It's easy to think of things to do with the kids
when the weather is warm and outdoor activities abound, but the
winter months can present more of a challenge. This might be a good
year to discover the pleasures of building your own ice rink.
With a few basic materials and a little know-how, you can
turn the backyard into a place the whole family will enjoy. Best of
all, with a rink in the backyard, you won't have to travel far to
Chicagoans Paul Carrera and Dennis Wise have been building
backyard ice rinks for more than 15 years.
Carrera, a Chicago native, grew up helping his father
build a rink every winter. Now he and his wife, Liz, are continuing
that tradition with their own family.
"We had a big yard growing up. I have a postage stamp yard
now," Carrera says laughing, "but the kids love it; we all love
He offers this simple method for building a
First, wait until the weather has been below freezing for
several days. Single digit temperatures are ideal.
Carrera sometimes adds a playful element to his rink by
freezing money between the layers. The kids see the coins and bills
as they skate. When spring comes and the ice melts, it's finders
Wise, a Columbia professor, tucks the rink next to his
coach house. Like Carrera, he keeps things simple.
"I now do a totally low-tech rink. There is no plastic
liner and no perimeter form. I just use snow and water and make
many, many layers of very thin ice," he says.
Wise likes the ice to reach a thickness of 5 to 6 inches.
He collects cast-off Christmas trees and anchors them in snow that
has been shoveled into banks around the rim. Trimmed with colored
lights, the rink has a fairytale quality.
If you want a more elaborate rink design, companies like Nice Rink, Rink Rake, and The Ultimate Outdoor Rink
offer instructions and pre-assembled kits.
See more of Kathy's stories here.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.