This post was sponsored by SwimWays as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in the post are my own.
When we moved to our current house, I was terrified of the pool in the backyard. We took measures to make sure our pool was safe but I also wanted to take measures to help our kids be safer in water.
We taught both of them to swim at a young age and taught them life-saving floating skills even earlier. Here are the rules we follow to help our kids love the water and be safe around and in it.
Take it slowly
The very first step to teach your kids to swim is to expose them to water early and often in a safe and positive environment. You need to stay positive and not rush them. Rushing them to feel more comfortable in the water than they do will just make them scared of the water.
Make it fun, and play in the shallow end of the pool. I have found talking my kids through everything we are doing really helps.
In the beginning, use floats
Floats are an incredibly positive way to expose children to the water. The let kids get used to moving and splashing in the water while staying safe.
Choosing the right float is important. Some parents opt for a full life jacket, which can be overly restrictive. There are other floats that can make kids feel like they’re not really swimming, or that they’re being treated like babies. The best type of float is one that gives your child confidence while allowing them to be mobile and safe.
We love using these mesh SwimWays Spring Floats because they allow kids to be surrounded by plenty of water while keeping them safe. They get to be in the water but still safely within distance of mom. They are great for building confidence!
Teach in the shallow end of the pool
You should always teach where you can safely touch so you can quickly reach your child if you need to, but it can be good to start where they can safely touch. Then if they become overwhelmed, they just need to put down their feet.
First things first
Start with getting your child to put their face in the water. Putting their face underwater can be really scary for some kids and a big obstacle to overcome. Here are the things we like to focus on.
Playing with a cup of water — in the bath or pool. This gives them control over when the water will pour over the face.
Bubbles — who doesn’t want to blow bubbles in their milk? Let kids do it in the pool. Have a contest to see who can blow the most bubbles. In order to blow bubbles, they will have to put at least their chin in the water. Progress!
Diving toys — Play with diving toys on the steps of the pool. The child should be able to touch but needs to put their head under the water to retrieve the toy.
Practice holding your breath — Never push your child to hold their breath as long as possible, rather practice in segments so they get used to holding their breath.
Next move to floating. Floating is easy to learn, a great way to build confidence and can save a child’s life. A back float is fairly easy to teach, teach them to push their head gently back on the water, sticking their chin up towards the sky. while extending their arms and legs out like a starfish.
Many kids don’t get their legs all the way up to the surface and that is OK. The most important part is the head position and where their hips are. While your child is learning to back float, help them feel comfortable. You can place your hands on their head, then move down to two fingers as they feel safe and then experiment with letting go.
The things I always tell my kids with backfloats:
- Chin towards the sky
- Starfish arms
- poke out your belly button
The more your child envisions themselves as a starfish floating on the surface, the easier it is for them.
Next, we focus on holding onto the edge of the pool and kicking our legs out of the water. Get in on the action with them! My kids love churning up the water like this.
So much of being a strong and confident swimmer comes down to leg strength. Most children lack the upper body strength to rely solely on arm-propelled swimming. So the more they use their legs, the better they’ll be able to swim.
Next, we practice arm movement. Tell your children to form their hands like ice cream scoops and scoop the water down and away. This teaches the repetitive arm motions they’ll need as they swim.
Combine skills for safety
Once your child can float, knows how to kick, and has basic arm movements down, they’re ready for nailing critical life-saving skills. Swimming only really becomes fun when kids feel safe. And knowing how to get themselves out of a situation in the pool builds that safety and confidence.
A good drill to practice with your child is to carry them out about 5-10 feet from the edge of the pool. Then tell your child to become a starfish. Have them hold this position for about 10-20 seconds.
Next, tell them to swim to safety. This requires them to roll over, quickly identify the closest edge of the pool, and swim over to it, using their arms and legs.
Repeat this drill frequently. What you’re teaching them are two skills that can help them if they get into trouble anywhere in the pool:
- If you’re running out of strength or feel in trouble, become a starfish. It doesn’t take much energy to stay on your back, allowing you to recharge or shout for help.
- Knowing that the edge of the pool is a place of safety helps kids find their bearings and have a goal to shoot for.
Practice extending swimming distance
Start by having your child stand in the shallow end of the pool where their feet can touch and swim a short distance to you. As they build confidence, slowly increase the distance between yourself and your child. Keep in mind that swimming tires out kids easily and you should only focus on this for a few minutes at a time.
Consistency is key when it comes to teaching swimming. Try and get into the pool at least once a week to work on their skills. Get in the pool with them every time and make it a fun experience. Then focus on learning for a bit too!
You should always start or end your lesson with a bit of fun. Keep the experience positive and the kids will want to go back to the pool over and over! We love to bring a bunch of floats and make a day of it.
My personal favorite is the SwimWays Spring Floats. It holds you just below the surface of the water, letting you be in the water and stay cool but floating. I love the pillow! My kids love it too, I have to keep kicking them out of MY float.
My kids love the Huggables. These darling pool floats have a large seating area with long arms that come around and hug you. They are hands down always the favorite toy in the pool. Who doesn’t want a hug from a bear or a sloth?
Now what are you waiting for. Gather the kids, the suncreen and the pool floats and head to the pool!