Now let’s get one thing straight; you don’t need to be a qualified swimming instructor to teach your child the basics of swimming. As I mentioned in the previous post, you as a parent are best placed to begin your child’s experience of learning to swim, before a qualified teacher takes over.
So to begin your first lesson it is important to bear in mind that not all children will immediately launch themselves into the water and swim like a fish; in fact you should actively discourage them from launching into anything until they have a bit of experience under their belt. Ease your child into the experience. It is common for a child who is confident and at home in the bath to dip a toe in the (much colder) pool and immediately look traumatised by the whole thing! It is also equally common for the bath-shy to take to the water instantly. Whatever the situation, provide constant support and encouragement to make your child’s first lesson a positive experience. A great way to kick things off is to have your child sit on the side with their legs in the water and ask them to fall forwards into your arms. This will establish trust in the water, and each time they fall forward move slightly down into the water to get the child’s body immersed more and more each time.
The next milestone, once your child is in the water, is to get them to place their face into it. A good way to introduce this concept is to get your child to blow some bubbles, making sure that they do not inhale. Next get them to bob up and down in the water, submerging their face a little more each time. This is a great moment to introduce them to holding their breath; something which we take for granted, but which is very important to anyone learning to swim. Show them how to suck in a breath and hold it before dipping under the water, and how to blow out the breath when you surface. It is highly likely that they will swallow at least one mouthful of water; don’t overreact to this, and don’t cancel the rest of the lesson, continue as planned.
The above activities may well be enough for one lesson; you do not want to overload your child with new information. However, if your child seems keen start to teach them how to float on their back; this is an important skill which every child must learn as it could save their life one day. Getting them moving is also a good choice for a first lesson and will help to keep them warm. Encourage them to kick their legs while you support their body, and to sweep their arms through the water with their feet on the pool bottom.
Once you have completed your lesson make sure that your child is wrapped in a towel quickly to prevent them from getting cold. Also, have a drink and a snack ready as swimming requires a lot of energy and they will be hungry. Chat about the lesson on the way home and ask what they liked the most, and what they would to do more of next time. This will extend the positive experience and get them looking forward to their next lesson.