Many parents wonder when the right time is for them to introduce their newborn to the water outside of bath time. Since babies can develop infections from water until about 2 months old, it’s important to wait out that period. But shortly after, the more time they spend in the water the more likely they are to love it as they get older.
We all know that experiences as a baby can shape our behaviors as we get older but especially with water, positive memories can play a huge role. The more an infant interacts with the water and associates it with happy times, the more comfortable they will be as children in the water.
One of the largest challenges that children have during lessons is not fearing the water and feeling confident to move in it. By and large, children who were brought into the water often as infants don’t face that challenge nearly as often or severely.
As an instructor, it’s quite easy to identify which children have either been in lessons or have been in the pool since they were babies. Submerging the head, floating on their back, and staying calm when unable to touch the ground are all skills that kids who didn’t go into the water often struggle with.
To help set up your child for aquatic success, take them in as early and as often as you can. Make sure that you’re always staying super positive and supportive, trying to keep it as fun as possible. If you submerge them, make sure you blow on their face before and after you do so and immediately greet them with overwhelming positivity.
Create Safe Habits Around Water
Although many swimmers can feel right at home in a pool, it’s important to remember that for children and those that can’t swim, drowning is a very real threat. It only takes a few seconds for kids to get lost under the water, and in a crowded public pool, even experienced lifeguards can struggle to spot the difference between playing and an emergency.
It’s important to instill good water safety habits into children at a young age so that they respect the water and the dangers that come with swimming. Simple things like teaching them to stay near a wall if they go out into the deep end, having a buddy or an adult nearby, and taking breaks to rest and rehydrate quite literally save lives.
As a former lifeguard, I can’t express enough how important it is for young children to take breaks in the hot summers. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and potentially having a heat stroke are all just as big of threats to young children’s safety as slipping under the water for too long.
Ultimately, only you know your child and the mistakes they’ll be likely to make. For a kid that swears they are the greatest swimmer of all time and wants to go into the deep end, making sure that they keep a buddy or an adult supervisor is going to be the most important. For young swimmers that are a little bit more timid, making sure they stay where they can stand or near a wall is going to keep them from panicking should they ever slip under water.
Build Basic Swimming Skills
Swimming skills are a lot like tools in a tool shed, there’s some basic ones that everyone will always need and then there’s the tools that only the people really into it can appreciate, so start them off with a hammer and a few screwdrivers.
Getting them to blow their bubbles as they put their face in the water, teaching them how to kick and move their arms in the water, and depending on their age, how to float on their back, are all great places to start. For the purposes of keeping them safe, function beats form 100% of the time. Is the doggy paddle far less effective than freestyle? Yes, but will it get them to a wall or somewhere they can stand? Absolutely.
This logic also carries over to what many sim Instructors regard as the most important safety skill to have: floating on the back. This will ensure that if they are ever caught somewhere they can’t swim to a wall or stand, they will continue to have access to oxygen. The basic form is spreading the body out like a starfish and tilting the head back with the chin towards the sky. Just depending on the natural variation in a person’s buoyancy, slight adjustment can be made to form, but anything that will keep them up and able to breathe is what matters.