Winter Olympics sports for kids

What you need to know before registering your child for an Olympic winter sport.

By Adrienne Brown

Winter Olympics sports for kids
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Most Olympians can pinpoint the moment they truly threw themselves into a sport, the moment they knew they wanted to be on the world stage competing on behalf of a nation. Almost every one of those moments occurred during childhood, when those athletes were watching their own Olympic heroes.

The Olympics can inspire new generations of athletes by prompting kids to try new sports. If your child expresses interest in a sport he or she sees during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, here’s what you need to know before registering your kid.

Hockey
As Canadians, we claim hockey as "our" sport—and for good reason. You can’t get very far in Canada without seeing an arena, nets on a frozen pond or a good old-fashion road hockey game.

Age: Kids can learn to skate as young as one or two years old—as soon as they learn how to walk, essentially. However, organized hockey leagues—with coaches, game rules and proper instruction—are reserved for those age 5 and older. League divisions are based on age (as of January 1 of the current playing year).

Hockey Canada age divisions
Initiation: five to six
Novice: seven to eight
Atom: nine to 10
Pee Wee: 11 to 12
Bantam: 13 to 14
Midget: 15 to 17
Juvenile: 18 to 19
Junior: 20 and up

Equipment: helmet, face guard, mouth guard, chin strap, throat protector, shoulder pads, elbow pads, wrist pads, gloves, pelvis protector, pants, shin pads, skates, stick.

Get started: The go-to source for new and experienced players is wheretoplay.hockeycanada.ca.

Skiing and snowboarding
We don't all live near mountains, but even the smallest ski hills will do for beginner skiiers and snowboarders (or just open space and trails for cross-country enthusiasts!) The goal for young kids, in particular, is to become comfortable in the equipment and to learn to slide, stop and turn. Lessons and classes are offered on an experience-level basis, not age.

If you're planning a ski or snowboard trip soon, here are Canada's 10 best ski destinations and some great info on Team Canada's snowboarder: Maëlle Ricker.

Age: The Canadian Ski Council says kids as young as three can start to learn to ski or snowboard.

Equipment: skis or snowboard, boots, poles for skiers (all easy to rent), helmet, goggles, layered clothing, sunblock.

Get started: For a comprehensive map of ski areas across Canada, visit www.skicanada.org.

Curling
While hockey may be the most popular sport for kids (and adult spectators) in Canada, curling is a sport players participate in for life. And just like hockey arenas, curling clubs are easy to find across the country.

For an extra-special treat, here's a recipe for Curling Stone Sandwich Cakes.

Age: Most youth curling leagues are designed for players aged eight to 21. Experienced curlers help novices learn all about strategies, scoring and technique. Tim Hortons and Capital One have programs that introduce elementary students to curling in schools.

Equipment: sliding shoe (or new, clean shoes with a slip-on slider) and warm clothing. Children trying curling for the first time can usually borrow brooms from the club.

Get started: The Canadian Curling Association lists its approximately 1,000 member facilities at curling.ca. Your nearest club may not be a member, so if one doesn’t turn up, perform a local search, or try startcurling.ca.

Figure skating
If your child can walk, she can learn to skate. Skate Canada’s CanSkate program is designed to teach the fundamentals of skating—starting with balance—to people of all ages. All other lessons build on these basics. She’ll be doing triple-axels before you know it!

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Age: Toddlers can start to learn to skate. Kids who have passed the basic levels can enter STARskate, the next level up from CanSkate, which introduces figure skating techniques.

Equipment: Figure skates and a helmet are essential. Warm clothes and other safety equipment may also be necessary.

Get started: Visit www.skatecanada.ca or contact your local arena or municipality to find out what programs are offered for your child’s age group or ability level.

Speed skating
Speed skating sprints are some of the most intense events at the winter games. Races are close and one small error in judgment can have a top speed skater sprawled on the ice in a flash.

Age: Speed Skating Canada recommends children up to six years old learn to the basics of skating with their parents (or in a learn-to-skate program, such as CanSkate). Older kids can enrol in programs designed to ease them into speed skating, training for which doesn’t typically start until eight years or older. Speed Skating Canada considers the ideal window for learning proper technique and skill to be between eight and 12 years of age.

Equipment: Once kids are old enough to participate in speed skating lessons, they will need long-blade speed skates, a helmet, shin guards, knee pads, a neck protector and cut- resistant gloves.

Get started: Visit speedskating.ca to find the speed skating club nearest you. For more information on CanSkate, go to skatecanada.ca.

Sliding sports
Luge, skeleton and bobsled all look pretty cool to kids—and pretty terrifying to parents. They’re also not entirely accessible to everyone in Canada. If you live in a former Olympic city (Calgary or Vancouver), then facilities are nearby.

For some more information about our 2014 Olympic athletes, here are 5 things you didn't know about Olypmpic bobsledder Kaillie Humphries  and Team Canada's skeleton racer Jon Montgomery.

Age: As young as eight, and sometimes older. The Alberta Bobsleigh Association conducts “talent ID camps” that introduce participants ages 16 and up to bobsled. According to the Calgary Luge Club, “most lugers join the sport between the ages of eight and 12.”

Equipment: Upon acceptance to a camp or driving school, ask what equipment is provided for beginners, what can be rented and what must be purchased. You may have to invest in a specialized helmet.

Get started: The first step to becoming an Olympic luge hero is attending a recruitment camp, held every summer. Bobsleigh driving schools are offered annually, and Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton recruits athletes with the skills needed from other sports. Visit bobsleighcanadaskeleton.ca and luge.ca for more information.

Check out our Team Canada: Sochi 2014 Olympics page to find everything from athlete profiles to Olympic party menu ideas.

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