When I was young, ice skating meant certain things. A wet bum, big smile, injured pride and if you were really unlucky, a broken wrist.
There was nothing to hang onto except your Dad or the slightly sticky wooden railing, and getting up off the ice once you had fallen was a complicated and undignified affair.
So when I took my three daughters (aged four to eight) to Perth Ice Arena I was expecting the worst. Bruises at least, possibly a twisted ankle or three. But they were game, and with an assorted of gloves and hats and optimistic enthusiasm we arrived for our first ever session.
Perth Ice Arena is in the industrial area of Malaga, great if you are in the north-eastern suburbs, but a bit of a drive if you live anywhere else. Entry to the cavernous blue building is from the rear, and there is plenty of parking
On walking through the doors into the icy rink, we were confronted with a sea of zimmer-frames - those metal walking frames favoured by oldies. Sure, you could hire a slightly more (?) dignified penguin skating aide, but why spend $10 when you can get a zimmer frame for free.
Almost every child on the ice started with a frame, and although as they got bolder and more confident, the frames were abandoned with abandon, they were a fantastic aide for balance, confidence and support and meant that I could easily watch all three without having to hold onto them.
Skating sessions are timed, with the Monday morning session lasting two hours (10-12) but the ticket booth didn't actually open until the session began. Arriving early, therefore, seemed pointless. Also by the time we had bought tickets, found skates that fit and figured out how to get them on, at least fifteen minutes of our session had passed.
This may be frustrating for more experienced skaters, but I didn't mind as the skates were quite uncomfortable, despite multiple pairs of socks. If you are with young children, it is also wise to go to one of the shorter sessions, as it makes it easier to leave.
The music was barely audible so if you were hoping for a party atmosphere you may be disappointed. There are a number of sessions during the week that are hosted by a DJ which would be more exciting, but if you wanted a quiet session for little kids who are starting out, the daytime general sessions are perfect – they are also quite empty. Longer general sessions from 10am to 3pm are Tuesday and Wednesdays.
As you are not meant to bring outside food in, you are technically restricted to their café food – a limited assorted of ice-creams and hot food. The chips were very good.
Although it seems very cold when you first enter the building, it won’t be long before the effort of staying upright makes you very warm. Dress yourself and the kids in layers, and while cute hats might look good, they will probably be the first to go.
Gloves are a good idea, especially if your child plans on spending most of their time on the ice (literally). The website recommends knee pads and other protective items. You can hire lockers ($2) for your bags and valuables, but unless it was particularly busy, I probably wouldn’t bother.
I would also recommend a spare pair of pants (in case they get wet from sitting on the ice) and a plastic bag for used socks (they will get quite stinky from the boots).
While full prized sessions are a bit pricey, you will often see deals on the major sites, so it is good to keep your eyes open for 50% off passes.
My four year old daughter was incredibly excited and managed fine with the zimmer frame, and later just holding my hand, but unless your child was particularly confident and had good balance, I wouldn’t recommend ice skating for anyone much younger than that.
Entry costs $10 for under fives including skate hire, and $20 for everyone else. If you bring your own skates, entry is $15.