Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer Swimming lessons for infants and toddlers

Tuesday I gave a talk at the local MOM's club here in Flagstaff (MOM's club is for stay-at-home Mom's to have playgroups, support and other fun activities throughout the year). I am a Red Cross certified Water Safety Instructor and have taught many of 3-4 year olds to swim in private lessons. I also used to coach a neighborhood summer swim team way back in high school and college. I am confidant that I can teach any adult or child to swim, no matter how scared they are of the water. Swimming is really the ONLY thing I really know about kids. So here are Coach Cameron's tips:

First (and this is obvious) NEVER EVER take your mind, eyes or hands off your child in a swimming pool (or bath for that matter) If an infant submerges (or falls into the pool) by mistake, jump in and pull them out. Do it even if you are fully clothes. I've done it plenty of times as a guard, it's more traumatic for the adult. That having been said... your child is safest in the water with you by their side...

1) Get the the pool with your kids. I can't stress this enough. Sending them to swim lessons isn't going to the trick. If you want your kids to swim, take them to the pool, pull that bathing suit on and get wet. Often, you CAN get wet without getting your hair wet, but Mom & Dad it's way COOLER if you swim underwater.
2) If your 3 year old is doing great this summer, make sure to keep his skills up during the winter months too-- I've seen plenty of 4 year olds who "loved it last summer" but are completely afraid to put their face in the next year, so don't forget to go to the indoor pool in the winter -- young kids only last 30 minutes in the pool anyway.
3) make bath time fun and pour water on your baby's head at LEAST once each bath, starting at 2-3 months old (we do this when the water doesn't have soap, eliminating the whole irritated eye issue). Start showering with them if possible, when you feel they are ready.
4) Introduce your child to all parts of the pool, walking them around the perimeter and identifying the pool parts, which parts are off-limits and what each *thing* does... ie: "this is the pool drain, where the pool sucks up leaves, etc... this is the lifeguard chair...etc."
5) When you go to the pool, focus on playtime, don't make the entire trip about swim skills. Attempt 2-3 skills each time you go to the pool and play a game between each skill. Never attempt to teach a 3-4 year old anything for more than a couple of minutes... Ex: a 30 minute pool visit should include 15 minutes of playtime. If you can make it "educational" playtime without them knowing, do it. If they last longer, consider yourself lucky.

1)prone glide: hold them side to side position and help them to the edge, hold them under their belly and help them glide to you, hold them side to side and pass them to Dad)
2) back float: start with them floating on your shoulder gradually move to holding their back and shoulders and finally just a palm under their back. With a four year old, you can TELL THEM that you are going to remove your hand for the count of "one-one thousand" or make it "one teenage mutant ninja turtle" -- then work up to two, etc. If they crunch up and don't allow it, keep your hand there until they are ready.
3) pool side jumps (assisted): Start seated with 2 hands, move to 1 hand, then standing with 2 hands, transition to 1 hand and then no hands. Child should submerge in this skill but only to their comfort, ie: quickly bring them up, and PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE. If the water is in their eyes and they are crying, simply DISTRACT them and say "nod, nod, nod, shake shake, blink blink, water's gone" and MOVE on. DO NOT fuss over the water in their eyes and bring out a towel to wipe it away. They have to learn at some point that water will eventually roll off their face without a towel.
4) scoop: point nose and forehead down towards water and scoop the child under a bit...good to do with a partner. Again, PRAISE PRAISE.
5) blowing bubbles out our mouth and eventually nose...without sucking the pool down... I blow out birthday candles with noses! Hold fingers up above water to make birthday candles... then lower under little noses are underwater. Remind them EACH time not to INHALE or sniff up the water. Also to get little faces in the water, I have them put their ear in to listen to the mermaids (who sing in all my pools).
6) underwater retrieval. Throw sticks and if possible quarters or pennies (harder to pick up and therefore requires more skill) on the stairs and start on the first step and work your way lower and lower.

In my swim instructor opinion, these things hinder more then help your child swim
1) swimmies (arm floaties) I HATE them. They keep your toddler's feet under them and show them how NOT to kick for swimming. The bicycle kick is something you want to avoid like the plague. Get that child in a prone position, even if they lift their face out of the water all day long.
2) Make a huge deal about how unsafe the deep end is or how they could drown... in fact, leave out the drowning all together. Tell them they can only get in the pool if holding mommy's or daddy's hand. Discipline if they do otherwise calmly and normally, remind them that they need your hand to enter the water.
3) Do not SCREAM around the pool unless a DIRE EMERGENCY ARISES and you require the assistance of a lifeguard. Nothing will make a child more scared then a parent screeching from their lounge chair. If your child cannot follow your calm simple guideline, re-visit your discipline methods.
3) DO NOT only allow them to play in the kiddie pool. This makes the big pool scarier! Get in that big pool WITH THEM and bring toys if necessary.

Remember to make it fun! Play games, and smile a lot. Don't expect too much until age 3 or 4. I have seen some really coordinated 3 year-olds swim but 4 is the big year. If your child is afraid of putting their face in at age 3, 4 or 5 -- GET HELP-- private swim lessons with a friendly instructor will help and be committed to those lessons! Consider it your duty to teach your child to swim, it should be a "must have" like potty training. Sometimes it's best to learn from an instructor. Some kids cannot learn from their parents, but it's a skill they need for survival. Expect to pay $15-50 per lesson with a private instructor and attend lessons twice a week, for at least 6 lessons.


Anonymous said...

Another don't.

Don't ever let your child see the movie "Jaws." At least, not until they're in their late twenties.

Swimming Workouts said...

It is good to have your kids a summer swimming lessons. It will be a very enjoyable summer for them.