How to Teach Kids to Snowboard
Snowboarding is great fun for all ages! Maybe your kids are already good little skiers and are ready to try snowboarding for the first time or perhaps you want to start your toddler sliding sideways right from the get go.
Snowboarding is a very learnable skill – join us as we lay out our best tips and tricks for teaching your young snowboarders.
How Young is too Young?
Your little boarder needs to be able to walk confidently before you consider teaching them to ride, but even a toddler as young as 1.5 years old can start to discover the feeling of snowboarding even if it is just for 10 minutes at a time in your own backyard.
Really little kids often learn quite easily: the squatting position comes naturally to them, they aren’t afraid of falling and they definitely won’t overthink the process.
Should They Learn to Ski First?
This is totally up to you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with learning to ski first, which seems to be the natural choice for most winter sports families; however, kids who learn to snowboard first don’t have any advantage or disadvantage either in terms of their level of snowboarding or their ability to learn skiing later on.
Both skiing and snowboarding help kids develop excellent coordination and balance while having fun outdoors – you really can’t lose!
The Right Equipment
Most importantly, make sure your child has a gear in an appropriate size. Lots of companies make little boards for little people and you will save your child a lot of frustration by making sure they aren’t trying to learn with equipment that it too big for them.
If you are all-in, there has been some pretty cool tech developed for our littlest riders such Burton’s kids snowboards as small as 80cm! An added bonus to the Burton’s smallest boards is the Riglet Reel – a retractable leash that can be mounted on the nose of your kiddo’s board so you can pull them along more easily.TIP: You don’t need fancy equipment to teach your child, but do make sure their board is short, has a flat or slightly rockered profile and is really soft: this will help them maneuver more easily and be less likely to catch an edge. TIP: If you are teaching kids under 3 years old, then they will be perfectly fine stepping into their bindings with their hard sole snow boots – no need for stiff snowboard boots yet. Get them started and they will be coveting your snowboard boots soon enough!
What to Wear
Layers are the name of the game. Make sure your child has a few layers under their snowsuit – it’s hard to have fun when you are cold! The most important points are:
- make sure your child has a water-resistant snowboard jacket and snowboard pants
- they will be falling and using their hands, so a good pair of gloves are a must
- take the extra time to tuck in socks and mittens so no snow can find its way in
Set the expectation right from day one: always wear a helmet! You are your child’s best role model so as soon as you hit the slopes you should be wearing a snowboard helmet too!
If it is super sunny, windy or snowing your child will be more comfortable wearing goggles. We recommend making sure your child’s helmet has integrated goggle straps to make sure you don’t end up dealing with goggles that are sliding around or falling off when you would both rather be shredding.
Before You Head to the Hill
Here are a few ways to set yourselves up for success before you ever buy your first lift ticket!
Try on the snowboard at home! Outside is great, but the living room is fine too. Check out how the bindings work and let your child stand on the board. Your child can have fun jump-turning on their board and generally getting a feel for the foot position.
If you have snow in your own backyard, spend some time pushing or – if you have a riglet reel, leash or harness – pulling your little one around. As they become better balanced and more confident you can start to pull them faster, over small bumps, in curves and up and down mounds. The more terrain they are able to try, the better prepared they will be to ride on their own.
The First Time at 1 to 5 Years Old
If you are starting young, you’ll want to take it easy and remember that the main goal needs to be having fun. If this means pushing their mini-board around with their hands or sitting on it like a sled we recommend that you go with it, at least for some of the time.
Your future rider needs to associate their snowboard with having a great time in the snow so whether your session last 10 minutes or 2 hours, make sure it’s a positive experience.
The first few meters will be guided by you. Start on a flat area. Help your child practice squatting on their board. Once they can stand balanced with relaxed knees, start moving them back-and-forth, even if it is only 1m. Make a game of it by letting them glide a little bit further each time.
Progress to a gentle slope and allow your child to glide a few meters alone into your arms. You will either need to run beside them or, better yet, if there are 2 adults let your child glide from one adult to the other unassisted.
If you want some insight into snowboarding with a toddler, watch this father and his son as they share some tips!TIP: It’s much easier if you are on foot, especially for your child’s first few times on snow. Helping them get up and pulling them around will be challenging if you are riding too – don’t worry, you will be able to hit the groomers with your little one sooner than you might expect!
The First Time at 6 to 10 Years Old
Even with an older child, the most important factor is still FUN. It should be an awesome experience so be patient, put a smile on your face and keep the praise flowing.
Your older child will need to learn all of the same skills as a toddler but will be able to progress faster and take tips and instruction a lot better. Nevertheless, it is better to start small on a flat or very gradual incline where it is easier to discover their balance and learn to control the board at safe speeds.
It’s going to happen – over and over and over again! No big deal, both you and your child need to see falling, losing balance and tipping over as part of the process. Laugh, get up and repeat.
It is very unlikely that the little slow-speed tumbles are going to do any damage so try not to worry or be over-protective.TIP: A great way to help your child get back up is to plant your foot on the center of their board, between their bindings. This way you can prevent their board from sliding while they push themselves up or while you help pull them up, depending on whether they have fallen forwards or backwards.
Once your child has a feel for gliding a few feet it is time to try longer distances. Start with a very gradual downhill where your little boarder won’t get going too fast. You’ll want to start by holding your child’s hands while you gently start them gliding in the straight line. Remind them to look over their shoulder in the direction they are riding.
Once your child can glide straight for short distances let them try it on their own. You can use a board leash to help them get going and to control their speed from behind. Alternatively, let them glide 10 to 20 feet on their own or hop onto your own board and glide with them, face-to-face.
Heelside and Toeside Slipping
These are very important skills to learn once your child feels confident enough to glide in short straight lines unassisted. Slipping is the first step towards getting to know their edges which will eventually lead to linking turns. More importantly, it is a way for them to steer, control their speed and stop!
The best way to start practicing this skill is to have your child standing with their board perpendicular to this hill. For heelside slipping they need to keep their knees bent, lean backwards and pretend they are about to sit on a chair. For some kids, the tip to lift their toes can help them dig in their heelside edge enough to get a feel for how to stop.
For toeside slipping they’ll need to face the hill and lean forwards as their board gently skids downhill. The tip to push their toes into the hill usually helps them dig in their toeside edge enough to stop.
Make sure you stay downhill of your child while practicing these skills!
Even if you approach things a bit slower, the three basic skill described in this snowboarding for beginner video are the same skills your child will need to learn in order to really ride:
Steering & Linking Turns
Once your child has mastered stopping and slipping on both edges they are ready to start steering. While slipping they need to look over their shoulder in the direction they want to turn: this lead to a slight rotation of the body and shift of weight onto the downhill foot. Play with this a lot until your child can comfortably control their speed and direction on both edges.
Before your child starts linking turns they will need to have spent a good deal of time, possibly one or two seasons for the really little ones, mastering heelside and toeside slipping.
Often kids progress to linking turns naturally as they combine their slipping skills. Often it helps to play ‘follow me’ games or practice going in between cones or trees. This encourages your child to switch between edges precisely.
Does Your Child Need Lessons?
If you are teaching a very young child, they may feel more comfortable learning from their own parent or someone they know well. Likewise, if you have basic snowboard skills yourself, you and your child may have a wonderful experience learning together.
Nevertheless, a few lessons with a trained professional can make a huge difference for your little one. There are lots of possible constellations whether your child learns in a group lesson from day one or perhaps goes out several times with you to get the feel of things before you add a few lessons to the mix. It isn’t necessary, but if the option is available to you, putting your child in lessons is worth considering.TIP: Think about it – a trained coach spends all day doing nothing but helping little boarders get ready to rip and they know all the best tips!
Some Helpful Accessories for Teaching
While you don’t need any of these accessories, if it’s within your budget they can really help you and your little rider stay safe and succeed on the slopes.
If you are only investing in one learning tool for a child under 5 years old, we would recommend a snowboard harness. The harness can of course be used for skiing as well! You can use the harness to help prevent face plants and to keep you kiddo close and safe when they are ready to start riding a bit on their own while you ride or ski behind them.TIP: Here is an example of harnesses with retractable leashes that are ideal for little learners: MDXONE.
Another great way to get the feeling for sliding sideways is the Burton Handlebar which mounts directly onto the board keeping your child’s feet free and giving them something to hang on to.
Keep at it
Remember, every kid will learn at their own pace and it is never worth it to push your little one too hard and inadvertently end up with them disliking a sport you had hoped they would fall in love with.
Children who start snowboarding early usually learn linked turns as young as 3 and as old as 7, so resist the urge to compare and trust the process.
Best of luck and have a great time learning with your little rider!
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