Thursday, June 28, 2012

5 Tips to Teach your Kids to Swim


For a few years I spent my days as a Swimming Teacher. I know so many parents think that they have to pay for swimming lessons to make sure their kids are good swimmers, personally I'm not planning to pay for lessons until kids are at least 5 years old. I know a lot people don't feel confident teaching their kids if they aren't great swimmers themselves.

So I thought I would share some easy, basic tips to teach kids to swim and gain water confidence. I have never really officially taught babies, but I am taking Ezra to the pool a lot and just having fun. I'm sure I am stating the obvious, but just remember to be safe, make sure the pool depth is appropriate (where they can stand), and always swim between the flags at the beach. It's a good idea to learn CPR and basic water safety. These tips are for toddlers and children who are old enough to understand what you are telling them, not babies, although I think it is important to get babies used to the water.

1) Go swimming regularly. When I was teaching swimming would always get parents so upset with us if we moved their child back down a level, they would bring in last years certificate to prove their child should be in the higher level. But guess what, their child hadn't been swimming since the last lessons, and has now forgotten everything we worked so hard to teach them. They are struggling in the higher level and need to re-learn everything. They need to practice, develop that muscle memory and spend time enjoying themselves in the water, it does so much more for their confidence than a couple weeks of lessons.


2) Make it Fun. When I plan lessons for littlies I know they have short attention spans so I break my lessons into five minute blocks. So if your going to the pool with the intention of helping your child learn to swim, this is a good idea, have a plan of 5 minute activities that you can use. I would usually start with a little game, Ring a Rosie or similar. Great activities are encouraging them to reach under water for a toy. If you have more than one child you can throw a bunch of little toys or flat stones and get them to race to collect them from the bottom of the pool (in a shallow pool), swimming (or being pulled) through a hoola hoop. Don't push too hard, let them go at their own pace, but if it is fun, they might just want to participate!

3) Get them Underwater. Before you worry too much about kicking, or form or any of those things you want to teach them to 'blow bubbles underwater'. Being able to go under and blow bubbles is vital, and gives you extra time if they accidentally fall in, you know they can blow bubbles and won't panic. You can start by just getting them to blow bubbles with just their mouth under, and push a ping pong ball along the water with the bubbles. Like I said above using toys that they have to fetch underwater is a great way to get them under. You can put things underwater for them to look at as well, so they get their whole face in water, and keep reminding them 'bubbles,bubbles,bubbles'.

4) Floating on their back. If your child knows how to float on their back it can save their life. Start by lowering them into shallow water and supporting their head and shoulders, they should be able to look up at you and know you are there. Get them to put their arms and legs out like a starfish, wait till they relax and just keep them there for a while. As they get more confident you can give them empty milk bottles to hold onto with straight arms out, support them as they enter the water and let go so they can float on their own. Their eyes need to be looking up at the sky or roof, and their belly needs to be sticking up, or they will sink. I tell them to pretend I'm holding it up with a piece of string, or to make it stick out like Santa Claus. When they are ready, you can remove one or both bottles. You should also teach them to float on their back with one hand waving in a fist, to signal distress, so they know what to do if they are in trouble.

5) A Torpedo. This is one of the first things we taught, it is a basic skill that comes before kicking. A Torpedo is like it sounds. It is where your arms are straight in front, one hand is on top of the other, elbows are straight and should be squishing their ears. Their face needs to be in the water looking at the bottom of the pool and of course, blowing bubbles. Legs are straight out behind them, feet together. The goal is to get them to push off and glide through the water. The hardest part I found was getting kids to keep their face in the water looking down, but this is a foundation for freestyle (front crawl for the Brits), it is an important skill to learn to tuck your chin in and look down, and of course blow bubbles. Even if they are just running in the water with their arms out and face down this is a good first step. You can use a little kick board or the milk bottles for them to hang on to as they learn, as they gain confidence you can remove it. Some will pick it up quickly, some need the extra time to get comfortable, just encourage, encourage, encourage.

I was only going to do five, but I thought this was important too!

6) Be prepared to make a fool of yourself. Yes other people at the beach or pool may think you've lost your marbles as you jump, dance, sing and demonstrate all sorts of funny things to kids in the pool, but who cares, your kids will love it. I did all sorts of ridiculous things, like trekking through the kids pool going on a bear hunt, very loudly. But I found if I acted super excited like the people on Hi-5 then they were happier to participate.

(Fun Pool Game)
We're Going On a Bear Hunt:
When you say "you can't go over it" get them to jump up in the water and make a big splash.
Then "You Can't go Under it" get them to dunk under water
And when you say "You have to go through it" then they can do a Torpedo

I would love to hear if you find these helpful. If you have any more swimming related questions I am happy to answer!

Karen xx




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