings are probably better for learning than one long day on a rink.
  • Stay warm, have snacks and take breaks. When people are cold, hungry and tired, they're not having fun. I think having fun is the crucial part of learning to skate. Otherwise, what's the point?
Two small boys watch the Zamboni at the Gage Park skating rink.
Watching the Zamboni: this may be what the boys remember most about skating at Gage Park.

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