Destination Recreation: Itty-Bitty Public Ice-Skating at Leddy | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Destination Recreation: Itty-Bitty Public Ice-Skating at Leddy 

click to enlarge Bo skating with milk crates for the first time. - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Bo skating with milk crates for the first time.

My son Bo just turned 5 and recently mastered rollerblading around the house. He was ready to upgrade from hard wood to ice, so in December, I took him to Itty Bitty public ice-skating at Leddy Arena in Burlington. 

The Itty Bitty public skate is designed for first-time and beginner ice-skaters ages 2 to 6; it takes place on the smaller of Leddy’s two rinks and runs every Monday and Wednesday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. through March. Bo is usually in preschool during these times but we played hooky to give this a go. On the day we visited, five other groups were there, too — some single kids with a parent or a nanny and other kids with a sibling in tow. The cost is $8 per family, which covers everyone.          

click to enlarge Skate instructor Julie MacDonald teaching technique to Nolan Davis, 4, and Finn Donehower, 5. - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Skate instructor Julie MacDonald teaching technique to Nolan Davis, 4, and Finn Donehower, 5.

Skate Instructor Julie MacDonald glided around the rink giving guidance and working with little ones. Milk crates stacked up near the entrance were ready for skaters to use on the ice for stability — and they weren't just for the kids. Jackie Graziano of Williston balanced on four milk crates herself while her 4-year-old son, Liam, stabled himself on two of them. This was the duo’s second visit to Itty Bitty. Graziano said she ice-skated as a child, but not since, so Itty Bitty was a comfortable way to introduce both herself and her son to the ice.

“Both times we’ve come it’s been a really small group of people and it feels really safe,” said Graziano.

click to enlarge Skate instructor Julie MacDonald working with 4-year-old Liam Graziano and his mom, Jackie, from Williston. - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Skate instructor Julie MacDonald working with 4-year-old Liam Graziano and his mom, Jackie, from Williston.

To help kids practice bending over, standing up and overcoming a fear of falling, MacDonald scattered rubber toys across one side of the rink, and instructed kids to collect the toys on their crates and skate them over to the other side of the rink, where they worked together to make a toy parade. She also set up cones for the kids to skate around.

click to enlarge Caroline McGrath, 3.5, of Jericho regularly attends Itty Bitty with her mom, Julia. - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Caroline McGrath, 3.5, of Jericho regularly attends Itty Bitty with her mom, Julia.

MacDonald has been a skating instructor for 41 years, regularly teaching students ages 2 to 76; she said her youngest skater yet was just 18-months-old. In a week’s time, MacDonald will see more than 200 kids and spend 30 hours on ice. 

“It’s so rewarding to see them go from not being able to skate at all — maybe even scared to get on the ice — then to turn out like this little girl over here,” said MacDonald, pointing to 3-year-old Caroline McGrath of Jericho who skated by with ease alongside her mom, Julia. They're regulars here at Itty Bitty.

click to enlarge 4-year-old Liam Graziano and his mom, Jackie. - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • 4-year-old Liam Graziano and his mom, Jackie.

For kids who are scared to get on the ice, MacDonald has a few tried-and-true tricks. For example, she sends them to the "Magic Door" — a door along the side of the rink where she works with the child using toys to slowly entice them onto the ice.

click to enlarge Learning to fall is part of the experience. - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Learning to fall is part of the experience.

Bo used the milk crates for the first half of the session, and by the end was testing himself to skate independently. He took some falls, but learned how to get back up. Having the goal of collecting toys — and seeing other kids learning to skate around him — made a huge difference.

At the end of the session, all the kids lined up to see the toy parade they had built together, which now stretched the length of the rink's edge. On the larger rink beyond the plexiglass, an ice hockey team was practicing. Bo stood there mesmerized by the players carving across the ice, getting a glimpse of the fun he could have on skates in the future.

Later during the winter break, we teamed up with a few families to rent the larger rink at Leddy as a treat for our kids. When Bo saw one of the parents had brought hockey sticks and pucks along, he jumped at — or more slid into — the opportunity to try something new, and imitate the skilled skaters he'd seen on the other side of the plexiglass. 

click to enlarge Caroline McGrath, 3.5, of Jericho regularly attends Itty Bitty with her mom, Julia. - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Caroline McGrath, 3.5, of Jericho regularly attends Itty Bitty with her mom, Julia.


What you need:

Skates: You can rent skates at Leddy for $3. We bought a pair of used hockey skates at Play It Again Sports in South Burlington for $20. 

Helmet. Bo used his ski helmet. Leddy will supply helmets for free if you don’t have your own.

Water: Hydrate. It’s quite a workout. Luckily there’s a water fountain to refill your bottle. 

Bonus: We made friends and stayed after to sit in the bleachers and watch the ice hockey practice happening next door in the larger rink. Bring snacks! 

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About The Author

Cat Cutillo

Cat Cutillo

Bio:
Cat is a multimedia journalist for Seven Days and Kids VT. Her multimedia storytelling series Vermont Visionaries spotlights role models and people inspiring kids. The video series also appears on WCAX.

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