Hello there! We've decided to stay in Disneyland for another day, instead of driving through the huge storm that is set to hit the Bay Area today. Meanwhile, I have a great guest post for you today from Kate Gardner of An Apple Per Day about setting your child up for success and safety in the water!
I love the water, and want my kids to enjoy the pool like I do. I want our family to enjoy many happy hours in the water, either in the pool or at the beach on family vacations. I have made it a high priority to prepare them to safely enjoy the water, and that means swim lessons.
Early preparation. The water is a new medium for a toddler or baby, and kids react differently to it. Some are water babies just naturally, while others are more reticent. I introduced my kids to the water early, so that when they are the proper age for formal lessons, it won’t be a whole new experience. I’ve found that the bath can be a great place to make a positive connection to water. While I bathed my baby, I smiled and laughed, to reinforce water and fun. I gently splashed the water with my hand, and he quickly figured out how much fun splashing can be. My husband laughed when I walked out with suds in my hair, but it was worth it.
Here are some great resources with more information about swim lessons and young children:
Swim Lesson Plans
When Can My Baby Take Swimming Lessons?
Teach Your Child To Swim
The introduction to the pool. We are fortunate to have a community pool with Mommy and Me classes, so I took advantage of those. They say that by 6 months of age, a child can take these classes, and learn the basics of just being in the water. I held him the whole time, and we mostly learned about bobbing and more splashing. It was a real bonus to work with an instructor who had child development credentials, and could tailor the session to how far along the kids were. Of course, we put him in swim diapers and didn’t take a lesson right after he had eaten.
What if there are no classes nearby. I’ve heard of parents starting the pool introduction without Mommy and Me classes, and it went really well. It was great bonding time as well. Dad sat back from the pool in the shade, holding the baby. Mom went into the water and began laughing and splashing like she did in during bath time. Gradually Dad moved closer to the water, and the baby was captivated. When he reached out for Mom, Dad made the transition, and as she held her baby, she began gently bobbing. They also had another child who was much more reticent, and they were very patient, letting that child sit and watch for a long time before he showed an interest in getting closer to the pool. That was smart – if you let the child dictate the pace, it won’t turn into a frightening experience for them.
Regular lessons. It is said that when a child is around age 3 or 4, they are ready for formal lessons. By that age, they will have developed sufficiently to perform the actions required, and can listen and retain what is being presented. I was careful, and checked out the class I wanted to use, even asking for the teacher’s credentials. I planned all along to continue past beginner lessons, until my child was completely proficient in the water.
Lessons in the fall? I went against my original thinking that lessons are for the summer. When school is out, kids just want to go play. We signed up for lessons after they were back in school, and receptive to teaching. It worked out well, and by the next summer, they were ready to play with their friends at the pool.
I love playing in the water with my kids, and it makes me smile to think I have given them a skill that will come in handy for a whole lifetime.
Kaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside to discover interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint watercolors.