How to teach your child to swim
Teaching your child to swim is something that you can start at a very early age. Helping them get used to being in the water, how to use their legs and arms and coordinating the movements to successfully swim independently can be a great way to bond with your child as well as give them a useful skill for later in life.
Some of these tips can be used with children as young as 18 months, and if practiced regularly, it’s possible that your little one will be swimming solo by the age of 4 without any problems.
Teach them breath control
One of the biggest first steps to helping your child swim independently is getting them used to being underwater and not breathing the water in. You can get started on the first steps to helping them acquire this skill by playing a game of blowing bubbles underwater.
Demonstrate it yourself for your child when you’re in the water together (doing it at home in the bath too can be a good start) by putting your face in the water and blowing bubbles. Come up with a smile on your face and ask your child to put their ear in the water to listen when you do it next time. Then get them to try blowing bubbles under water while you listen.
Getting your child to consciously put their face underwater and blow bubbles will get them used to the sensation of what is it like to be surrounded by water while not breathing in.
Begin using leg movements
Once you’re ready to graduate to a small pool with your child, you can have them practice engaging their legs to achieve a horizontal position in the water. In the shallow end, where the water is no higher than your little one’s chest, have them hold on tight to the edge of the pool with their hands and kick their legs up and away behind them.
Alternatively, if you both feel more comfortable, you can have them hold onto your waist or arms doing the same thing. Look your child in the eyes while they’re doing this, and give them some encouragement that they’re doing a good job.
Once they can sustain themselves, have them continue to kick their legs in small flapping movements and try to stay afloat. Reach around to support their thighs with a hand if you can, but keep your focus on their face so they know you are there and watching out for them.
Support their body weight in the water
The next step is to have your child engaging their legs without your help. Start by doing the same exercise as before, but do not provide any assistance. Once your child is comfortable with this and you can see that they are using their legs enough to float, then you can move onto something a little more challenging.
Bend your knees in the shallow water, around one or two meters from the edge of the pool, facing towards it and have your child stand on your thighs, also facing the edge. Then ask them to jump off your thighs and grab onto the side of the pool. They’ll use the momentum from the jump to give them the sensation that they are swimming the distance between you and the water’s edge, which will make them feel more confident that this is something they can do themselves.
Coordinate arm movements
The final step is to teach your child to use both their arms and legs at the same time in order to swim independently. This can be the hardest part of teaching your child to swim, but it is always something that can be improved and practiced over time, so just focusing on the basics is the most important thing – don’t worry too much about them getting it perfect at first.
Show them the breaststroke movement while standing outside of the water, then have them try it in the water with some support under the torso from you. If it turns into a doggie paddle, it’s not a failure: if they are swimming, you’ve succeeded!
[Photo by McStone]