Skateboarding is cool!
What kid doesn’t want to be the next Tony Hawk or Bam Margera? Your kid might even just want to be like dear old Dad, and that’s reason enough to help them learn. In this guide, we’ll go over all the tips, steps, and considerations involved in teaching a kid to skateboard, no matter what their age.
Before you even think about how to teach a kid to skateboard, though, you’ve got to show them the importance of safety. It’s a little bit of a learning process when teaching kids to skateboard. Plus, the rules and rides are a little different for the kids, so that’s something to keep in mind.
You might even consider watching YouTube videos for tips and insight, but this guide will get you started.
Table of Contents
Safety First: Finding and Fitting the Right Safety Gear
It doesn’t matter your age– if you’re getting on a skateboard, you need to be safe about it. This is the type of sport where everyone is bound to fall at least a few times.
Some of the pros will even talk to you about how to fall correctly, which should tell you that you’ll never fully avoid it.
If you can’t stop it, you can at least reduce the potential damage by protecting yourself, or in this case your child, with the proper safety gear. It all starts with the right pair of closed toe shoes. Skateboarding is no place for sandals or going barefoot. Make sure that laces are secured, too, so they don’t get tangled in the wheels.
Elbow and Knee Pads
They will need elbow pads and knee pads to protect them from hard falls and reduce the risk of broken bones, scrapes, and other injuries. Make sure that you pick child-sized pads that fit snugly and stay in place while the child is riding.
As a bonus, you can buy wrist guards to protect their wrists, as well. Having the proper gear can help prevent serious injuries.
In addition, you’ll also need to purchase a helmet for skateboarding that fits snugly and provides secure protection. Choose a child-size helmet and make sure that you size up with them as they grow to ensure they are always protected.
The more protective gear, the better, but these are the basics that will keep your child safe.
See also: Do Skate Trainers Work
Choosing a Board
The biggest part of skateboarding comes in choosing the right board. No amount of skill or practice will matter if you’ve got your child on a board that is far too big for them.
You also don’t want to buy a cheap board from a big-box store because these are more “toys” than actual skateboards for learning how to skate effectively.
Sure, if you’re outfitting a six-year-old, you might be fine to grab them a cheaper board, but it should still come from a professional brand that is dedicated to making quality boards.
If you are worried they won’t stick with the hobby, maybe consider some kind of deal where you’ll buy them a nicer board, but if they don’t stick with it, they’ll have to do chores to repay you. Or if they’re old enough, have them save and buy their own board. Either way, always choose a quality skateboard.
Getting the right board is always more important. Speaking of which, let’s look at the elements involved in that choice.
Adult skateboards come in sizes ranging from 7.5 to 10.5 inches, or longer if you’re choosing a longboard. These boards, however, may be a bit too large for some children.
You’ll want to stick with a mini-board for smaller kids, which is going to be about seven inches wide and around 28 inches in length. Make sure that you bring your kid shopping and let them get a feel for the board before you buy.
Not only that, but it’s their first skateboard. It should be a fun shopping trip.
Make them stand on the board and you’ll see that their feet are just over shoulder-length apart. If they are stretching too far, the board may be too big.
If you go to a skate shop, they will be able to help you choose the appropriate board size based on your child’s age and size, which will ensure the best experience possible when skating.
It can be tempting to buy a bigger board that they can “grow into”, but this sport is all about balance and coordination and that’s why having the right size board matters.
Customization: Yay or Nay?
Usually, when you read guides on learning how to skateboard and choose the right gear, you’ll get a full breakdown on choosing the deck, wheels, bearings, trucks, and even the grip that goes on the deck to keep your feet planted firmly. But do kids need that many options?
This is something that you’ll have to decide for yourself, honestly. It may be better to start with a complete skateboard that’s designed for basic skating and then upgrade later if they stick with it or improve. However, you can also choose to get them custom everything if you want. That will include:
- Deck: This is the board itself, the sizing of which we discussed above. You’ll also find several designs to choose from.
- Grip Tape: Usually, the deck comes with a pre-installed grip that’s just black or might have a couple of colors or a design. However, you can choose custom grips that have more or less “grip” to them, or even choose ones with a unique design.
- Wheels: You will want to choose wheels that are appropriate for the type of skating that your child wants to do. Usually, harder wheels are used for park skating and softer wheels are used for street skating, but it’s also a matter of comfort and preference for some.
- Bearings: The bearings determine how fast the wheels go. You probably don’t need premium bearings on a kid’s skateboard, but you can invest in some good ones to ensure that they get the smoothest ride possible.
- Trucks: You can find trucks made of metal or durable composite materials. They should be flexible enough so that the board can turn easily and they should hold the wheels steadily. You should be able to tighten them regularly, too.
This is a lot to customize for a kid that’s just getting started, but if you’re going all out, you might as well go all out with the board, too. Most people stick with pre-made boards for kids who are just learning to skateboard to save confusion and expense.
How to Teach a Kid to Skateboard: The Basics
Now, you’re ready to actually get on the board and get to skateboarding. It has been a long journey already gathering safety gear and choosing a board, but it’s finally time to ride.
As soon as they learn how to stand.
Your child may become frustrated because there is so much involved in even getting on the board before you can get rolling, but reassure them that learning these basics will enable them to do just about anything they want on their board in no time at all.
In order to get them rolling on the right foot, follow the steps below when getting your kid on a skateboard for the first time.
- Start on a Flat Surface
This is more of a reminder than a step, but you should always start with a flat, soft surface like carpet or grass when the child is just learning to stand and position their front foot and back foot on the board. Stay away from slopes, hills, cracks or seams in sidewalks, and other obstacles that could cause more difficulty or make balancing difficult.
- Front Foot and Back Foot Positioning
You’ll need to start teaching by having your child place their front foot on the front bolts of the board and their back foot on the back side. If they’re right or left-handed, this could affect their choice, but let the child decide which stance feels most comfortable. Don’t move around, just get them standing on the board with their feet properly positioned.
If one way doesn’t work, try the opposite stance to get the right foot position.
- Comfortable Stance
Speaking of stances, this is a big part of skateboarding. You need to make sure that you teach your kid to bend their knees and feel comfortable in this athletic stance where they have to balance their body weight.
Getting the stance right takes time for even the best skaters, so if your child gets discouraged just remind them to keep at it. They’ll get there eventually. Once the stance is right, then you can consider starting to move.
Pushing is a bit harder to teach someone else. However, you can explain to them to lean on their front toes and use their back foot to push the board, then put it over the back bolts. This is a tricky move to pull off, so you might have to start pushing manually at first and then work on helping them start themselves off later.
Just make sure that they know how to take their back foot off the board and push the ground to gain speed, and then pick their foot back up on the board. Pushing is best learned with a hand to hold them at first, and especially when they’re younger or struggling with the coordination of it all.
They probably won’t succeed the first time, and that’s okay. This is where you’ll spend a lot of time practicing. After all, once they master pushing, they can basically manage to pick up the rest of the skills, like skating faster, learning different stances, and even learning tricks.
Run alongside them until they feel comfortable. Over time, the comfort will happen naturally.
Granted, your little skater probably isn’t going to go out and pull a 720 tomorrow, but they can start learning tricks once they have the basics of starting, pushing, and stopping the board down pat.
Some people prefer to practice more of the skating aspect before incorporating tricks, and that’s okay, too.
One exception is the “trick” to improve maneuverability on the skateboard. Tell them to place their back foot on the tail and front foot on the bolts, then transfer their weight to the back. That allows the board to lift from the ground.
They can use their shoulders and upper body to move the skateboard left and right, helping them maneuver while they’re moving.
Of course, one of the most important parts of learning to skateboard is learning how to stop. While running off the board, known as “bailing”, is acceptable, it’s not the best option.
If you don’t learn how to stop properly, you could risk injury from a fall or from putting too much pressure and weight on your feet.
To teach a child to stop takes a little more time. A few more include:
The Heel Brake
Lift the front wheels and place the weight on the back of the board, dragging your heel on the ground. Make sure they aren’t dragging the deck because that will wear it down.
More advanced skaters will be able to “carve” with their board, turning it to lean on the wheels and slow the board down enough so they can walk off of it. This is a far more advanced move, but it’s one that a lot of skaters use once they gain speed and need to slow down safely.
The Foot Brake
If they are going slow enough, the child can put their pushing foot down on the ground, flat, allowing it to drag and creating a brake. However, if your child is going too fast, this could ruin their shoe or even cause injury to the foot or ankle, so be careful.
Until they’re more advanced, these are about the best ways to stop on a skateboard. If you’re near grass or another rough patch, you could also just teach them to roll toward that and they will eventually come to a stop.
Just remember to teach stopping because it’s just as important as rolling, if not more so.
Tips and Tricks
- Always start on a soft, flat surface like the grass or indoors on carpet. This way, they’ll have some steadiness to help them balance and a soft surface to catch them if they should fall.
- Choose the right size and style of skateboard for your kid’s height and age.
- Choose the right protective gear for their age and size.
- It’s best to wait until a child is at least five years old because their bones are fragile at younger ages, so injuries are more common. They will also be able to use their whole body better at an older age.
- Make sure that you check the bolts and screws on the skateboard each time you use it, and teach them how to do the same when they’re old enough.
- Feel free to hold their hands at first, but encourage them to learn to move on their own sooner than later so they can get used to feeling their balance and center of gravity.
- Learning takes time. Be sure to remind your kids that they’re doing great, and intersperse some fun things with all the basics so that it stays interesting.
Benefits of Skateboarding
One of the biggest concerns parents have with something like skateboarding is that it can be “dangerous”– however, that’s really only the case if you don’t practice, learn properly, and take proper precautions when riding. When done properly, skateboarding can be enjoyable, safe, and offer a lot of perks.
For starters, it helps to build balance and coordination and improves core strength. It also teaches kids confidence and helps them learn that they can do things if they set their mind to it. Plus, skateboarding is fast-paced and fun to watch, and it’s a lot of fun to participate in, too.
Skateboarding keeps kids active and helps them find a way to make friends. The skateboarding and skate park communities are very tight-knit and treat each other like family.
There are plenty of benefits to skateboarding and when you protect and prepare your kids properly, the risks are relatively low.
Ride with Them
Perhaps the best way to teach kids to skateboard is to ride with them. Once you’ve got them on the board and have the basics down, get out your own and cruise alongside. If you aren’t a skater, consider taking them for lessons or even just to a local skate park where they can meet other skaters who may have more experience and be willing to coach and mentor them.
Skateboarding takes a lot of time, practice, and patience. It can be hard for kids to stay focused because they are eager to start doing kickflips and ollies when they can barely stand on the board, but if you encourage them and help them stick with it, they’ll be on their way to becoming an old pro in no time at all.