Spend enough time riding chairlifts in Vermont or anywhere in the Northeast, and you’re almost guaranteed to see a pint-sized toddler shredder ripping up the slopes below you. Sometimes they travel in packs, daring each other to go faster, harder, and hit as many bumps as possible; other times they’re leading out the family ski train. Either way, if you’re a parent or caretaker of a little one, you might be wondering: “How can I help my kid join the coolest Todd Squad on the mountain?”

The good news: Toddlers tend to have a lot less built-in fear than grown folks learning to ski. (It likely helps that they’re so close to the ground.) For that reason, they’re generally pretty amenable to at least giving it a try. Here are a few other tips to help you get the toddler in your life going on skis.

1. Start with Good Gear

Plastic skis that strap onto your toddler’s regular winter boots are fine for scooting around the yard when they’re really little. But “real” ski boots and skis with metal edges give kids the extra support small legs need to learn how to snowplow, and, eventually, make turns. Unless you find a killer deal, try renting for a year. You can usually get skis and boots for around $100 for the season, and the shop can help you out on sizing. Warm socks, long underwear, ski pants, a jacket, and waterproof mittens are a must, as your kid will be on the snow. A lot. A neck warmer, goggles, and a stash of handwarmers can make or break a cold day out; leave them at home and you might be stuck in the lodge. Finally, don’t forget a helmet. Let your toddler pick out a wild-colored one herself, or let him decorate it with stickers—whatever makes them happy to wear it. And wear yours in solidarity, even if you’ll be on the bunny hill for the foreseeable future.

2. Add Accessories

You will laugh when you see the Edgie-Wedgie. The packaging is straight outta the ’90s, and the Edgie-Wedgie itself—two metal clamps that screw down onto your kid’s ski tips with a 6- to 8-inch bungee cord attaching them—seems silly. But it helps hold kids’ ski tips in that wedge (or pizza) shape, which means they’re at least in the right position to stop/slow down. That’s a win when your toddler basically straight-lines it down the slope because they haven’t learned how to turn yet.

3. Minimize the Effort to Get to the Mountain

Make the trip from the car to the base of the hill as short as possible. Pack your kid in a wagon or sled to get him from the car to the lodge, or have one person drop both of you off. Ski boots are hard to walk in, and you want the lead up to the actual event to go as seamlessly as possible.

Credit: Lindsay Warner

4. Treat the Harness as a Tool

Kids’ ski harnesses can be a great learner’s aid, if used correctly. Most ski harnesses fasten around the kid’s torso (with a helpful handle) and have leashes that the adult hangs onto from behind. If you’re going to use a harness with leashes, make sure the leash is slack so your todler isn’t just pulling you down the hill like a runaway dog. (If they are, they’re learning bad balance and habits, and you’re at risk of falling on top of them.) Instead, pretend the leashes are like your Driver’s-Ed teacher’s passenger-side brake: Only use it when you really need it.

5. A Pool Noodle Works Just As Well (Maybe Better?)

We didn’t have a harness when we taught my stepdaughter to ski, but we had great substitute in the garage: a pool noodle. For a lot less money upfront, you’ve got an emergency brake if you need it, and they’ve got the security of knowing you’re behind them. Like the harness, you don’t want it to become a crutch, and you have to be careful you’re not controlling them too much from behind. But we soon found that we could let go of our ends of the noodle on gentle pitches, and our toddler would keep skiing solo with the noodle clutched under her arms like a favorite stuffed animal. Concentrating on holding onto the noodle also seemed to distract her from the fact that she was skiing down a mountain: no tears, no fears.

6. Know Your Kid’s Exhaustion Cues…and Pack Snacks

If they suddenly get fussy, teary or start tipping backward when snowplowing, take a break. Go get some hot chocolate, park yourself in the lodge for a bit, or head home. Better to leave them wanting more than for them to be totally wiped. And pack snacks. Lots of them, and make them good ones. Vermont Smoke & Cure meat sticks are a popular option around here (hooray for protein), but we also stuff our pockets full of M&Ms and promise hot chocolate as a treat after we’re done. (Go nuts. They’ll love it. My favorite memory of ski school is of sitting in the lodge drinking hot chocolate with my friends.)

7. Go When You Know There Will Be Other Toddlers

If you don’t know other families with kids learning to ski, go to the mountain when you know the junior race team is practicing, or while an after-school kids’ ski program is in session. There’s nothing like a little competition/inspiration to make your kid suddenly declare that she wants to be a ski racer—or at least agree to take one more trip up the bunny hill with you.

8. Games Trump Teaching

So your toddler would rather jump up and down on her skis than go down the hill? Fine. She wants to do dodgeball on skis? Cool. Play tag? Sweet. Only scootch backward? Whatever. It’s all good, and at a young age, this kind of on-ski play is going to teach him more than any instruction you could provide. At Mad River Glen in Waitsfield, Vermont, ski instructor Kim Hall emphasizes that a toddler’s first day on skis is always about fun, not necessarily skiing.

“As new skiers, we’ll have them get acquainted with their equipment, which means simply walking in ski boots,” she says. “Once they’ve mastered walking, skipping, jumping in the snow, we start teaching them the basics: clicking in and out of skis, walking and shuffling, sidestepping up the hill with skis on, or even playing around with just one ski.” After that, they’ll eventually work up to making that wedge or pizza shape, and finally getting on the road tow.

Try playing “red light, green light” but let your kid tell you what color the light is, just to give them a little say in the matter. Or switch it up and go cross-country skiing somewhere totally flat, just so she gets her groove back. Or just back off completely and go sledding. After all, the whole point of trying to teach your kid how to ski is so you can go together. And so long as it’s a fun day out, she’ll keep wanting to ski with you. Or at least until she finds her own Todd Squad and they start leaving you in the dust.

The final result?