Does your child dislike swimming? Changing your mindset can prep your child to take the plunge with confidence. Here, 10 tips to help them learn to love the pool.
By Reesa Lewandowski
Having a child who has a fear of swimming can lead to some pretty tense times for your family — especially if the rest of you love to spend time at the pool. So what is the best way to start teaching your child to swim? First, try to work on getting your child comfortable in the water, and do so as early as possible. The older your child gets, the harder it may be to ease their fears. There’s no time like the present: In fall and wintertime, indoor pools offer the perfect place for you to introduce kids to swimming, get some aquatic exercise, and cure the cabin fever that can be all too common in colder climates!
Sometimes it’s a challenge to think like a child, but that can be just the ticket to easing your kid’s fear of swimming. Here are 10 great tips to help you get your child comfortable in the water:
1. Focus on the future.
While you may want your child to be comfortable in the water as soon as possible, resist the urge to push them to do too much too soon. Remember, they have a lifetime of swimming fun ahead of them; there’s no reason to stress over learning a lifelong skill in one day.
2. Follow your child’s lead.
If your child is comfortable in the shallow end, stay there.
3. Put the emphasis on fun.
Bring water toys and buckets for them to splash and play with. Let them see that the water can be a place to enjoy.
4. Let them sit on the edge.
Kids (and adults) love to dangle their feet in the water! Think of this as a time to cool your toes, and don’t worry so much about what comes next.
5. Stay on the steps for a while.
Imagine how big and scary a pool can look to a child! Pools with steps in the shallow end give kids a great place to sit until they are ready to go deeper at their own pace.
6. Say yes to splashing.
As a parents, we often discourage splashing, but it is a great learning tool to help your child to get comfortable in the water. Splashing helps them learn the feel of the water and how their limbs work in the pool.
7. Help them feel safe.
Once your child manages to get into the water holding on to you, be sure to hold on to their trust. Let them decide when they’re ready to do more or have you walk in a little bit deeper.
8. Show them the peaceful side of swimming.
One way to help kids see the pool as a soothing (not scary) place: Show them that they can float on top of the water! Buoyancy can be a hard concept for kids to understand. A great way to get them comfortable with floating: Stand in the water and hold your arms out straight in front of you, just below the surface, then have your child lay on his back with his head resting on one of your arms and his lower back, legs, or feet resting on the other.
9. Get a little silly.
One of the first things a child is taught in swim class is how to blow bubbles in the water. This is a good trick to keep the water out of your child’s nose when she dips her face into the water. And your kids will think it’s hilarious to watch you demonstrate! Turn it into a game: See who can blow bubbles the longest. Or pretend to be a motor boat.
10. Know when to towel off.
Once your child shows disinterest in the situation, allow her to take a break. This may be a good time to have a snack, take a nap, or or play a game out of the water. Keep each experience around the water positive and happy, and your child will likely come to love the water as much as you do!
Another great way to help your child conquer their fear of swimming is to sign them up for a swim class or swim camp. Swim teachers and summer camp counselors often have a lot of experience easing kids’ fears of swimming. With time, the pool can be a place your child loves! Next thing you know, you’ll be preparing your child for competitive swimming.