Introducing Young Children to Swimming
Swimming is an important skill. By learning to swim, not only will your child be safer around water, but they will also benefit from this fun and sociable form of exercise. It is best to introduce your little one to comforting water activities from a very young age, floating a toy in the baby bath and splashing in a shallow tub or paddling pool will bring about good associations with water. In fact, many early learning centres – such as Cherry Bridge Station Warriewood in Sydney – include water play as an important part of their activity based learning programs.
Start by finding a local pool that has a toddler or baby area, sectioned off from the main swimming pool. This will seem much less daunting and will allow you to easily sit in the water with your child as you become accustomed to swimming together. Try to choose quieter sessions to begin with if possible, or go along with your playgroup or childcare centre. Many will encourage parents at their early learning centre to go along to sessions as a group, socialising with familiar faces of a similar age will also strengthen those happy associations with water and pool play.
Start by making sure your child feels secure, sit them on the steps into the baby pool, or on your lap, and gently swish the water over their legs and arms. Bring a favourite bath toy if you like and demonstrate how ‘Mr Ducky’ or ‘Freddie Froggy’ enjoys swimming and diving in the water. If your child already has the advantage of regular water play at their childcare centre, then this step may come very naturally.
Some little ones will take very well to the sensation of the water and begin straight away to kick their legs and swish the water to and fro. But if they need a little encouragement just hold your legs out straight and kick, encouraging them to do the same. As soon as your child seems confident enough they can stand in the baby pool and hold onto the wall. Move around the edge of the pool gradually together as they learn the weightless feeling of their footsteps in the water. Very soon using your hand or a toy, you can tempt them away from the security of the wall and begin to take steps away from the edge.
This is surely not a process to be rushed, and some toddlers will need many sessions in the baby pool before they are ready to go with you into the shallow end of the main pool. In fact, it is a good idea to familiarise them with the feel of water on their face and floating on the surface as much as possible before you leave the safety of the baby pool. Blowing bubbles with your child is a very good way to introduce them to putting their face safely into the water, and by blowing out each time we ensure that they do not try to inhale.
All in all, this is a fun activity and we must remember to keep it fun and be patient because swimming can also be a relaxing time for you and your child to bond. So splash, play, bob around and don’t forget the swim nappies!