With Summer fast approaching and pool covers being tossed aside with joy all over the country, it’s definitely the time to talk to your kids about pool safety, and — if they haven’t already learned — to teach them how to swim. You could send your kid to swimming classes or do it right in your own backyard or community pool (using videos, if needed) — either way, these eight tips will help your child become a better swimmer and decrease the chances of a water accident this Summer.
1. Though infants are not developed enough to learn how to swim, there are some guidelines for having them in the pool.
– Keep your baby in your arms at all times.
– Make sure they are wearing a swimming diaper to avoid fecal matter getting into the pool (which can be harmful to all other swimmers).
– An infant can drown in an inch of water in under 30 seconds, so be aware of water levels in buckets, inflatables, and tubs.
– Keep rescue and first-aid equipment near the pool at all times.
2. If they can’t swim at all, the first thing to teach them is how to float.
If your toddler or even older child doesn’t know how to swim or isn’t the best swimmer, they should definitely be taught how to float in case of an emergency. Teaching them this skill will help them to stay calm, keep their head above water, and breathe until someone can come get them.
3. Once they have mastered floating, your child should learn how to kick their legs and blow bubbles.
After they learn how to float, other skills toddlers should learn include:
– How to blow bubbles — to get used to their face being wet and avoid swallowing water.
– How to kick their legs — always with an almost straight leg, and alternating legs.
Kicking can best be taught by having them hold on to the edge of the pool, so they can keep their head above water.
4. Do not teach your child to swim with floaties, rafts, or other inflatables.
While foam boards keep their shape and buoyancy, inflatables could deflate or pop, which would cause your child to sink. Floaties, rafts, and air-filled swimsuits provide a false sense of security and therefore could end up doing more harm than good.
5. Children should become used to the shallow end of the pool first.
Once your child is comfortable with bubbles and kicking, they can learn a new set of valuable skills in the shallow end. Try teaching them to:
– Submerge their head in the water — building up holding their breath from five to 10 seconds.
– Go from a standing to swimming position without assistance — using their floating skills in between.
– Glide — by pushing off the wall in a “Superman” position and then kicking to the other side of the pool.
– And use coordinated kicking and stroking movements — by holding them at first to show them how to alternate arms and legs, and then after, gliding and by themselves.
6. Once your child can successfully float and hold their breath, more advanced skills can be taught.
Now that your child can keep their head above water if necessary or hold their breath and avoid inhaling or swallowing water when gliding and kicking, they have the capacity to learn more skills. Older children can hold their breath longer, so you can teach them to:
– Swim underwater — by swimming to the bottom and then kicking (across the pool).
– Retrieve items at the bottom of the pool.
– Jump into the deep end from the edge and resurface.
– Use swimming strokes (more on that below).
7. Once your child can coordinate kicking and paddling, they can learn the strokes, such as breaststroke and backstroke.
When teaching strokes, encourage alternating their arms and legs, and for strokes in which they are facedown, advise them to breathe in between strokes. For the backstroke, remind them that they can breathe normally as their head is in the air, but when rolling to their front, to take a breath first and then continue swimming. When teaching how to roll, try having them kick off the edge facing up and rolling as they lose momentum, forcing them to start kicking and paddling as they turn.
8. Stress pool safety often.
Even when your child is becoming a proficient swimmer, remind them constantly to always ask an adult before going swimming and to never swim alone or run around near the pool area.