All parents want their children to be confident in the water. In addition to having water confidence, teaching your child to swim provides him with an activity that is both good exercise and lots of fun. It is important to consider what children are capable of at each age and stage of life; however it is generally never too early to get your child comfortable with the water. This is not to suggest that you need to start swim lessons right away; you can do a lot on your own to start you child on the path to confidence in the water.
If your child is under 18 months old, start by holding her in the water and getting her comfortable putting her face in the water. Have her splash and see you enjoying the water. If she can see older children jumping in the water and having a good time, she will soon associate the water with fun.
Many pools no longer allow inflatable devices like water wings and inflatable life vests as they are considered to be a false sense of security. The best option is to simply make sure that you are always holding on to your child while he is still getting used to the water.
Once your child is two years old, you can introduce putting her face under the water and having her swim to you from the pool steps. Of course you need to always be vigilant and never leave your child alone or be out of arm's reach. Once your child knows how to hold her breath, she may enjoy being submerged over and over again; on her own terms of course. If this is still frightening, go back to blowing bubbles observing older children having fun in the water.
When your child is 3 or 4 years old he may be ready to start floating with your assistance and a reassuring hand under his back. Finding a pool with just the right depth is important. You want a pool that is shallow enough that your child can touch, but deep enough that he can explore floating, kicking and playing around under the water.
At some point your child will want to be able to jump in swim to you. This will start with a doggie paddle, but you can slowly teach proper kicking techniques. Once she can float on her front and back, and is able to propel herself through the water you are ready to start teaching the freestyle stroke. You can hire someone to do this or teach proper breathing on your own.
In order to teach the freestyle stroke, your child should choose a "breathing arm". When she picks up this arm for a stroke she should take a breath. When that arm goes in the water she should breathe out with long slow bubbles and pick up the other arm. This will take lots of practice. It is common for the non-breathing arm to be neglected and you should encourage your child to keep her ear in the water instead of raising her face up out of the water.
The best advice for teaching your children how to swim is to have them around water a lot under close supervision. Over time, your children will develop a sense of confidence in addition to learning valuable skills about how to float, tread water, and move through the water. Best of all, you will be more confident that your child will be safe when near the water.
Parents. How to Introduce a Baby to Swimming. Accessed October 14th, 2012.
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