Healthy, affordable fun for the whole family
How to Build a Backyard Ice Skating Rink
by Shirley Byers
An Emergency Room nurse once told me that children coming into the ER sometimes seemed a bit better than they had been at home. Their parents commented on this and wondered why. The answer, the nurse said, was that just getting out of the house into the fresh air even for those few moments from house to the car and from the car into the hospital was beneficial. The fresh outdoor air helped the kids feel a little bit better.
Fresh air and exercise are so important to our well-being and to the well-being of our children. But winter sports like skating, skiing and hockey can be expensive and a big commitment in a family's already stretched schedule.
If you're wondering how to ensure that your kids are getting enough exercise while at the same time not putting your budget in the red zone, why not think about a backyard skating rink?
A rink is not that difficult to make. And aside from a little bit of time in the healthy fresh air and a little water, it doesn't cost a cent.
Sure, you can buy a kit to build a rink, but if you've got snow, freezing temperatures, a garden hose, a water source and a little bit of patience, you can make a fine rink for a fraction of the cost. A veteran backyard rink maker passed along his secrets to me and I'm passing them on to you.
- First, find a fairly level spot in your backyard. Figure out how big you want your rink to be. That will depend on the age of your kids and how many will be on the rink at the same time. It doesn't have to be Olympic hockey rink size, but they'll need some elbow room.
- Use snow to make little walls around the perimeter of your rink. These need to be about four to five inches high and nicely packed. You can also use boards, but snow works just fine and you don't have to worry about picking it up and finding a place to store it when spring comes.
- Pack down the snow within the perimeter. You can do this with the back of a shovel, or you can ask a few kids to play on it for a while. Make sure it is packed and as level as possible.
- To add the water, pick a time when the outside temperature is a few degrees below freezing. First gently run water over your rink's snow walls. Move the hose back and forth, and if you can get a gentle spray going, that's even better. If you leave the hose running in a steady stream in any one spot for too long, you'll get holes. Once the walls are wet, resist the urge to keep going. Let them freeze well overnight. The next day you can begin your rink.
- Lay down a thin layer of water. Wait a few hours or, better yet, overnight and repeat. Your rink won't look great all at once, but just keep on being patient. Remember not to put on too much water at each session and remember to bring that hose inside after each session so the water left inside doesn't freeze.
- Flood your rink for two or three or more nights. Be very sure each time that the water has frozen completely before you add more. Before long, you'll begin to see the beginnings of a real rink. Don't stop flooding and don't start skating too soon. Thicker ice will be smoother and much nicer for the kids to skate on and it will also be easier for the adults to maintain.
- Once your rink is ready, bring on the kids! Use a snow shovel or scraper to keep the snow cleared off the rink's surface and continue to flood every couple of days, more often if usage is heavy.
- If you want to get really creative, you can paint lines and designs on your rink, add a layer of ice, and keep them there all winter. Want to make your rink into a hockey rink? Or decorate it for a skating party? (Skating parties are great for kids' birthday celebrations.) Use tempera paint, which you will find in the craft section of almost any department store.
- Remember to be safe. Make sure all of the children wear proper fitting helmets when they skate. Brain injuries are not fun.
If circumstances have put your family in debt, start taking the steps to financial freedom today!
Build-a-rink kits can also be purchased in many stores, but if you've got snow, freezing temperatures, and access to a hose and water supply for flooding, these kits aren't necessary. Proper-fitting helmets, however, are essential, and in most cases, it's the law. Don't let your children step onto the ice without them
Reviewed January 2018
Take the Next Step:
- Try these 10 kid-friendly tips for surviving long winter days with your children.
- Find more fun, frugal winter activities for your family by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
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