Thanks to Shelley White for a mention in her article in The Globe and Mail.
I started this blog thinking that I wanted to help parents teach their own kids to swim, using the natural advantages of their relationship with their kids to make the process fun for everyone in the family. I wanted to provide tips and tricks and step-by-step guidance. I wanted to help parents use their time on dry land to reinforce what their kids learn in the pool.
Some of the information in this blog includes:
- How to prepare to teach kids to swim
- How to craft a teaching style that works
- How to structure swimming lessons
- What you need to know about kids’ minds and bodies before you start
- How kids learn and how to motivate them
- Important safety information
- Swimming lesson do’s and don’ts
- The sequence you should teach the skills in
- Specific, detailed information about how to teach each swimming skill
I hope the information in this blog is useful to you. I’m moving on to other projects and won’t be posting for the foreseeable future, but you can still get all this information and more in book form. Here’s how to get the book.
Thanks for reading,
The better you understand what your kids are experiencing, the easier and more effective the process of teaching them to swim will be. Children are different than adults. (Surprise!) Understanding the differences will help you to put yourself in your child’s place and respond to his needs. Responding to your child’s needs will help to make the learning process fun and effective for both of you.
Kids’ bodies and physical abilities, sensory experiences, feelings, motivations, and perceptions of success all differ from those of adults, and they all affect how kids learn to swim. When you’re teaching your kids to swim, take time to put yourself in their shoes. (Not literally. Their shoes are too small for your feet.)
How Kids’ Bodies Affect Teaching Them to Swim
Imagine that your head is large compared to the rest of your body. How does that feel when you’re trying to float or balance in the water? Imagine that your limbs are short compared to your torso. How do you move through the water with limited leverage?
Imagine that your lung capacity is a lot smaller than a grownup’s. Does that make figuring out how to deal with your breath while you’re swimming more complicated? Imagine that you’ve got not much mass, a lot of skin relative to that mass, and low body fat. Can you feel how fast your body loses heat to the water? Can you feel how much less buoyant you are than an adult, thanks to your tiny bit of fat and small internal air flotation devices (aka lungs)? Wow, it’s not easy to figure out how to float! Big old head, not a lot of buoyancy.
Plus, your body is changing every single day. All that growing is exhausting! And you haven’t learned yet to predict when you’ll reach the end of your rope or to read the signs that tell you you’re getting cranky because you’re tired. You’re always surprised when you hit the exhaustion wall without warning. Every time.
Are you back in your own shoes now? What a relief. Remind yourself when you’re teaching your kids to swim that their bodies give them some extra challenges when it comes to learning to swim. Keeping your kids’ experience in mind will help you to be patient and to adjust your swimming lessons to work better for them, and if the lessons are working better for your kids, everybody’s having more fun.
Next week, we’ll look at how other aspects of kids’ experiences in the swimming pool differ from adults’, but tomorrow, it’s time to play!
Kids learn by playing. The more you can make learning to swim fun for your kids, the more they’ll like it, the quicker they’ll learn, and the more fun you’ll have teaching them. Kicking is a critical swimming skill, but it can be tough to concentrate on the nuances when you’re just trying to stay afloat. This game is one that you can play on dry land to give your kids a chance to really get it without the pressure of being in the water.
Have your child sit in a chair and alternate pointing and flexing his feet. Is he fast enough to keep you from pinching his toes when he points them?
Happy 4th of July! Here’s wishing you a festive, joyful holiday. To keep safe around the swimming pool today, check out these safety tips. (These tips are good all year.)
- In any emergency, call 911 immediately.
- If your child is missing, always look in the pool before you look anyplace else. A child can drown in twenty seconds. Scan the surface and the bottom of the pool. Search the area around the pool next. If you leave the pool area to continue searching, make sure the pool area is secure before you leave. A wandering child could return to the pool and fall in after you’ve searched there.
- If someone is trapped at the pool’s drain, turn off electrical power right away, before you do anything else. Don’t try to pull the person directly from the suction. Instead, break the suction’s seal by prying between the person’s body and the suction, with your hand if necessary.
For more tips, look at:
- 6 Things You Must Do to Keep Your Kids Safe in the Water
- Water Safety: 3 Things to Teach and 3 Things to Watch
- Weather and Water–Swimming Safety Tips
- Water Safety Tips for Grownups, Too
- 7 Ways to Prepare for an Emergency When You’re Teaching Your Kids to Swim
- 4 Safety Features Every Pool Has to Have
Kids learn by playing. The more you can make learning to swim fun for your kids, the more they’ll like it, the quicker they’ll learn, and the more fun you’ll have teaching them. Once your kids have the basics of going underwater down, you can use this game to help teach them to be really comfortable with this swimming skill.
Have your child put his head underwater while you say something above the water. Can he figure out what you said? How about if you say it while you’re both underwater?
If you haven’t already, check out some things you should do–here, here, here, and here–when you’re teaching your kids to swim. Got it? Great! Now keep in mind these 15 “don’ts” and you’ll be ready to start teaching your kids to swim (or reinforcing the lessons their swimming teacher has already taught).
Don’t lose your child’s trust
- Don’t throw your child into the water to teach him to swim, ever.
- Don’t force your child into water without preparing him.
- Don’t deny it if your child has a scary moment.
- Don’t trick your child or lie.
Don’t send your child subtle messages that he should fear the water
- Don’t wipe it off if water gets on your face or your child’s face.
- Don’t prevent him from trying new things in the water.
- Don’t overreact if he swallows some water.
- Don’t yell.
Don’t let your expectations interfere with your child’s progress
- Don’t expect your child’s swimming to be fast, especially in the beginning.
- Don’t expect very young kids to learn strokes before they’re developmentally ready.
- Don’t expect your child to pick up right away where you left off at the end of the last lesson.
- Don’t expect your child to do it perfectly.
You’ve got all your gear ready to go. You’re well rested, and so are your kids. You’ve read the book and perused the blog, learning how to teach and what to teach. You’re in the car and ready to go. What now? First, make sure you’ve got the kids in the car with you. No? Back into the house for them, then. Okay, ready?
Take it slow. Enjoy each other. Have fun. If you don’t enjoy each other and have fun, it’s going to be hard—maybe impossible—for you to teach your kids to swim. Your first visit to the pool will set the tone for the lessons to come. Use what you know about your child to make it a great experience for him, and he’ll be happy to come back again and again.
Know the Rules
When you get to the pool, show your child where the pool rules are posted and explain them, even if he can’t read yet. Make sure he understands never to go near or into the pool without an adult. Make sure he understands not to run in the pool area and not to jump or dive (unless the pool is deep enough and the rules allow it).
Know Where the Bathroom Is
Show him where the bathroom is. (You’ll be needing it before you get into the pool, anyway.) Check to see if there are any cool insects around, if he’s that age and that’s his thing. Ease into it.
Respect Your Kids’ Learning Styles
What kind of learner is your child? Does he like to observe from a distance? Does he like to jump right in? Respect his learning style.
If your child likes to observe before experiencing something for himself, this is the perfect opportunity to sit near the pool together and let him watch other kids playing. If your kid likes to jump into things right away, by all means get in the pool. Don’t rush things here, though. Spending the first day just watching other kids have fun is a good use of your time. If your child doesn’t even get his toes wet, that time hasn’t been wasted.
The lesson plan for your first lesson: let your child watch and explore. Don’t plan a formal lesson for the first visit. If it takes a few visits for your child to feel comfortable getting in the pool, don’t plan a formal lesson for the first time he actually gets into the pool, either.
Don’t force your child to get into the pool, and don’t let disappoint or disapproval color your interactions. This is for your child. It needs to happen at his pace. You can encourage your child to get in or to participate in play if you sense that he secretly kind of wants to, but don’t pressure him. If there’s another adult available to supervise your child, you can set an example by playing in the water while your child sits outside the pool and watches you. Provide encouragement, support, and time.
Kids learn by playing. The more you can make learning to swim fun for your kids, the more they’ll like it, the quicker they’ll learn, and the more fun you’ll have teaching them. Blowing bubbles may seem inconsequential, but it’s a great way to ease your kids into understanding breath control. Here’s a game you can play to make blowing bubbles even more fun than it already is.
Have your child pretend to be a little fish blowing tiny bubbles in the water. Now have him be a big fish blowing big bubbles. Did you know that real fish have actually been observed playing bubble games. Fish like to play!
Even the best swimming lesson or play session in the water can turn ugly if you don’t have a plan for the moment you get out of the pool. Keep these four tasks in mind, and you and your kids will make it home (or at least back to the car) feeling as happy as you did in the water.
- Go straight from the pool to the shower after swimming. Kids’ skin is especially sensitive to pool chemicals.
- Don’t forget to have towels, a warm drink—even if it’s hot out—and a snack ready for right after your lesson. Swimming requires a lot of energy. Aside from all of the energy it takes to swim, there’s also a big energy expenditure just maintaining normal body temperature, even in a warm pool.
- It’s a good idea to have more than one towel for your child. If they’re big and fluffy, that’s even better. Spread your towels out so that the sun warms them while you’re in the pool. Use one towel to wrap around your child’s body while you use another to thoroughly dry his head and ears.
- Make sure to drain his ears and dry them well. Fluid trapped in the ear can be a breeding ground for outer ear infections. Have your child tilt his head from side to side to drain his ears. You can also use a blow dryer on the low setting to gently warm the air next to his ears.