My 5-year-old son prepared for an upcoming ski trip to New Mexico by watching an episode of “Special Agent Oso,” where the yellow cartoon bear learned how to ski.
“I already know how to ski,” he told me with that special brand of confidence preschoolers have.
As it turns out, though he was already enrolled in two full days of ski school at Angel Fire Ski Resort, the instructors there encourage activities such as watching shows in preparation for learning a new skill.
I interviewed Robin May, the director of the ski school – which boasts one of the lowest student to teacher ratios (about 4 to 1) – about how to prepare kids for new challenges, whether it’s skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing or windsurfing.
Disclosure: At least some of this trip was either comped or provided at a media rate. Post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are our own.
- Set your own expectations.
Parents tend to either overestimate or underestimate what their child is capable of, says Mays, who has been teaching skiing since 1974. Understand that your child has limitations and strengths, and those all come into play while learning a new skill. Does she listen well? Get frustrated easily? Is he big or small for his age?
In sporting activities, the physiology of your child will make a tremendous difference, even from one year to the next. “Seven or 8 year olds, that’s the age when boys become complete high-energy frenetic turbos,” says Mays. From age 7 to 12, he said it’s actually very easy to get kids skiing with some proficiency.
- Think about “transferrable skills.”
For young skiers, inline skating and ice skating are skills that if your kid is already doing them well, can help create a “positive transfer” to skiing. Likewise, skateboarding and snowboarding have similar skills in common.
- Emphasize that it’s OK to make mistakes.
Making mistakes – whether it means you fall down 10 times before you get up on that surf board – is a part of learning. Let your child see and hear you acknowledging your own mistakes. Talk positively about how they help us to learn and grow.
- Find a reputable school.
Ideally, you’ll want to find an organization that is accredited, but also that understands a child’s developmental stage and what motivates them. At Angel Fire, Mays’ team of ski instructors sits down every season to watch the latest popular hit kids’ movie, like “Frozen.”
“We spend a lot of time understanding kids,” Mays says. “We don’t condescend to children – we think children are amazing. There’s buy-in at certain levels. If you come across as fake, no matter what age group you’re working with, they just don’t buy in.”
- Be sure to celebrate each small step.
“I really hate it when a parent says I watched my kid and he didn’t learn anything all day,” says Mays. “To me, every little milestone is important, and you build on that.” In fact, it’s important for parents to emphasize that learning is something that doesn’t end – we are always learning and improving, even as parents. It doesn’t mean that your child should get a ribbon for everything, but praising the hard work that he or she does along the way is a great habit to start.
Author Bio: Cynthia J. Drake is an Austin-based travel writer and author of Budget Travel for the Genius.