cody learn to swim

How To Help Your Child Learn To Swim

School’s finished and lots of us are heading off on our holidays this Summer.  Thousands of holiday makers choose a destination with a swimming pool as one of their top priorities. It’s therefore easy to see why parents are keen to teach their children how to swim.    But how should you go about it?

Of course the best way is to book your child into professionally run swimming lessons.  I am a swimming teacher myself and have been qualified for 13 years.  It’s a job I love and now do full time.  A great swimming teacher will boost your child’s confidence and bring them on really well.  Over the holidays it’s a great time to look out for intensive courses.  Many pools offer a week long course where the child has a lesson each day.  Lessons usually last around 30 minutes.  This may not seem much but as they practice each day it really brings them on very quickly.  When they pass each level they get a badge and certificate which also acts as a great incentive.

Lois with swim certificate

When taking your child swimming yourself one key thing is trust.  If your child asks you to stop or is really unhappy doing something then stop immediately.  If they cannot trust you they will not be able to relax. The best way to get a child relaxed is actually just to let them play.  Give them space to explore the pool at their own pace.  Play games, throw a load of toys in and have fun.  Let them pour water of you and show them that its nothing to be afraid of.  Watering cans, plastic animals, buckets, sinkers, rubber ducks, etc are all great fun.  Practise blowing bubbles in the pool to help with breathing later on.

Lily in the pool with sinkers

Lots of people ask me about equipment.  Claire who blogs at www.thehappyweaner.com asks ‘Whats the best swimming aid to use in the beginning?  e.g. inflatable arm bands, arm rings, flotation vests, noodle??’  The answer to that one really depends on your child.  Personally I am not a fan of arm bands or arm rings as I find they hold the child in an unnatural position for swimming.  For the lessons I teach I use pool noodles.  These are great for kids aged 3 years+ who understand they need to hold on.  For younger tots, flotation vests can work well to begin with.  Flotation vests are also great for kids with additional needs as they keep them safe while giving them independence in the water.

Goggles are another thing I am constantly asked about.  Personally I prefer children to wear them for swimming lessons.  Have you ever tried swimming in a pool with no goggles on?  It really isn’t comfortable and you cant see properly. In the lessons I teach we ask children to take off their goggles when we do water safety skills but for stroke practice it’s best to wear them.  I’ve used various brands of goggles but to be hones the better brand tends to be Zoggs.  They tend to fit better and are good quality compared to many others.  They aren’t overly cheap but you pay for what you get.  I find the mask style ones Cody is wearing above are great for younger ones, while older children are better off with traditional style ones like Lois is wearing below.

Hayley from www.missmanypennies.com asked  “I cant afford swimming lessons.  How do I start teaching my child to swim – what are the first steps?”.

  1. The first thing you need is for your child to be confident with their face in the water.  If you’ve ever tried to swim keeping your head up you’ll know it gets tiring pretty fast.  Play lots of games such as water cans over the head, holding different coloured objects under the water, sinking toys they need to collect, etc.  Once your child is happy with their face in the water they can get a much better body position.  This is the start of the BLAB rule – Body, Legs, Arms, Breathing.
  2. You need a flat body position in the water to swim.  Practice doing different shapes floats such as star float, pencil float, etc.  Have a go at doing rockets/push and glides from the wall.  You are looking for the body in a flat horizontal line in the water.
  3. Next is the leg kick.  For a good flutter kick you need a small, fast, up and down movement with pointed toes.  Relax the legs and keep them long.  Don’t bend the knees too much.  Their feet should stay just beneath the water line.
  4. Arms.  This will depend on what stroke you are doing.  Back crawl arms need to be long and straight.  Front crawl arms come over the water in a curve.  Have a look at some videos on youtube to give you an idea of how it should look.  With all strokes their fingers should be glued together to make the hand into a spoon shape.
  5. Breathing again will depend upon the stroke.  For front crawl you aim to breathe sideways every third arm pull.  You keep your head low in the water and simply rotate it sideways so your ear remains in the water while you breathe.

floating in the pool

Emma Reed from https://emmareed.net asks “How have you found it teaching this age who haven’t had a lesson before? Do they get scared, frustrated, want to give up etc?”   The answer to that is that many children will wobble on their first lesson.  They’ll get nervous and scared.  Not only are you putting them in a swimming pool but with a complete stranger as well.  It’s a completely normal reaction!  I’ve had numerous lessons where I’ve spent half an hour with a screaming child hanging off me but I always get there with them in the end.  Persevere with it.  A good teacher will be able handle it.  Just hand them your child and walk away.  It may even mean you have to sit out of sight for the first lesson or two – we often find with parents out of sight they settle much quicker!

The most important thing to remember is it takes time.  Be aware of the dangers of water but at the same time have fun.  Enjoy it!

N.B. Never leave  a child unsupervised near water.  A swimming aid should not replace adult supervision at any time.  It only takes a second……

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2 thoughts on “How To Help Your Child Learn To Swim

  1. Welsh Mum Writing says:

    Great post full of practical tips and details, which are often lacking in busy classes. Our son is almost three and very independent to the point of me not being “allowed to touch” him without screams of “no mummy”. He can’t swim though, but does love the water. He’s turned his nose up and refuses to hold or even play with a woggle. Is there a float vest you’d recommend, and how do you use them
    Exactly?

    • admin says:

      I would definitely say put him in a float vest as then he can be independent but safe as well. I think most float vests are good but ones where you can slowly remove the floats from it are great as then he can start learning to support himself. You basically just put his swim trunks on and put his arms through the vest and zip it up at the front. Do stay close by him as it will take a little getting used to. The vest should be quite snug so he can’t slip out of it. Hope that helps!

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