At-Home Swimming Lessons
Bath time can be a lot of fun with all of the cool bath toys, splashing, giggling and silly shampoo hair-dos.
But we all know you cannot turn your back for a second, not even to grab their towel.
Our eyes should be focused on that baby in the bath tub at all times. The bath tub is also the first place your child will be exposed to water and is the best place to start getting them comfortable in the water.
Putting small amounts of water on their face from the time they are born is the perfect way to start getting them used to the water. Some parents might avoid the face because they are fearful, but then you may end up with a three-year-old who is afraid to put their face in and is scared of water.
It is important to start early. At the age of four months it is perfectly okay to pour water over their head and let it go down their face. This is the first step for a baby learning to hold their breath.
Giving swimming lessons to infants and children under the age of three:
- Step One, holding their breath.
Put a small amount of water into a cup and say, “(The child’s name), ready, go,” and pour the water onto their head. The child might be a little startled by this, but that is completely normal.
Continue by adding a little more water each time and always say, “(The child’s name), ready, go,” before pouring the water. They will eventually understand that when they hear those words, “(The child’s name), ready, go,” they need to hold their breath.
You might have to repeat these steps five times or 100 times. You will know they are ready for the next step when their eyes close or they scrunch up their face when they hear, “(The child’s name), ready, go.” This means they are prepared for the water and understand it is time to hold their breath.
- Step Two, going under.
While in the bathtub with your baby or in the swimming pool together, hold your child with your thumbs on top of their shoulders and the palm of your hand under their armpits, use your fingers to support their chest. You will hold them at arms length and say, “(The child’s name), ready, go,” and bring them into your chest while making sure to dip their mouth below the surface of the water. If they choke on water then you need to go back and repeat step one.
After they have mastered having their mouth under the water, you want to do the same thing but this time make sure their nose goes under as well. And again, if they are choking you need to go back a step.
Once they have mastered and are comfortable with having their mouth and nose submerged under the water you can do their whole face. Make sure to always say, “(The child’s name), ready, go,” before putting them under.
Once both parent and baby are comfortable doing the above steps, you can start to completely let go of them for one to three seconds and let them feel how they float right to the top of the water. The time you let go of them can increase as you both feel more comfortable.
- Step Three, floating on their back.
This is a step that many children struggle with and may take quite a while to get them comfortable doing it. First, turn them so they are facing away from you and have them rest their head onto your shoulder. Use one hand to give support under their lower back. Lift them into a horizontal position on top of the water for five to ten seconds.
Try to get them to relax and lay flat with their legs straight out. Repeat this step until they are comfortable and relaxed being on their back.
You can now remove your hand slowly from their lower back, but keep your hands close in case the child needs you. Once they have mastered being on their back while resting their head on your shoulder with no other support you can move on to the next step.
Now it is time to place one hand under their head and the other under their lower back for support, slowly move them off of your shoulder and in front of you.
They should be perpendicular to your body. Allow them to float in that position for five to ten seconds. Repeat until comfortable. (Toys are a great distraction, try letting them hold one while floating).
You can now start to remove their support. Have the child at arms length and slowly move them toward you as you remove your hand from their back.
Praise them for doing a great job! Again, continue until you feel they are comfortable.
Next you will do the same thing, but this time remove their head support and allow them to float on their own. Once again, have your hands close by and ready to grab them if needed.
These are the first steps in becoming a confident, strong swimmer. It is always best to put a child into formal swimming lessons with a certified instructor, but this is the next best thing if you are unable to do that. Remember, swimming is the one sport your child will learn that could save their life!
Guest Mama Lindsay is married to the love of her life, TJ, and they have a beautiful daughter named Danica (03/11). She grew up in San Antonio, Texas and was a competitive swimmer for 14 years. She was even one of the top swimmers in Texas for a few of those years. Shoulder problems forced her to quit in high school, but she still loves to swim laps when she can find the time. Her family loves spending time together outdoors. They enjoy going to the lake, playing on their ATV, and going camping.