Learning to Swim: What It Feels Like for a Kid

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!

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One Response to Learning to Swim: What It Feels Like for a Kid

  1. sharon says:

    Great timing. We seem to be swimming a lot these days.

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