We always get a few inquiries when there's a tot on public skate: "Do you have those push things?"
I always say no.
The truth is, we do have them, but I hate them. Everyone does. They are the worst things ever conceived to "assist" with learning to skate. And like most things adults dream up to keep kids safer, they actually do the opposite.
I got to help out with a mass of tots, during a "Freebie" Learn to Skate class. (Free class, you get the instructor you pay for... me!) Mostly I just held them up and dried tears, but there were too many of them for us to handle, so the dreaded skate walkers were broken out. And the kids and parents squealed in delight, the parents thinking that kid would be safer and kid seeing a wonderful little jungle gym sliding towards him. Us skaters paled in horror.
Little kids clambered up the walkers, pushing them faster and faster, skidding into other kids, the walls, the coaches, and finally falling backwards, their feet and the walker flying up into the air and down onto the next kid who squealed that there was now a free walker. Another kid, who had fallen hopelessly over and over, still hadn't learned that ice is hard and slippery, so was now doing push ups on the bar of the walker, his feet dangling down. When he tried to roll himself over the top bar, the thing slid backwards like a rocket, slamming kid down with agonizing force. He blinked, shook his head, and went for it again, perhaps trying to permanently marry Skating and Gymnastics. (Like the Big League skaters do on TV.... was that my inside voice?)
Over and over, walkers slammed into my feet and shins. I ached for my expensive blades getting more nicks, my boots getting more dings, and prayed I wouldn't be upended by one of those horrible things. If I fell, I knew I'd land on someone cute and I didn't want that.
"You don't need that walker," I hopelessly tried to convince a Cindy Lou Who, who was actually doing really well and seriously didn't need the walker.
"NO!" she grinned up at me, pushing that thing into another fallen kid who tried to roll away. "It's mine and I NEED IT!"
The walkers become an immediate crutch. Convinced of skating's deadly nature, the kids grab for safety and never learn to ... well, walk. Because that's what they learn the first lesson: walking.
A real coach handed me a bigger first timer. I held her hands and talked her through walking. I pinned her hair up out of her face, tightened up her skates, and we walked for awhile. "Okay," I said. "Pick one of my hands and let that one go." She picked my right hand, and let go. So we walked like that awhile. "Okay, let go my other hand, and try it yourself."
And she did. She was still a bit unsteady, but she had the idea. And pretty soon she dismissed me. Seriously. "I think I can do it," she turned to me, smiling, and walked off.
So, yes, it's a literal pain in the back and legs to help your first timer in skates, but it's worth it. A huge part of skating is the satisfaction of doing something that seemed impossible just a few minutes or days ago. Impossible doesn't become possible with a crutch, it gets there with help.