Snowboarding Age 5 is a great age to learn! Mix a bit of patience, some help and advice from instructors or parents, a good learning area and some appropriate equipment and you have an ideal recipe for shredding!
Keep things fun, mix up games with teaching, give them time and be patient! You might find that progress may be a little slow during the first few days but after a week or so you have every chance of seeing great leaps in their progression.
If you are going out on the snow with your child, either teaching them or building on what they have learnt in a lesson, keep it fun! Mix up your teaching techniques and throw in snowball games and hot chocolate stops too. Be hands on at first, especially as they find their balance and get used to their board, it’s edges and sliding sideways! But also once the have found their feet a little, don’t be afraid to let them go! (albeit whilst keeping close by!) You could use a harness at first if your child is nervous, you want to go further a field or the slopes are busy and you want to keep a hold of them! The Burton Riglet reels are also a good tool for pulling and towing them about and if you can get them into a lesson in one of the Riglet parks so much the better!
What to expect / Likely progression
At five, your child could easily become a little shredder in a week if they are keen.
They will still need help with chair and button lifts but after a week there is every possibility they could come down the slopes using both heel and toe edge. They will probably favour their heel edge (think of it as the snowboarding equivalent of the skiing snow-ploughing!) and most will be working on learning turns and, often, perfecting their toe edge.
Some more adventurous kids may even be keen to try their first bit of freestyle or shallow powder at the end of a full week. However, they will need to be keen to progress.
Do be prepared for a slow start however. Typically, progress comes towards the end of a week – so keep encouraging and having fun!
Expect some kids to excel fairly quickly and others to be ‘slow-burners’ when it comes to learning to ride. Again, time, patience and encouragement! They will get there!
If your child has longer than a week to learn, or if you have the luxury of being mountain-based then you can expect amazing progress. Again, the start will be slow but the progress will soon be rapid!
Remember, however, that five year old’s all differ hugely in their development and personalities – so also have a read of our Age 4 and our Age 6 sections depending on your child.
- At this age they are able to cope with longer and longer sessions, which increases their progression.
- They will have improved co-ordination and control
- Which means they may progress really quickly = lots of fun!
- Some ski/snowboard schools may offer private snowboard lessons for a five year old
- If they love it – you can enjoy sharing something you love with them for a long time to come -priceless!
- They may take longer than you’d like to get their confidence and/or technique down (especially if they are only just five).
- They may struggle with the cold/equipment/lessons (especially if group lessons).
- You may not find any appropriate instructors willing to take a five year old.
- Chairlifts and button lifts can be a big challenge at first.
- You will probably have to sacrifice a fair bit of your own riding time to get your kids up and running! (This is all worth it, however – eventually!)
How to – Practical advice and Tips
Get them used to the equipment if you can:
- Try on a snowboard, boots & bindings, helmet & goggles and even all their winter clothing. This should get them excited too!
- Show them how to strap into their bindings and get them to practice clipping in and unclipping with gloves on.
- Letting them stand and even jump around on the board. (Although make sure it’s on carpet or grass or somewhere the board won’t get damaged or it’s edges damage surfaces, furniture etc!)
- Explain as an introduction, what the basic parts of the board and bindings are called – ie. nose, tail, heel & toe edges.
- Introduce some basic snowboarding positioning – eg. ask them to stand sideways and practice looking and pointing in the direction they want to go.Hopefully all this will help the board feel more familiar when they try it on snow.
- Keep it fun – don’t get bogged down with anything too technical!
FIRST TIME ON SNOW
- If you are able to put your child into a lesson with an instructor trained in teaching children (see our Snowboard Schools Guide) then that is generally the best way to go. However, availability, price, timing and child temperament means that this is not always a viable option. The following are a few techniques you can use to help teach your child or build on what they have already been taught:
- Initially you can start by quickly going through all the parts of the board – heel & toe edge, nose & tail etc.
- Then you can start by just pulling them along (eg Riglet or holding hands) on the flat of the board so they get used to the feeling of the board
- If they move up the slope a little you can help them get up and then they can initially move onto riding and gliding on the flat of the board sideways between two people.
- When they are confident with this you can hold their hands and introduce moving on their heel edge. This may take a bit of practice – remind them to lift their toes up and look where they want to go, not at their feet!
- You can then integrate those two techniques – the sliding on the flat going straight and the heel edge technique by introducing a heel edge turn to stop.
- To help with this technique, hold their hands at first and walk them through it but also encourage a good body position (not leaning back, knees bent, not bent over) and tell them to look and point where they want to go – moving and following their body to turn the board.
- You could also walk them through some heel and toe turns – this will introduce them to toe edges and the concept of turning too.
- As they get more comfortable with their snowboard, head higher up the slope (eg. walking up, via a travelator, or you pushing them!) so they have a longer run. You can hold their hands initially and then walk or run along side them, or use a harness (if you want to keep a hold on them!). Use your judgement as to what you feel will work with your child
- To mix it up, if you are confident in your riding, you could also ride with your child – holding their hands/arms – going through heel and toe turns
- Keep things fun – introduce one thing at a time!
- Try to work towards getting them to stop of their own accord. So ask them to follow their hand and pointing in the direction they’d like to go. This may not come for a while or with much control initially, so go at their pace and keep encouraging them.
- They can practice flipping themselves and their board over from sitting (facing down the slope) to getting up from their knees (facing up the slope). This is good for encouraging autonomy and for using toe edge. However, bear in mind this technique can be tiring for them and they will need a little help at first!
- From the start it is also a good idea to instill in them a few useful snowboarding and snow slope etiquette/rules. For example; always put your board bindings-side down when you put it on the ground; try and keep a hold on your board/bindings whilst strapping in; try and get to the sides of the slope if you need to stop; don’t stop in the middle etc. This sort of information may or may not go in, but it’s worth saying and then repeating! (See our section on Safe Snowboarding for more info)
- If they are struggling on their toe edge (which is normal for younger children) try holding their hand or hands whilst they are on their toe edge and walking them through toe to heel turns. Eventually get them to try this on their own. It’s a good confidence builder when they are able to complete it independently. It’s also helpful for getting them up from the ground independently particularly as it can be harder to get up facing down the hill especially on lower gradient slopes.
- Remember that learning initially is really about the kids getting comfortable on their boards, not rapid progression.
- Also remember that they don’t need instruction all the time. With patience, mileage and time they will soon be ripping around on the snow!
- Check out our Age 5 Videos for clips of how other five year olds and their families have got on!
Regular or Goofy?
Whether your child is regular or goofy – ie. if they lead with their left foot forward (regular) or the right (goofy) – may not be apparent straight away. Most kids boards are a twin tip design, meaning they can be ridden either way. So initially try one direction but don’t worry if they seem to favour the other foot or direction, because it’s a twin tip it should ride fine either way – you can change their set up accordingly later. Don’t be tempted to go really ‘duck footed’ (ie. both toes really angled outwards) as this won’t be helpful with their balance.
You can try a couple of methods to ascertain which foot they will lead with; stand behind them and give them a tiny push or tell them to imagine running up to a patch of ice and skidding; with both of these, the foot they put out first will be their leading foot – although obviously neither of these methods are foolproof!
What to wear?
Layers are best – good for keeping warm, easy to take off when they get hot. ‘Bibbed’ dungaree style snowboard pants and all-in-ones are good – they keep the snow out and there’s always lots of bending and rolling about when kids and snowboarding are involved. Toilet stops can take a bit longer however!
Always make sure they have good, waterproof gloves. Kids ski gloves tend to have less waterproof covering on the palms because you have your hands on the snow a lot less when you are skiing as opposed to snowboarding, so be aware of how waterproof any gloves they have are.
Also a good warm helmet and goggles too. Keep sunglasses and a beanie handy for when they stop as they may want to take off their helmet & goggles. A cold child will most likely be a miserable child!
Other than a helmet, any extra body protection is up to you. At first, lots of bulky body armour is likely to impede their movement – so not ideal for learning. However as they get a lot better you may need to think about back protectors, knee & elbow pads, impact shorts and wrist guards. This is a personal choice and they will probably only need to be seriously kitted out when they are thinking about hitting boxes and jumps or if they are really seriously kamikaze
Choose an easy, quiet, safe slope with a gentle incline at first if you can. This doesn’t have to be a designated ‘beginner area’ initially; anywhere quiet, snowy (use caution or choose another day or slope if it’s icy) with a low gradient. After they get more comfortable on a slope, don’t be afraid to move to a onto something a little steeper,especially if the first place you try has a particularly low incline, because having a little bit of speed will definitely help them get a feel for the boards movement and ultimately help initiate smoother turns.Plus, if you choose to use a harness you can definitely step up to steeper stuff fairly quickly.
Advice on Lifts
It’s great if you have access to an easy slope with a travelator, rope tow or even an easy chairlift – brilliant fun for the kids and less exhausting for Mum & Dad!
Most beginner areas will usually have easier, slower lifts with, hopefully, patient lift attendants!
Button lifts and T-bars may take a little practice and are probably not for day one! You will have to gauge if the button lift is a good size, length and speed for your child; button lifts can be tricky at first for even hardened adult snowboarders! Thankfully beginner areas generally have fairly gentle button lifts with good access should you need to rescue a fallen child!
On button lifts we found that if our daughters kept both feet strapped in, made sure they kept their trailing arm pointing down the slope and looked upwards to where they were going they had much more success. They loved the independence!
Chairlifts can also be tricky, be aware that your little one will probably need to be lifted on and either carried or guided off – so make sure that you are competent on chairlifts or ask for assistance from the lifty. You may prefer to keep both your child’s feet strapped in to their bindings at first. If you are on a board and you are going to lift them on and off yourself, make sure they are sat on the correct side of you (so on your left if you are goofy and on your right if you are regular) so you can help them off and you can both ride away safely.
Go through ‘what happens if I fall’ with them too – ie. move out of the way as soon as you can & look out for the chairlifts swinging around and clonking you on the head!
Every lift is different so use your judgement on what will work best.
Technical Info Bit!
Kids have a different centre of gravity, head weight and muscle mass than adults so often when they learn to snowboard they do so a little differently.
When they start to learn to control a snowboard, don’t worry if they use use slightly different body positions and techniques to adults. For example, they may rely more on their heel edge and they may lean over their back foot more in order to find their balance and complete movements – this is all very normal for young children.
As children learn, grow and adapt, their riding will change, so don’t panic if they’re not stylin’ it initially – it won’t be long until they’re out riding you!
(See more in our ‘Technical Advice’ Section)
Some ski/snowboard schools may offer snowboard lessons for five year old’s. It is worth pre-arranging this if this is something you would like your five year old to do. Make sure that any lessons are with a qualified snowboard instructor who has experience of teaching young children. You may struggle to find group lessons at this age (unless you have access to a Riglet Park programme or are in America) – however it is actually a great idea for them to have private one-on-one lessons (or one-on-two if they are learning with a friend) initially – as they will really benefit from the sole attention. Group lessons are great as they get older.
From around this age kids are capable of much longer stretches riding. A full day would probably have to be broken up with lots of breaks however (although each child is different – some may want to stay out all day, others may only last a couple of hours). And remember that learning any new sport is waaaaay harder and more physically exhausting than if you can do it already! So they will get tired out!
Check out our Snowboard Schools Guide for more info.
Depending on their height and weight, generally, a 5 year old would use between an 80 and 105cm child’s snowboard (or even up to a 110cm if nothing else is available or they are much heavier/larger than average). A board should be up to about chin or shoulder height. It is best to go for a smaller size for first board as it will be easy to turn/handle.
Try and source a newer, child-specific snowboard; they are a few different types – look out for any terms that mention making it much harder for the rider to catch edges, easier to turn, and all with a nice soft flex!
Try to find the appropriately sized boots at this age – it will make a lot of difference to their day if they have comfy well fitting boots. Generally they should still be in the smallest bindings you can find. A Riglet Reel for the first few days can help but don’t rely on this – the same with a harness. Use but don’t rely.
See our Equipment Guide for more info