Swimming is an important life skill, and one that children can’t simply pick up through imitation as they do many other skills – to learn to swim, kids must be regularly exposed to water, and taught how to use their bodies to swim and float. Through teaching kids how to swim, they develop confidence and skills that increase their safety in and around water, meaning a more enjoyable time for both of you at the pool or beach.
Swimming also helps kids reach developmental milestones, and provides an opportunity for building strength and practicing motor and coordination skills. There are many ways to go about learning to swim, and the method you choose will depend on your family’s preferences, but this article will provide some ideas on how to teach kids to swim, and why this is a valuable journey to undertake.
Exposure to water
Your child’s swimming journey can begin from the moment they take their first bath! Simply working on helping your child build a positive relationship with water is an important first step to take in their swimming journey, and it’s easy to do. The main goal is to get them used to the water, and start to enjoy it by making it a relaxing and fun experience, especially if your child is initially hesitant or afraid of water.
Start by trying short stints in the bath, using bath seats when they’re little so they feel secure and supported (very small babies also like to have a face cloth over their tummy in the bath so they don’t feel exposed). You can also give them bath toys or create bubbles with homemade bath bombs to keep them entertained in the water. As they get older, you can introduce kids to pools and the beach - children love the beach, and this is a great place for them to learn about water, and plenty of other skills that beach play offers. However, be mindful of the weather and temperature of the water, as children get cold quickly. The aim for water exposure is to get kids used to being in and around water, so that they will feel more confident and can enjoy themselves when they begin learning how to swim.
Teaching swimming ‘at home’
It is possible to build on what your child is learning in swimming classes, and to teach your child to swim, outside of formal swimming lessons.
Remember: whenever you undertake aquatic activities with your child, no matter how confident they may appear, make sure you are no more than an arm's reach away from them.
Here are some swimming skills to teach kids in the pool:
- Kicking – begin by having them put their arms around your neck, letting their body float and help to move their legs in a kicking motion, and progress to kicking with a paddle board
- Digging- support your child under their tummy, and help them to paddle their arms (probably just splashing to begin with)
- Floating –have your child lie on their back close to you with their cheek against your cheek, and progress to only supporting their neck and back whilst they float
- Holding on- it’s very important for kids to learn to hold on to the side of the pool, so make it fun by turning it into a ‘monkey hanging on the wall’ game
- Jumping in – have fun teaching kids how to safely jump into the pool to avoid slipping or hitting their head on the side
- Climbing out – this is a difficult skill to master, but an important one: assist them while trying to let them use their own strength to manoeuvre over the side of the pool.
Formal swimming lessons are a great way to continue to build on your child’s swimming and water safety skills, and are also a fun exercise activity to make part of your child’s weekly routine. Having structured lessons ensures your child is learning about water safety and swimming from a professional, as well as teaching them to follow instructions and be part of a team. Most swimming lessons start around 6 months, but it’s up to you to decide when you think your child is ready, and how it would fit into your schedule. It’s never too late to start, and wherever your child is on their swimming journey encouraging safe water play and exposure to aquatic activities will benefit their relationship with water.
Now that you’ve got some ideas on how to teach kids to swim, get into the water with your kids, and remember that the best way for kids to learn is to make it a fun experience.
Childcare centres can teach kids water safety, so to find one near you search Toddle- the most comprehensive childcare search service in Australia.
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