There’s an ocean of reasons why kids should learn how to swim while they're young. The most obvious one is safety. If your child knows how to stay afloat and swim to safety, you and everyone else can have a bit more peace of mind near the water. And swimming is by far one of the best forms of exercise for the human body, so not only will your child get a great workout, he’ll expend some of that never-ending energy.
New to the swimming experience? Here are some tips to get you both started:
- Let your child pick out a bathing suit. If he wants to put it on and get it wet, that’s half the battle.
- Is the water warm? It helps to give your child her first pool experience in warm water - one less obstacle to overcome.
- If you are in a pool with steps, start there. Your child will gain confidence knowing there is at least one place he can be in the pool without being held.
- Don’t put a flotation device on your child while she’s learning. She’ll develop bad swimming habits and a false sense of her ability if she is wearing floaties or a vest while trying to learn the basics.
- Sign him up for swim lessons. For beginners, lessons can and do usually start out as way for the child to get more comfortable in the water. You may wish to do a parent-child lesson first, where you can be in the water with him. If your child is a bit older, just make sure you are permitted to sit near the pool during the lessons for reassurance. Most lessons will teach your child how to:
- Get his face wet and work up to going under and holding his breath
- Blow bubbles (an easy thing to practice at home in the tub)
- Jump in as well as get out of the pool (away from the steps). Elbow, elbow, knee, knee.
- Float in several ways
- Kick using a kickboard
- Stroke arms properly (depending on age) using a pool noodle
- Make sure the lesson plan is in line with the swimming goals you have for your child.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the swim instructor for credentials and experience with kids your child’s age. Watch the instructor with other children to see if he or she adjusts well to different temperaments and skill levels.
- If the swim program doesn’t do it, create a Good Swimmer sticker chart so your child can earn a sticker each week until your swimming goals are accomplished, and then award a ribbon or special prize you both decide upon in advance.
Above all, keep swimming fun and don’t get frustrated with your child. It may take a while to get all those not-so-coordinated arms and legs to do what they’re supposed to, while blowing bubbles and trying to see where she’s headed. If your child views swimming as a chore, she will not want to get her feet wet again, let alone go under. It goes without saying that you need to supervise your child at all times by any pool or body of water, but both of you will be more at ease knowing she can swim to the side and get out if she jumps, or happens to fall, in. So whether your child just splashes around with you or becomes a synchronized swimmer, she can feel confident and comfortable in the water if she knows what she's doing.