Fun ways to help teach your child how to swimJune 14, 2017
There comes a point in every parent’s life where they must consider teaching their child how to swim. Not only is swimming fun, it provides many health benefits and could be potentially life-saving.
This month we want to help you make learning to swim as fun as it can be for your child, which is why we have put together this comprehensive guide with all you need to know. Encourage them to improve their strength and posture, whilst thriving on the rewards and accomplishments of becoming a strong swimmer.
Swimming progression by age
6 Months – 1 Year
Parent-children water activities starting at an early age can be fun and memorable. However, at this age, your child will not be able to hold themselves up. The main aim here is to get them used to being in water. Initially you can start indoors, at bath time, encouraging them to splash and become confident with water on their heads. At the swimming pool the most important thing for them to learn is never to get into the pool unless you are already in the water. Then show them how to reach for and hold on at the side of the ladder or the edge of the pool. Early on, teach them when they get into the water, how to roll on to their back and float in a star shape. Show them how to splash and generally be playful to help them get comfortable. Why not incorporate a large brightly coloured ball? You can push it back and forth to help your child with basic coordination.
Safety* If your child isn’t in your arms at all times, you will want to make sure they have a suitable buoyancy aid that can hold them up in the water. Make sure that they wear a special swim nappy too to ensure there aren’t any accidents in the pool.
2 – 3 Years
Your baby will be more curious and active in the water now, but you will still need to make sure that you supervise closely and support them so they can explore safely.
If they are out of nappies, teach them to go to the toilet before you go to the pool, and ensure they understand that you must get into the pool first. Show them how to sit on the ground a short distance back from the pool edge while you get in to the water. Then help them to climb backwards down the pool ladder and hold on to the side of the ladder or the side of the pool once they are in the water. You may want to consider having a handrail fitted.
Teach them how to stretch out their arms and kick to reach you or the pool side, and reinforce the habit of rolling onto their back, looking up at the sky and floating if they accidentally let go of your hand.
Show them how to move around in the water with you – starting off upright, maybe playing animal games, walking, hopping or jumping, then try running or gliding together.
It’s time to blow bubbles underwater – this may be the first time they have submerged their face underwater, so you will want to show them what to do. Make sure they are standing securely and ideally with the water no higher than your child’s waist and that you are holding hands. Take the lead by placing just your chin and mouth under the water and begin to blow bubbles. Let them copy you, so they know how to get their face wet without swallowing water. Blowing bubbles should encourage your child to push the water away from their mouth rather than into it.
At this age you will want to position a float underneath their back or stomach. This will give them the ability to kick their legs and move their arms without the fear of going under. Once they begin to feel confident, children usually love to jump into the water. You can start by letting them sit on the side and gently slide into your waiting arms.
4 – 5 Years
If your child feels comfortable in the pool and wishes to learn to swim on their own, you may wish to sign them up for lessons. Some curriculums allow parents to take part and this may help them with their confidence, knowing that you are there.
During your child’s first lessons they will learn about water safety and basic water skills. They will start in the shallow end, so they can stand up comfortably should they not feel steady when changing from a vertical position into a swimming stroke.
Safety* If you’re teaching them how to swim in your own pool, you will want to mark the deep and the shallow end clearly. You could have hooks and a rope fitted to separate off the shallow end.
If you have a very deep pool, you may want to consider having it made shallower or smaller (which would also reduce heating and chemical costs). Constant depth pools – without a deep or shallow end – are popular nowadays as are pools with full width access steps at the shallow end where young children can sit.
6 Years +
As your child gets older, they should be able to swim safely and confidently on their own. By this age they should be able to do the common strokes such as front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke, breathe while swimming and hold their breath for longer periods of time. Although your child may become a confident swimmer, this does not mean that things can’t go wrong – make sure they are aware of their limitations and always remind them that they can float on their backs in deep water or stand up and hop and glide to the side in shallower water if they’re feeling tired, rather than reach out for another child.
Safety* Whether it’s you or your child swimming, you should always have a buddy so you can keep each other safe. Always make sure that your child knows to only ever dive into the deep end and with supervision from a parent or lifeguard.
Games to encourage your child to swim
Ready, steady, bubble!
Place your mouth under the water, blow bubbles and bob back up with a big grin on your face! Your child will almost certainly want to join in and it will help them to control their breathing and become comfortable with the underwater world.
Let’s go fishing!
Sit with your little one at the shallow end of the pool and start to catch the “fish” – ripples – in the water. Show them first by doing a front-crawl style movement in order to catch the “fish”. Show them how best to catch them, by keeping your fingers together, as the fish/ripples of the water will go straight through your fingers if they’re separated. This game is designed to help your child understand what to do with their arms when they swim.
Guide your child to rest their tummy on top of a float and help them stay stable whilst they stretch out their arms and kick their legs. This method helps them to balance and familiarise themselves with the horizontal swimming position. As there will be no fear of submersion, your child will have lots of time to experiment with paddling their arms and legs.
Stop, slow, go!
By the shallow end of the pool, have your little one face the wall and pop their hands onto the edge – be sure to do the same. When you say ‘go’, lift your legs together and paddle as fast as you can whilst still holding on for support. Try saying ‘slow’ to reduce the pace and ‘stop’ to return to a standing position. This will encourage coordination in a safe environment.
Goggles, swimming costumes and accessories
Another way to get your child interested in swimming is to get them a kit that they’ll be excited to wear.
Goggles – when learning to swim it’s better to help your child feel as comfortable as they can be. Having water in their eyes can distract them from swimming properly and therefore they may close their eyes when they’re under water. Equipping them with goggles will give them the confidence they need in order to get the hang of swimming before having to worry about keeping their eyes open underwater.
Swimming kit – having a costume or a trendy pair of trunks will help your child look forward to this new sport and encourage them to keep at it. Remember though, for boys, close fitting trunks are much easier to swim in than longer baggier swim shorts.
Accessories – arm bands, floats and balls are not only prudent buoyancy aids, but can encourage children to have fun whilst learning to swim. Whilst focusing on playing a game, swimming will become second nature and their skills will develop rapidly with encouragement from a few colourful accessories.
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