My two kids, ages 4 and 6, are reasonably active and coordinated. In general, what is a good age to get children started playing on a skateboard (such as a "penny board", a cheap and small skateboard)? Or, if there are parents here who have young kids on skateboards, at what age did they start?
Rather than starting out with a skateboard, you might want to start them on something one level easier? A kick skate is very popular and relatively cheap to come by, and has several advantages like a handle, easier steering, less risk of flying backward headfirst.
When that is mastered, then the skateboard could be next - if it's even interesting at that point.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following information about preventing skateboard and scooter injuries:
Young children may be at high risk of injury from skateboards and scooters because their judgment of their own skills and strength is often poor, as is their ability to judge foot or vehicular traffic. Their center of gravity is higher than that of older children and adults, their neuromuscular system is not well developed, and they are not sufficiently able to protect themselves from injury. For these developmental reasons, children younger than 5 years should not ride skateboards, and those between 6 and 10 years of age should be closely supervised while skateboarding.
In addition, they suggest:
- always wear safety gear (helmet, wrist/elbow/knee pads)
to prevent or reduce the severity of injuries resulting from falls. Use of protective clothing, such as gloves, is not sufficient. The helmet should be a bicycle helmet ... or a multisport helmet...
- never ride a skateboard in traffic, or while holding a moving vehicle
- encourage practicing at a skateboard park
These parks are preferred to home-constructed ramps and jumps, because they are more likely to be monitored for safety and separate the skateboarder from pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) agrees on the age suggestion, and breaks down the age reasons in a little more detail:
Skateboarding is a special risk for young children because they have:
- A higher center of gravity, less development, and poor balance. These factors make children more likely to fall and hurt their heads.
- Slower reactions and less coordination than adults. Children are less able to "break" (slow down) their falls.
- Less skill and ability than they think. Children overestimate their skills and abilities, and are inexperienced in judging speed, traffic, and other risks.
The AAOS also has suggestions for learning to skateboard (on the same page) which would probably be particularly useful when introducing young children to the sport.
Since doctors' recommendations are sometimes pooh-poohed as overprotective and unrealistic, I also found a blog post by a kids' skateboard store. They essentially confirm the medical professionals' stance: nothing is lost by waiting until 5, when a child's development has reached enough milestones that they are better able to control the board.
Not only does this keep them safer from injury, but they're more likely to enjoy the skateboard if they can direct it easily and aren't falling frequently.