Kids’ roller skates feature 4 wheels, a pair at the front and another at the back vs kids rollerblades‘ (also known as inline skates) which have mostly 4 wheels arranged in a line, one behind the other. What should you buy your kiddo, roller skates vs. rollerblades? This post intends to answer this question plus other important ones you may have forgotten to ask.
Is Your Child Mature Enough for Roller Skates?
You’re probably wondering what’s the right age for a child to start riding roller skates. Some kids can use roller skates starting age 3, but the best age for kids to start using roller skates is 4-5 years. At that age range (4-5 years), children have the balance and coordination grownups have.
We bought a pair of kids’ quad skates for our first child when they turned 4. And they soon built up enough confidence to roll around on their own without falling over all the time. But if your little one is younger than 4 but has adequate muscle strength and balance skills to wear and use inline skates, why not?
Each kid is different. And you know your child better than anyone else. If it seems like they’re not ready for baby gear that requires that level of motor skills, then definitely wait until they’re bigger and stronger.
Here’s a Reddit conversation on when the people in that subreddit started roller skating. You’ll be surprised how young some were when they got on their first-ever set of wheels.
Roller Skating is a Fun-packed Activity for Kids and Adults
When we think of happy kids, the idea of a kid in a candy shop comes to mind. But that’s not the only time kids smile.
There’s a good chance your child wants to roll around the neighborhood and be the cool kid they want to be. You never know whether they’ll enjoy roller skating until they get into a pair of skates and make that first stride.
Roller skating is a muscle-strengthening exercise. And there are various benefits to be had at every stage of development. And who knows, your little one might discover their love for skating and end up building a healthy lifestyle or even a career out of it.
And if you want to build a better parent-child bond, consider getting into roller skating/rollerblading. As you enjoy evening strolls on wheels around the neighborhood with your tot, you’ll get to create and nurture a closer relationship with them. And a friendship that’ll thrive through teenage and adulthood will probably materialize.
Roller Skates or Rollerblades for Kids?
Roller skates and rollerblades are similar in some ways and different in others. You need to understand the differences so that you can competently decide what skate type would suit your kid best.
Many parents buy roller skates instead of rollerblades because that’s the kind of skate they rode as a kid. But there’s also the fact that roller skates are more stable and somewhat easier to learn than rollerblades. Most kids can stand and stay stable on quad skates, but balancing on rollerblades and riding them requires greater control and muscle power.
But while inlines are tougher on muscles, they’re easier to maneuver and turn, and doing tricks is a little easier with inlines. What’s more, kids’ inline skates are easier to find, and there’s tons of them everywhere that offer size adjustability.
Skate Design And Construction
In terms of construction and design, roller skates look like real shoes on wheels compared to inline skates that look like, well, skates.
The wheels in both skate types are made out of rubber (polyurethane), at least the good ones. But if you buy fisher-price kids roller skates, you’ll most likely get plastic wheels.
Kids’ roller skates have 4 relatively thick/wide wheels placed in two parallel rows vs. rollerblade wheels that are slim and placed in a single row. As for the skate boot, children’s rollerblades feature ski boot-like boots. The exterior of a rollerblade can have a soft-shell construction or it can be a hard-shell construction. For beginner kids, a soft-shell boot works best in terms of comfort. And comfort is more important than performance at that level of skating skill.
Roller skates, in comparison, have a shoe-like boot that’s not anywhere as hard as the outer shell of a rollerblade. Both skates have brakes, but the stopping mechanism for roller skates is out front vs. the braking system for kiddos’ rollerblades which is at the heel.
Quad skates typically fasten using traditional laces versus velcro, laces, speed lacing, or more sophisticated closing mechanism such as BOA.
Finally, there’s padding. Roller skates offer padding, but it’s typically not as much as rollerblades offer. Your tike needs a pair of skates with a generous amount of padding so that those small feet can stay pampered throughout the ride.
Ankle support is a key consideration when it comes to choosing kids’ skates. And inline skates are generally more supportive compared to roller skates/quad skates. That’s because rollerblades have a medium to high cuff that adds up to tons of ankle support.
Roller skates for kids also offer support, but it’s not as much they get from inlines. But it’s not like the support quad skates provide to kids isn’t enough to keep young, weak ankles safe.
Wheel Size and Speed
Children’s roller skates have smaller wider wheels compared to the slimmer wheels of inlines. Bigger wheels accelerate slower than smaller wheels, but they reach a higher top speed and keep rolling longer. With quad skates, your kid doesn’t build up as much speed at takeoff compared to rollerblades which can gain speed pretty quickly.
The Muscle Groups Roller Skating vs. Rollerblading Uses
Both roller skates and rollerblades use some of the same muscles, they don’t use the exact same muscles. These fun sports for kids rely on the glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads, and lower abdomen a great deal.
Because you need to exert yourself more to balance on rollerblades, your abdominal muscles and arms need to work somewhat harder when roller skating.
And while both roller skating and rollerblading involve a certain amount of hip movement, rollerblading demands more of it.
What’s More Stable, Roller Skates or Quad Skates?
Quad skates have wider wheels that are positioned side by side compared to a one-wheel-behind-the-other setup for inline skates.
Also, roller skates feature baseplates that sit on trucks to which the wheels attach. Now, that does make roller skates somewhat more stable and easier to balance on than kid’s inline skates.
But once your kiddo learns to stay up and balanced on rollerblades, they’ll love how smooth rolling down the street gets.
Kid Roller Skates vs. Rollerblades: What’s Easier to Maneuver?
There’s one key aspect that determines how each skate type maneuvers. With quad skates, there are four wide wheels seated side by side. Two wheels rolling side by side at the front and two wheels at the rear.
That 2 x 2 configuration boosts stability, but flexibility isn’t as good as it is with the linear wheel placement you have with rollerblades. The frame onto which rollerblade wheels mount is narrow than a roller skate’s baseplate.
A shorter rollerblade frame offers greater maneuverability/agility than a longer one. On the other hand, a longer frame translates to better stability.
Your child will have to do more and use a bit more muscle strength to balance on rollerblades. But the in-line wheel arrangement that rollerblades have makes turning noticeably quicker and easier.
The same goes for doing tricks. It’s somewhat easier to perform skating tricks on rollerblades. That’s because rollerblade wheels have mostly slim wheels. And slim wheels are easier to maneuver because they see less rolling resistance.
But roller skates can also be super maneuverable depending on how loose or tight the trucks are. The tighter the trucks of a kid’s roller skate, the more directional stability. And the looser the trucks are, the more maneuverable/easier the turns. You need to adjust rollerskate trucks to a setup where stability and maneuverability balance each out.
Stopping and Turning Techniques
Some stopping methods that work in rollerskating also work pretty well in rollerblading. The T-stop works well in both skating disciplines, for example. You can also the attached braking mechanism to come to a safe stop in these two activities.
Generally, it’s easier to stand and stop on quad skates than on rollerblades. But slowing down and stopping on both skates requires quite a bit of practice. As for turns, your kid can do quicker, sharper turns on rollerblades compared to the wider turns characteristic of roller skates.
Size Adjustable Skates
There are many size-adjustable rollerblades compared to roller skates. In fact, roller skates tend to be available in teens and adult sizes rather than kids’ sizes. While some quad skates offer adjustable sizing, it might not always work as intended. With growing feet, you want a skate that’ll expand as those tiny feet grow.
The Skating Gear Required
Both roller skating and rollerblading require similar protective equipment for safety while skating. Whichever skate type your child ends up using, they should helmet up, wear knee pads, and wristpads/kids gloves.
Make sure your tot at least wears a certified roller skating helmet and wristguards. Because you don’t want their little smart brains to stay protected the whole time they’re skating around on the driveway, pavement, or around the house.
Falls happen, and some can be catastrophic, but having a decent kid-size roller skating helmet on their small melon helps. A LOT.
Hybrid Skates for Kids
If you’ve been looking, you must have noticed that there’s lots of skates for kids that look like rollerblades with a roller skate wheel setup. They’re a kind of hybrid skate for children that combines the comfort of rollerblades with the stability of roller skates.
Take a look at the image below.
This is clearly a rollerblade boot, but it sits on a baseplate, and the wheels are placed in two rows. It’s neither a rollerblade nor a roller skate but a hybrid of sorts.
Rollerblades vs. Rollerskats for Kids? Final Thoughts
Roller skates seem to work better for young children compared to inline skates. Roller skates have a baseplate and wider wheels that foster stability versus slimmer rollerblades wheels that promote trick performance and turning. Most kids find standing and stopping on quad skates easier than on rollerblades, but rollerblades give them a much smoother roll.
As far as padding and comfort, rollerblades win out, but there are a few quad skates that provide decent padding. If you want skates that grow with your child, you’re better off going for inlines. Additionally, kids’ rollerblades tend to be more available than roller skates.
You can buy inline skates or quad skates for your child. And with consistent practice, kids can ride either skate type. It’s just that skating might feel somewhat easier on roller skates.
I'm Esther Moni, a proud stay-at-home mom and a psychology graduate of the United States International University (USIU) . I hate it when anyone calls me a housewife, because what does housewife even mean? Being a mother of two babies and a pup, Bailey, as well as being Ricky's wife tires me to no end, but I still manage a smile at the end of it all. And when my boys aren't done doing mischief, I juggle writing a post on parenting or baby gear performance for this blog and running my little counselling office based out in Nairobi. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/esther.moni/">Visit my Facebook profile here</a>, and this is my <a href="https://ke.linkedin.com/in/esther-moni-3841b573/">LinkedIn profile</a>, and here's my <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKcVb3NNDrURDH8C0KiAE1g/">nascent youtube channel.