Tips to Ease Your Child Into Swimming
Once the summertime heat kicks in, there really aren’t that many ways to find relief. Of course, one of the most popular ways of cooling off has always been diving in and taking a swim. Swimming can be a blast, and while it’s almost second nature once you’re an adult, you probably don’t remember that you weren’t always able to jump right in and enjoy the water.
Swimming is something you had to learn.
Not only that, but the idea of swimming was something you had to get acclimated to. Once you have a kid and you want to introduce her to the joys of swimming, you might be wondering “How did I learn to love swimming to begin with? How exactly did I get used to this, and how do I help my kid learn to feel comfortable in the pool?”
There’s many different ways to help get your kid used to swimming, and even if your kid is at an age where she’s nowhere close to being able to maneuver the complexities of synchronized swimming, you can still ease her into it from a young age.
Ease is the key word here; if you guide your child through the process, you shouldn’t have any problems when it’s time for her to swim on her own. Here’s some ways to get your kid used to swimming.
From the bathtub to the blowup pool
It isn’t exactly typical for a baby to learn all the ins and outs of swimming when she’s only 6 months to a year old, but you can still get her comfortable with the idea of various water related activities from a young age.
The bathtub is a great place to start to familiarize your kid with all the fun that can be had while in the water. Your kid probably likes to splash around when in the tub already, so splashing along with her and smiling and laughing while she splashes is a good way to let her know that being in the water if fun.
Getting her used to getting her head wet
Of course, when she swims later on in life she’s going to be getting her head wet, and will eventually be underwater at some point. If you want to get your kid used to the idea of having her head and face wet—but you don’t want her to associate it with bath time or cleanliness—try gently squeezing a sponge or washcloth on top of her head but without any soap. Remember a gentle attitude and approach is key; you don’t want to aggressively show her that hanging out in the water isn’t just for getting clean. Try to stay calm and happy when you get her head a little wet.
Remember, you want her to have fun. While knowing how to swim for survival purposes is helpful, you’re not trying to teach her how to save her own life in this instance. Continue to laugh and smile with your child while she gets her head wet, just like you would when the two of you are splashing around.
Let her take a dip in the blowup pool
If you feel your kid is comfortable while engaged with various types of waterplay, try to see how she feels outside the bathtub. Blowup and toy pools are a great way to show your kid that there’s all sorts of bodies of water to enjoy. Letting her relax in the blowup pool is a surefire way for her to associate water with good times.
If you want to take the good times even further, turn the blowup pool into a place of play. Throw in some toys that are buoyant (maybe something along the lines of a ball). Surrounding her with playthings is a wonderful way to show her that swimming is all about fun.
Also make sure to play with her while she’s getting used to a different type of water environment. You should try picking up the toys and interacting with her. You might want to try sticking your head in the water and blowing bubbles while still smiling and laughing with her. She’ll see that you’re enjoying yourself, and that it’s safe to submerge her head a little bit.
Take baby (or toddler) steps
Just because your kid has made the transition from a bathtub to a baby pool, it doesn’t mean she’s ready for swan dives and cannonball flips just yet. When you feel your child is ready to handle an actual swimming pool, you’re going to want to take it slow and start from the edge of the pool and then gradually move down the steps.
Make her move a bit by kicking
At first, you’ll simply want to sit on the edge right above the steps. Let your kid dip her feet in and kick around for a little bit—letting her understand that she’s in another water environment aside from the bathtub and blowup pool— an environment that’s safe and fun to play around in.
Dipping her feet in and kicking around while observing the actual pool will also allow her to understand that there’s a greater depth to the water for her to explore. In addition to just letting her see the depths of the water, the kicking will let her get used to motions she’ll eventually be making on her own when swimming.
Once she’s understands there’s more to the pool than just the very edge, gradually let her step in while guiding her or holding her hand. Once she’s made her first step down, gently help her sit in the water on the steps—allowing her to see that it isn’t so different from sitting in the bathtub or the blowup pool. Sitting on the steps basically gives her time to adjust to the idea of getting in the pool by putting her in a similar position that she’s been in before.
Again, toys are always helpful when introducing your kid to swimming. You might want to put a toy a little further down the steps, and see if she’s comfortable reaching her hand in a bit in order to grab the toy.
It’s also important to remember that with any gradual move she makes, you should be making the same move as well. If she dips her hand in, just do the same thing. Any further step she takes, you should take too.
Mimicry is very important when helping your kid get used to swimming. Of course, you want her to one day be an independent swimmer, but she needs to know that she’s doing everything the right way.
Get her used to the idea of floating
When your little one looks like she’s comfortable moving on from the steps, try showing her that her body is able to float in the pool. When teaching her to float, you probably just want to move in tiny circles around the shallow end while not traveling too far. Get her used to floating first, then you can introduce her to the wider world of the pool.
Floating on her back
When introducing your kid to the concept of floating, ease into it by holding her from her bottom and the back of her neck while in the shallow part of the pool; this way you can more or less let her rest and see that lounging on her back in the pool can be relaxing. Just try to be gentle and move her slowly through the water. Getting her to move—even if you’re the one creating the movement—will help her comprehend that the swimming pool is indeed a place that’s not meant for simply sitting like the bathtub or blowup pool.
When you help her float, she’ll also just get used to the idea of floating in general. Remember, she’s never done any floating before, and even if you act as a sort of buoy she’s going to understand that floating is just something the body is able to do.
Make sure to talk to her and keep her calm; try to remember to look down at her while smiling and laughing as she floats.
Floating on her stomach
Once your kid is used to the idea of floating on her back and floating in general, it’s time to show her that she can float on her stomach. You might want to try walking through the shallow end while she (gently) holds onto the back of your neck or maybe you can hold her by the armpits. She’ll probably do a little kicking, so make sure she doesn’t get too frantic or aggressive. This isn’t good for your safety or the safety of your child.
When showing her that she has the ability to float on her stomach, continue to talk to her and make eye contact just as you would when she’s floating on her back. If you’d like you can have her float behind you while she rides close to your back, but it’s best if you just move backwards as she watches your face and sees your encouraging talk; this way you can keep a close eye on her while also ensuring she feels safe and secure.
Do a little guided exploring
If you feel your little one is comfortable with floating, then she’s probably comfortable with exploring different parts of the water. A great way to show her that she’s able to explore is to take her back and forth between one side of the pool to the other.
You’ll definitely want to remain in the shallow end and have her hold onto you in one way or another, but you don’t have to confine yourself to an area of 3 or so feet.
Try holding her by the armpits or even just holding her hands while she’s on her stomach as you walk backwards from one side wall of the shallow end to the other while she continues to kick her legs. Make sure you’re looking at her and interacting with her so she’s stays encouraged and comfortable. You can even try going from one sidewall to the steps and then to another sidewall—making it so that your kid knows she isn’t limited to simply moving back and forth. And with you by her side, she’ll know that exploring the pool is completely safe.
But remember, you don’t want to go too fast; this step isn’t about making her an Olympic swimmer, you just want to show her that the pool is its own unique world and that there’s lots of territory to explore.
Don’t forget about fun and games
It’s definitely important that your there for your kid to help her understand that swimming is a safe activity, but there’s still plenty of ways to make her understand that swimming is a lot of fun other than having your presence. Games and toys are great for getting your kid in the water to begin with, but they’re also great for getting your kid to stay in the water and have a blast while she does so.
As far as using toys go, it’s a great addition to teaching your kid to explore the pool. Maybe when you’re helping her float on her stomach and going from one sidewall to the end of the other, you could try encouraging her to get the other side by having her retrieve a toy that’s on the other end. Simply toss the toy to the other side, float on over, grab the toy, and repeat the process. In addition to the game simply being fun, your kid will also have a goal to keep in mind while she simultaneously becomes comfortable with the idea of swimming.
Playing pretend while blowing bubbles
If your kid is a fan of blowing bubbles, it can always be fun to play “motorboat”. It may sound sort of odd but it’s really quite simple. Just let your kid pretend she’s a boat—that her blowing the bubbles is what gets the engine going and allows her to move all throughout the pool. It’ll help her get used to the idea of keeping her head near the water (eventually making her comfortable submerging her head), and she’ll have tons of fun mimicking the sounds of a motorboat.
You can even mix the toys with the motorboat idea and have your kid pick up cargo while she’s riding through the water. Blowing bubbles in tandem with body movement will also help your little one get used to the idea of being able to regulate her breathing while swimming.
Make sure she’s prepared to go all the way under
It may sound like a no-brainer, but don’t just have your kid submerge her head underwater without making sure she’s prepared for the plunge. If you ask her if she wants to go under, and she feels comfortable enough to do so, then a countdown is an excellent way to make sure she doesn’t get too frightened.
Even if she wants to go all the way under, she might not properly understand what that actually means. She’s bound to have a bit of her face or head go under when she’s floating and exploring, but that still doesn’t mean she understands what it’s like to be underwater. After she’s had a little exposure, just make clear to her what it is she’s about to experience when she decides she wants to fully emerge. Don’t prepare her in a way that will scare her. You can simply say “Are you sure? Alright then, 1-2-3 go!”
Stay aware of her limitations
Even if your child seems to be adapting to swimming with relative ease, it’s still very important that you’re able to pick up on the cues of what she can or can’t do. Just because one step was pretty easy for her to handle, that doesn’t mean she’s automatically going to be ready to dive into what’s next. Getting her used to swimming is meant to be a process—not something that’s totally immersive from the get-go.
It’s also important that you understand when your child is uncomfortable beyond the emotional realm. If she seems cold or tired, take her out of the pool and let her rest; there’s no reason to overexert her and make her exhausted.
Don’t force it
Even though easing your kid into swimming isn’t the most difficult thing in the world, your kid still might not be ready even if you think she is. There’s no reason to firmly say to her “Today we will begin teaching you to swim and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Every kid is unique, and they all have to learn things at their own pace.
And let’s not forget, being forced to do anything is no fun at all. If you want to teach your kid to swim, you want her to at least find swimming to be an enjoyable experience. Swimming is meant to be relaxing and fun; don’t make it a chore. It’s important that your kid associates swimming with fun in the sun.
No human being knows how to swim automatically once tossed into a pool; this is especially true for a child. Teaching your kid to swim requires patience, and careful attention to her level of comfort and abilities. If you ease your kid into it in a way that makes her feel comfortable, she’s guaranteed to enjoy swimming just as much as you do.