Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Teach Your Toddler to Ski, Part 2

The Big Three (and only) things your child needs to remember to learn how to ski are: 1) They must keep their hands on their knees.  This gives their hands something to do, gets them leaning forward, helps lateral stability, and prevents flailing.  2) They must sit down if they get going too fast.  And 3) if they want to turn they just rotate their shoulders in the direction they want to go.  That's it.  Don't talk about "snowplows", "falling", or anything else that might distract them from "The Big Three".  These three things need to be repeated over and over (even in the car on the way to the hill) until your child can repeat them with ease.  To practise, find a gentle slope free of obstructions and traffic.  Remember, you want to minimize distractions.  Leave your own ski poles at the lodge, carry your child up the slope 10 or 20 vertical feet or so, and set him or her up at a slight downhill angle across the hill with their hands on their knees.  Remind them how to stop and turn, tell them to wait until you say "go", and then back away from them about ten feet initially.  Then say "go" and get them to shuffle their skis a bit until they ski straight into your arms.  (Note: you may have to move one way or the other a bit to make it happen.)  When they get to you, catch your child and swoosh them into the air while hugging and congratulating them.  This becomes the routine "catch" in a sort of a "catch Mom or Dad" game for them.  Kids love to ski into their parents arms and get praised for doing so.  Okay, now you put your child down going the other way across the slope, again at a slight downhill angle, and repeat the process over and over, always reinforcing The Big Three.  Your spouse can now enter the scene with a camera so your toddler can proudly show off their new skills, but remember to keep repeating those three rules.  After doing this half a dozen times successfully, they're ready for the "bunny lift", the smallest lift on the gentlest slope on the mountain.  Remember, this is all about taking small steps, and building on skills already learned.  (You may have to carry your child up the lift the first time or two until they get really stable on their boards and want to go up beside you "like the big kids".  Riding a ski lift is harder than skiing for little kids, so ask your liftee for suggestions, and be ready to have the T-bar down around your knees!)  When you get off the lift, get away from everyone else as much as possible, and repeat the "catch me" game - always reinforcing The Big Three.  Now that you have lots of slope, you can increase the distance gradually between the two of you so your child gets up a little more speed and excitement before they get to you.  You can even do a backward "snowplow" yourself so that they're really excited to catch you.  But, you ask, when do they start turning on their own?  You can gradually introduce the "rotate your shoulders" turn whenever you think they're ready, but sometimes a big lump of snow or twig or something else will appear and - like magic - they'll remember rule #3 and turn on their own!  Stopping also seems to come naturally to them once they've mastered a few turns because they've learned how to use the edges of their skis without even knowing it.  And that's it.  Wow, their first run.  It was fun, warm, and rewarding for everybody involved.  One final last hint: don't push your luck.  If your child needs a rest (or perhaps an incentive), a hot chocolate in the lodge is a great motivator.  (For our kids, it was always fries and gravy - not politically correct but effective!)  Soon your toddler will be leaving you in the dust.  Have fun out there!