Taking Your Kids to the Swimming Pool for their First Lesson

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.

Time to Play! Blowing Bubbles

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!

Before You Get into the Pool, Get Ready to Get Out

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.

  1. Go straight from the pool to the shower after swimming. Kids’ skin is especially sensitive to pool chemicals.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Time to Play! Getting out of the Pool

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. It’s critical to your kids’ safety that they learn how to get out of the pool by themselves. Practicing in this fun way will help your kids get comfortable with this essential swimming skill.

Have your child experiment with using his feet to walk along the wall and help his hands. Can he lift them up so they’re close to his hands? Can he stretch them down so he’s flat against the wall and only his toes are helping?