It was a chilly summer morning and although the sun was shining brightly, the water in the swimming pool was cold. Ben followed closely behind his mother as she approached the stranger wearing a black bathing suit that said “Life Guard.” One of the other children in the class was crying. As Ben’s mother handed the teacher his towel and prepared to walk away, Ben grew panicky. He hated to leave his mother and began to follow her crying. She turned around wondering whether he was ready to take swim lessons after all.
Water safety is essential
Swimming will provide your child with a healthy activity that they can enjoy for recreation or sport throughout the rest of their life. However since water-related tragedies happen in the blink of an eye, basic water safety is essential. According to World Health Organization statistics, an estimated 400,000 people drown each year in what are usually preventable accidents. Learning to swim and how to be safe around water is the best defense against drowning. There are several steps you can take to make sure that swim lessons are a positive experience.
1. Take your child to the pool before classes start and spend some time together in the water.
Have fun playing, but be sure to emphasize the importance of water safety. Make sure that your child understands never to go swimming alone. Point out the lifeguard and explain that you should never go swimming unless there is a lifeguard on duty. Introduce your child to the swim teacher before the classes begin, so that the child does not feel that he is being left with a stranger. Find out if there are any friends from school or playgroup that will be in the same class.
2. Encourage your child to practice what he is learning in class.
Whether you are at the pool, in the bathtub or even on dry land ask your child to show you what he learned in class. Practice blowing bubbles, kicking and floating in between swim classes. Praising your child’s new skills will help him to become more comfortable and confident in the water.
3. Is your child nervous to get his face wet?
Have him practice holding his breath while still on dry land, in the bathtub or on the steps of the pool practice “kissing” the water. Graduate to blowing bubbles. Demonstrate how fun it is to get your head wet by dunking under the water and popping up like a jack in the box. Ask your child if he would like to play “jack in the box” as well. Holding your child on your hip, be sure to remind him to close his eyes and hold his breath.
4. Learning to float on your back can be a challenge, particularly for children who are nervous and uncomfortable in the water.
If your child is having trouble, there are many ways to help teach him the proper position. In order to float, it is important that he keeps his head back, chin up, the very top of the forehead touching the water, and his stomach puffed high. If your child continues to struggle to maintain the position, you may want to try a more creative approach.
Position the child on his back, holding him underneath, with one of your hands between his shoulder blades and the other under the small of his back.
Ask him whether he prefers chocolate or vanilla cupcakes. While discussing his favorite kind of cupcake, slowly remove the hand under the small of his back, while moving the other hand to the center. Explain that you are still holding him up, but that you need to free up one of your hands to hold the tray of invisible cupcakes you have bought to the swim lesson.
Take one of the “invisible cupcakes” and tell the child that you would like to balance the cupcake on his forehead. Explain that it is very important that he keeps his forehead up so that the cupcake does not get soggy.
Place a second “invisible cupcake” on his stomach. Tell the child to puff his stomach high so that the second cupcake stays dry as well.
As you continue to discuss cupcakes (and may even want to pretend to light candles), slowly lower the hand that remains under the child’s back. Assure him that you are still there to help him. After all you do not want these invisible cupcakes to get wet and soggy! Making invisible cupcakes is hard work!