Teaching your child basic swimming skills is the first step to having your very own Thorpedo. You can start teaching your little one some fundamental swimming skills when they are as young as 6 months but most experts suggest waiting until your little one’s first birthday before any swimming training goes on. The good thing is you just need to refresh your bub’s memory; he/she did spend 9 months in a liquid filled sack inside the womb and has some instinctive swimming skills already.
Swimming is great for your tot as it can give them an independence that they have probably not felt yet. They are almost weightless in water and can move their arms and legs to their hearts content without any fear of falling down. Teaching your bub basic swimming skills can also be a really good bonding experience for you and your child. AUSTSWIM suggests 6 months as the most common starting age for baby swim classes, but the choice is yours; there is no exact right age to get your little bub swimming. It’s also a good idea to teach your tot basic swimming skills from a safety perspective. Any accidents in a pool can be a tragedy for untrained swimmers. If your basic swimming skills lessons are going to take place in a public pool, try to go during an off-peak time as babies and toddlers can get a little stressed where there are a lot of unfamiliar people and noises.
The first skill you can impart on your child is familiarity and comfort with water. With any kind of swimming program, this is a good place to start. You can start before you even get to the pool, get your bub used to water by having extra long, extra splashy baths. If your kids are old enough, running through a sprinkler can also be heaps of fun and aid in getting your child more comfortable with water. Once your tot is comfortable with water, you need to encourage them to try to put their head underwater (if they are old enough to do this).
This can often be the make or break stage in the early swimming schooling process. If your child is comfortable putting their head underwater, then you should show them how to blow bubbles, this will stop water from getting into your bub’s nose and mouth. A great way to teach this is to get some bubbles from the nearest $1 dollar store and show your child how to blow bubbles. You can also demonstrate how to blow bubbles by taking a deep breath in, putting the lower half of your face under water, and blowing the air out of their mouth to create bubbles in the water. Your bub should be encouraged to blow bubbles by mimicking you.
Floating is the next swimming skill you should teach your bub. It’s a pretty important ability for your child to have as it gives them the ability to stay afloat in the water if they accidentally get into water that is too deep for them whilst swimming, or if they fall in the pool. A good way to get this started is to ask your child to imagine they are lying on their bed but in the pool. Get your tot to lie on his/her back in the pool, and then support your tot’s head. As your bub gets used to the sensation of floating, slowly release your support from your bub, and they will be floating all by themselves.
Now your bub might not be ready to master the butterfly kick or excel at backstroke, but you can still give them some good grounding for the future by teaching them some basic swimming stroke techniques and positions. One of the first things to master is a strong kick. Gently guide your child to the side of the pool and get them to hold onto the ledge whilst you do the same thing. Then proceed to have a game by seeing who can splash the most while kicking (NB for a happy child it is best to let your bub win this one). Repeat and practice as often as you can until your child gets the knack of kicking.
Crawl (also known as freestyle) is among the easier of the swimming strokes to master. The first thing to do is get your tot to float on their tummy in the water. Get your child to try propel themselves by rotating their arms in a windmill motion, and kicking their legs in a fluttering motion. Coordinating breathing with the stroke is pretty tough, and it might be something that your toddler only grasps after quite a bit of practice. Backstroke is almost exactly like crawl except you teach your child to do the stroke on their back. This might be pretty testing, as they have no idea where they are going so it might be a good idea to hold off on the backstroke until you have a proper little water baby on your hands. Breaststroke and Butterfly involve some seriously technical and coordinated movements and probably should only be taught when your bub is completely comfortable in the water and has more muscle coordination.
Basic swimming skills help toddler’s feel more confident in their abilities and decrease their dependence on flotation devices in the pool. Most toddlers will be around some sort of water in their lives. Learning basic swimming skills will give toddler’s the ability to stay safe in the water and feel more secure near lakes and pools. Of course, no matter how well your children can swim, you will never stop watching them very closely around water, accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and must be avoided at all costs.
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Find out more about SplashSave’s Swim to Survive Parents Pack Here.