When I was younger, I used to work as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. It was a great job for me because I loved working with kids all of my life, and I was great at teaching them to swim.
Here are a few tips that I think all parents need to know when it comes to kids and swimming.
- It absolutely has to be fun. Always keep kids smiling in the pool. This builds up their positive association to the water.
- Focus on breath control before anything else. Kids need to learn how to inhale, then submerge, then exhale slowly and comfortably. One great game is “The elevator game” where the child’s mouth is the elevator. You go to the top floor of the building (above water), inhale all the “people” and then go down to the bottom to “let the people get off”. You want to encourage slow, controlled breathing.
- Use the bathtub to encourage comfort in the water. Your kids are going to take baths anyway, right? While they are in there, have them go under water, open their eyes, and pick up objects. Make a game out of anything and encourage them to have fun.
- Do not say “Hold your breath!” I’ve seen this mistake time and time again, usually from parents who are not strong swimmers. You don’t want to pass on your bad habits. Pass on better habits. See the “breath control” item above.
- When learning to float, have kids relax in the water. Say you’re working on back floats. Have your kids pretend they are a cloud relaxing in the warm sun, on a calm day. This is better than having your kids all tense, neck cranked down to their chest. A relaxed child has his chin up, and ears in the water.
- Get down to their level. Crouch down in the water and talk face to face. When you work on back floats, support your child’s head on your shoulders so they *feel* how close you are. It makes them feel safe.
- Stop when they are obviously sick of whatever you are doing. It’s no fun if you push them to keep doing things they would rather stop doing. Teach stuff in small doses and keep it fun. When it isn’t fun, do something else.
I hope you all find this set of lessons to be useful. Believe me! I had a lot of success teaching kids of all ages.
Please remember to check out my audio program for parents, called “Talking to Toddlers”. It will help you deal with the terrible twos, and child behavior.