Deciding what is the right age for your child to start snowboarding is a decision only you can make as a family. There is fun to be had snowboarding at every age and hopefully we can help you make some informed choices about when to start.
There are always a lot of questions asked around the subject of when children can learn to snowboard…
- What is the right age to start snowboarding?
- When should my child learn to Snowboard?
- What age is too young to learn to snowboard?
- Where can I get snowboard equipment small enough for children?
- Should I teach my child to snowboard or get professional lessons?
- Does my child need to learn to ski first?
- Can a toddler snowboard?
- Does a child really need to be 8 to learn to snowboard?
The simple truth is that it is up to you and your child as to when and how they learn to ride. There is no right answer, just personal preference!
The age a child should learn to snowboard is, unnecessarily and unfairly, a pretty contentious subject.
There are lots of differing opinions – some based in fact, some not! If you are keen to share your passion for riding with your kids or they are keen to get on a board then, thanks to innovations in child specific snowboarding equipment and teaching methods, it is now possible for children to try out snowboarding pretty much as soon as they can walk!
Teaching a young child (under 5’s especially) can be hard work because it needs to be fairly hands on at first whilst they get used to the board and how to use it.
For the first few sessions you may feel their progress is slow but, if you can make those first few times fun and exciting, you’ll find that improvement will come fairly quickly.
Are we expecting a child under 3 to be linking turns after a week? Probably not, although it does happen. But time spent on a snowboard when a child is young will positively impact their riding in the following years. Start them at 5, they’ll be ripping at 7, start them at 7 and they may well have missed out on two good years riding!
However, as parents you will need to take into account your child’s temperament, determination and co-ordination and go into teaching them with a solid pinch of realism! Every child is different.
Starting kids snowboarding early can definitely positively impact their future riding; regardless of whether you are mountain based or not. Check out the kids in our Kids Who Ride Section – some of whom have learnt on holidays only!
There is also always the inevitable comparison made with learning to ski. The first basic balance technique of skiing is a skill that has already been learnt – using your legs independently to balance! So this is often one of the reasons it is perceived to be easier to learn initially, especially for children. When learning to snowboard you are learning several new techniques at once so it can take a little longer. But once these techniques are learnt, I think it is generally considered that snowboarding is much easier to master than skiing; and I think this is probably true regardless of age. So you may want to consider that when thinking about the two. But remember, there is no wrong answer! Make a choice that is right for you and your child. Read more about our thoughts on Skiing or Snowboarding?
Is it safe?
To dispel a few myths – there are no proven medical issues with starting snowboarding at an early age; there is no truth to any rumours that children’s bones, knees, muscles, legs, brains(!) make it impossible for them to learn to snowboard under 10, or under 8 or under 6.
There are a couple of common concerns often mentioned with regards to very young children snowboarding:
- One is the fact that in comparison to adults, children’s heads are generally disproportionately big compared to their bodies. This mean that their centre of gravity sits higher in their bodies until the age of about 7-8.
- Another is that very young children are still in the course of developing their fine muscle control.
This means that children generally learn differently to adults and initially they can ride with a slightly different technique. It also means it may take them time to grasp the basics. And often this is true for lots of sports, not just snowboarding.
None of these concerns stop kids from being able to have fun, ride and progress!
However, to help children to learn to snowboard as easily as possible and to combat these concerns, children need kid specific teaching methods and kid specific equipment. Thankfully snowboard manufacturers have been developing more and more equipment with very young children in mind (most notably and most successfully, Burton) and there have also been great strides made in teaching techniques for young kids (again Burton are at the forefront of this with their Riglet Reels and Riglet parks).
- A further point to note is the challenge of learning to stand sideways and slide. However, this is the same for anyone of any age learning a board sport for the first time and the only thing needed to remedy this is spending time on your snowboard!
To say that it is too difficult for children under 7 to learn to snowboard is just not true – there are now too many kids out there riding and riding well for this to be the case! See our videos section!
So it is possible for children to learn to snowboard from an early age but how do you decide what age is right for your child? You will need to weigh up the things that are important to you. Here are some things to think about:
Whether you need your child to be taught within a ski/snowboard school
If you are not able to or don’t want to teach them to snowboard yourselves you will need to rely on a snowboard or ski school. If this is a factor for you, you will need to look into where they are going to learn and what age the ski & snowboard schools will teach children – for example, most ESF’s (Ecole de Ski Francaise – the biggest French ski school) generally don’t take a child under 7 in a group lesson (or under 10 in some resorts!). There are, however, more and more snowboard schools (including some UK indoor slopes) that are happy to teach younger children – especially if they have access to a Burton Riglet Park. (See our snowboard school guide for more info on who, when and where)
In North America, however, they do have more choice, more Riglet Park facilities and more snowboard schools that cater for young kids.
Sourcing small equipment if your children are very young
There are now more and more places that have boards as small as 80cm or 90cm with small boots & bindings to match. But it’s advised to pre-arrange.
Check out our Equipment Guide
How keen you and your child are
Kids attention spans and interest in things can change and differ day by day and parents will need to be encouraging, supportive and be prepared to tow, push, carry, lug and catch their kids and their equipment around!
Personality and co-ordination of the child
Learning a new skill takes time. Don’t expect huge leaps the first couple of times your child snowboards. If they are prone to getting frustrated or find balance sports tricky, you will need to be patient, let them have breaks and praise their efforts. But give them time and the benefit of the doubt!
Availability of the parent to ride/practise with the child
Time on the board is the best method to improve! Building on previous lesson or sessions.
No-one wants to learn to snowboard in icy conditions! And it is pretty much a no-no when it comes to teaching very young kids to snowboard. Learning to snowboard generally involves a lot of falling over however young or old you are so best to avoid the landing being like a slab of concrete! Try to pick a time when the snow conditions are soft or slushy!
To generalise; obviously tricky to do when talking about children!:
If you would like your child to experience snowboarding, laying down their riding foundations, then as soon as they can walk they can get on a snowboard! And keep it fun, fun, fun!
If you would prefer to wait for them to get to the stage of potentially being able to learn to ride independently down a slope (within a week – possibly just falling leaf, possibly turning, depending on age & ability), then start any age from 3 to 5 (depending on the child and facilities (Riglet Parks etc)).
And always make sure you take relevant precautions ie. wearing helmets, correct sized equipment, kid specific equipment.
Whenever you decide to start riding with your children or whenever they decide they’d like to try snowboarding, we wish you lots of fun and amazing days on whatever snow you ride – there aren’t many better feelings than shredding with you kids!