Originally written for BonBonBreak in May, 2016.
In my last post, EVERYONE LOVES BUBBLES, I introduced the two most important skills for learning to swim. Let’s review…
Swimming & Water Safety Skill #1: Get your face wet
If your child cannot do this, he will never be truly comfortable in the water. There will always be some anxiety.
Swimming & Water Safety Skill #2: Blow bubbles
Everyone has to breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Once an individual learns to swim, he will need to take a breath. Start practicing now.
There are so many swimming aids, toys and floats out there, but it’s best to start out as a minimalist when it comes to working with your kids in the water. So far, you only need a cup to pour water over the head if your child is not comfortable putting his face in the water. One or two pool toys that float are helpful as well.
I had a mom e-mail to ask about helping her child put his face in the water. She asked if goggles would help. That’s a great question. I recommend that you DO NOT use goggles until the child is comfortable with his entire face completely in the water. My usual rule is that my students don’t get to try goggles until they can put their face in the water for 3 seconds. You do not need to protect your child’s eyes from water. It is just water. If your children do wear goggles, have them remove the goggles, jump in from the edge, and go back to the wall every now and then. I have so many incredible swimmers that panic and forget to put their faces in when they aren’t wearing goggles. Do this for SAFETY – Chances are if one falls into the water, they won’t be wearing goggles.
Swimming & Water Safety Skill #3: Front float
You can do this in the bath, on the steps, or standing in the pool. If you are standing, bend your knees so your shoulders are just below the surface. While facing your child, put his hands on your shoulders and hold his body out in front of you, keeping his head from falling into the water. The more apprehensive the child, the tighter you need to hold him. Let his legs float up behind him on top of the water. Blow bubbles in the water together. The goal is to have a calm, quiet body and to float, face down, on the surface of the water. As he becomes more comfortable and confident, loosen your grip and have him put his arms straight out at his sides like airplane wings.
Remember, this should be fun, so if it’s not, be patient. This is a learning process that does not happen overnight. Like anything, the more you practice, the more familiar the activity will become. I believe that your child’s experience in the water can influence the rest of his life. If the experience is positive, think about the added quality of life he will have since aquatic activities can be enjoyed at any age. The benefits of swimming include increased strength, coordination, self-esteem and cognitive development. Who wouldn’t want that for their child?
So, if this is not your child’s favorite activity, don’t give up. Pour water over his head one time in the bath, using the cue. Then move on. Try again tomorrow, but don’t give up. I have a lot of conversations that go something like this…
“Okay, it’s time to practice taking a shower. Do you remember the cue ‘1, 2, 3, Ready, Go’? I’m going to use that before you get water on your face.”
“NOOOOOOO! I don’t want water on my face.”
“ Whaaaaat?! That’s so silly. It is just water. It’s so gentle. Watch me.” (Model the behavior by using the cue to pour water over my own head or have the child pour it over my head. Blink my eyes and smile, SHOWING that it is okay.)
“Yay! Okay, your turn to practice. Would you like to do it two times or THREE times?”
“Well, we need to practice. I’ll help you. Would you like to do it two times or THREE times? You choose.”
“Okay, you made a good choice. We will do it two times.”
Be firm. It is your child’s life!