It is extremely important that you keep your child active and one of the best ways to achieve this, especially during summer, is by teaching your child how to swim. Remember that children can learn to swim form a fairly early age and that you should do everything in your power to ensure that they are given the opportunity to learn. There are various different types and techniques of swimming, but basically you could say that there are 10 ways to teach you kids how to swim, provided you keep a number of very important considerations in mind. The age of your child may also affect how you go about teaching that child to swim as children at different ages need to be taught different skills.
Getting Started: Overview And Basic Tips
When teaching a child to swim there are a number of things that must be kept in mind. These are the most important things to remember:
Be Patient – This is a completely new skill for your child and consequently you cannot expect him or her to pick it up immediately.
- Don’t Push Scared Kids
- One Thing at a Time
- Keep Lessons Short
- Make Sure That Lessons Are Age-Appropriate (see the end of this article for more specific information)
- Avoid Unrealistic Expectations
- Tailor Your Approach to Your Child’s Individual Needs
- Floaties or No Floaties? – There is a debate raging regarding whether Floaties are helpful in teaching swimming or if they are a hindrance to progress. Whether or not you use them is really up to you.
- Remember That Putting Your Face in the Water is Scary
- Start Acclimating Early
Way 1: The Back Glide
This is a very fun way to get your child used to the water as well as used to the idea that he or she is able to float if something goes wrong:
- Have your child hold on to the edge of the pool with both hands.
- Their legs need to be tucked up against their chest with their feet touching the wall ready to push off.
- Tell your child to lean their head back into the water.
- When they start to feel themselves floating, tell them to push off against the wall as hard as they can.
- As they push off, tell them to place their hands about the head.
This will allow your child to simply glide backwards through the water. Be on hand to provide support if a child feel panicky.
Way 2: The Prone Glide
It is suggested that you refer to this game as the “superman game” for children who like superman as this will inspire their interest in the stroke. Essentially this is an introduction to kicking. What you need to do is to teach your children to hold on to the wall or the steps with one hand with their feet against the wall (for pushing off) and their other hand outstretched in front of them. Tell them to look at the outstretched hand and then kick off in the direction the hand is pointing, bringing up their other arm in the superman ‘flying’ pose. They will glide across the pool for a short way carried by the momentum of the kick off. Once they stop gliding tell them that superman needs to kick to get to the other end of the pool to save the day. Turning it into a race between similarly aged children may also inspire interest.
Way 3: Arm Stroke
The arm stroke can first be taught on land:
- Have your children get out of the pool.
- They need to cup their hands like spoons. Correct when necessary.
- Their arms must extend down to their waist and then extend all the way forward.
- Show them that it is their elbow and not their wrist that will be used to move their arms from the waist position to the fully extended position.
When you get back into the pool to start practicing this arm stroke it will help to have something in the pool that your kids can reach for such as a toy or even just your hand. This will teach them how to extend their arm fully when doing the stroke. This is one of the most valuable of the 10 ways to teach your kids how to swim as this is a very common stroke that is needed for basic swimming.
Way 4: Jump In And Turnaround From The Steps, Side, And Ladder
This is an important skill to teach your children. Essentially what your child is learning here is what to do if they fall into a pool. The idea is that, when you fall into a pool or any other body of water, you need to turn around and swim back towards where you fell in. This is safer than swimming across to the other side. Turning around is not a natural reaction in most children which is why it needs to be taught. When doing this teach your children to aim for the middle of the pool when jumping in. They may not necessarily make it, but it is important to instill in them the idea that they must not jump in too close to the edge. You should also give them forewarning that they will feel bubbles and that they cannot sink because they are holding their breath. Be on hand to provide assistance if needed.
Way 5: Elementary Backstroke
This is one of the beginner strokes that younger children learn on their way to becoming great swimmers:
- You need to tell your children that in this stroke their hands and their feet need to move at the same time.
- Have the lie on their backs on the water (use a floatation device if necessary).
- Start in the “pencil” position, i.e. with the child’s legs together and palms touching their sides.
- Tell the child to move their arms up along their body over their head, and then back down to the starting position.
- The kick is a little harder because it needs to be a whip kick. Your child needs to extend his or her feet out into the “airplane” position and give a quick kick. The feet must be extended out to the side further than the legs and the kick must occur in sync with the arm movement.
Way 6: Backstroke
This is a build up form previous lessons and skills that you have taught the child. Have your child practice alternating arm strokes with his or her thumb coming out of the water and their pinky entering the water. Underwater they should bend their elbow and push down to the waist, as in freestyle. Remind the child to keep their hips up. If the child has difficulty combing all of the skills together, have them practice the skills independently on land. This is one of the more advanced strokes and is only recommended for older children that already have rudimentary swimming skills and who feel comfortable in the water. Small children and toddlers will not be ready for this and will need to focus for a long time on more basic skills before they can move on to the backstroke. Some toddlers learn quickly but even then will only be able to manage the elementary backstroke.
Way 7: Flip Over And Swim
This is also aimed at ensuring that your child knows how to swim to safety in a dangerous or emergency situation. The steps are as follows:
- Have your child lie on their back in the water.
- Tell them to drop one shoulder. The shoulder that the drop will determine the way in which they roll.
- Teach them that the arm under the water needs to start swimming while the arm that is still above the water needs to swivel round to join the other arm. This will be completed as a roll in the water.
- At the same time that the other arm comes to join the underwater arm the child needs to move their head and swivel their body.
- Once they have completed the roll they must use their swimming skills to swim to the nearest and safest shore. Role playing with imaginary sharks and so on can facilitate speedy learning.
Way 8: Breathing
Breathing techniques are very important when it comes to swimming safely. This is one of the essential things that you need to teach your child when they are learning how to swim so that you can be sure that he or she will stand a high chance of surviving if they are ever thrown or if they ever fall into water. Bobbing up and down is a good way to teach breathing. When the child is above water they must take a breath and when they are under water they must breathe out through their nose. In addition you could have them glide towards you face down. When you tap them on the head they must breathe out through their nose and turn their face to the sky to take a new breath. Here you can allow the child to hold onto you until they get the hang of it.
Way 9: Special Tips For Teaching A Child To Swim
These are the steps for teaching a child to swim:
- Firstly hold them under the armpits and walk them through the water while communicating the fact that it is a safe and fun place to be.
- Teach your child to kick by holding onto the wall and kicking his legs.
- Teach your child to put his face in the water by blowing bubbles with him while he kicks, following this by dunking and holding breath.
- Hold your child under his belly and teach him how to move his arms in a swimming motion; after a while you will be able to release him and let him do this on his own; remind him to keep kicking.
- Have the child swim a very short distance from the wall or steps to you and gradually increase the distance so that he begins to swim.
- Work on breathing and jumping skills separately and the together.
Way 10: Special Tips For Teaching A Toddler To Swim
With toddlers you will have to move more slowly. Remember that children can be introduced to the pool as early as 3 months old and that they have natural reflexes for swimming at that age. Make use of your child’s natural reflexes to get them used to the water. It is also advisable that you take a mommy and toddler swim class together as a child at this age needs constant supervision from, preferably, the same adult (so that learning is not interrupted). Keep your child in the shallow area where he or she is able to touch the steps as this will make them feel substantially more comfortable in the water until they are braver. Blow bubbles during bath time to get used to the water. Teach your child to get his ears wet by sitting on the pool steps and listening for fish one ear at a time. These are the basic first steps, followed by the steps mentioned in the previous section as the child gets older.
Teaching your child how to swim can be a daunting prospect for certain parents, especially parents who themselves feel less then comfortable in the swimming pool. However it is a very useful skill to learn as well as something that could be used as a survival strategy one day. Consequently it is something that you need your child to learn no matter what. It will take a fair amount of work, but as long as you keep at it and as long as you make it fun and not a chore, you will eventually teach your child through these 10 ways to teach your kids how to swim.