I recently took my 4-year-old son to the Preschool Skate session at Oaks Park. Like other parents of neurodivergent children, I try to prepare for outings by recognizing what aspects could be overstimulating, understimulating or trigger intense emotions. Headphones? Check. Preferred toy? Check. Preferred snack? Check. A good sense of humor for when my well intended outing turns out to be a flop? Check!

Image courtesy Oaks Park

I purchased some child sized knee pads a few weeks prior and we practiced taking them on and off at home. Knee pads are not required at the roller rink but I highly recommend them for young or new skaters. For front loading purposes, we watched a Blippi episode about roller skating. Tickets are available online, and parents get free admission in exchange for the purchase of one preschool skate ticket, which is $12. Preschool skate is on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from 10:00am. to 11:30 a.m. for children 6 and under. Older siblings are allowed to accompany, as long as every child has their own ticket.

When we arrived for our session, we showed our ticket purchase receipt, got rental skates, put our gear on and headed toward the rink floor. I prompted my son to take little penguin waddle steps instead of strides (a great way for beginners to build confidence and stability). Parents are allowed to wear their shoes or roller skates on the rink floor. The skate instructor signaled us all to meet in the middle and led us through stretches as she shared age appropriate safety tips. We followed her lead and attempted to do the Hokey Pokey. Afterwards everyone was dismissed to the snack bar area for snack time.


When we got back onto the rink floor, out walked a tall fluffy squirrel in a cute barbershop quartet-like costume. My son instantly clutched my leg. I told him we did not have to get close to Chipper the Squirrel if he did not want to. Chipper led us through the chicken dance. After that, kids started skating towards Chipper. Once my son saw that, he started inching closer by pulling my hand in that direction. We waited our turn. Most kids hugged Chipper, but my son wanted a high-five only. This did not seem like Chipper’s first rodeo. Chipper knew a slow moving high five was just what my son needed. Thanks, Chipper!

I had a few misty-eyed moments because I was watching my son try something that was very hard. Activities like roller skating promote vestibular input, which can be very beneficial to children who are sensory impacted. Our timer beeped, so we headed to the benches to take off our gear. I told my son how proud of him that I was. He was definitely getting tired. I handed him his water and reminded him that we could listen to his favorite song on the way home to support the activity transition. Preschool Skate was a great experience. I think my son would have been too overwhelmed if we had attended the regular open skate session. This gave us the space and calm we needed to try something new.

Melody Moran
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