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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 50: Teaching Them to Swim

Problem: It's summer, and you'd like to go to the pool, but your kids don't know how to swim, and you're worried about them.

Solution: There are many products on the market that put my mind at ease when I take my twins to the pool. Since there are two babies against one adult, I have to be extra careful not to let one's little head slip under the water as I fuss with her sister. Buying a suit with foam inserted inside is a good option. The downsides are that the suits don't hold a child upright, so if your baby is quite young, she'll still go under without being held. They're also a bit hard to wash, and they can be difficult to take off as the water makes them quite tight on the skin. A small inner tube will keep the child afloat, but prohibits movement so that learning swimming strokes is near impossible. Noodles are advertised for ages 5 plus, but I've found them to be fine and fun as a supplement, so long as an adult is watching closely. My favorite floating devices remain the arm bubbles...seemingly the same ones I wore 25 years ago when I was a kid. Can't mess with perfect, I guess. Here are the babies in the suits.


Problem: Your kid wants to dunk her head, but doesn't understand to hold her breath.

Solution: Work with them slowly. It's actually easier if you have them in any one of the floatie devices I mentioned above. This way they feel confident that they will come back up should something go wrong. Practice the steps several times before actually having them go under water. Tell her and show her how to close her eyes, close her nose and hold her breath. After she's perfected the order and can do them all almost simultaneously, make sure you're holding her securely so that she feels safe, and lower her under the water quickly before bringing her back up even more quickly. She should be under the water for less than a second. This way, if she swallows a bit of water, she'll be able to recover physically and psychologically without become afraid of the water. Comfort and praise for everything, even mistakes. That way they know they're being brave and big and they'll be confident that they'll get it someday.

NOTE: I am not trained in water and kids AT ALL. This is not an idea from an expert or from someone who might actually know something. This is just what I happen to be doing with my kids.

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  1. I know you have a disclaimer but I always wince when I see parents point to things like water wings as a perfectly safe option for kids who can't swim. They aren't safe!

  2. If you want to start when the baby is younger, you can have a routine right before going under water. We sing Ring Around the Rosey and change the end to "We all go UNDER!" then you blow in the babies face. It makes them take a big breath and you can go under quickly without worrying about the baby trying to inhale underwater. We also start to practice blowing bubbles at an early age with Mommy taking an exaggerated big breath before blowing bubbles each time.

    I personally don't use the flotation devices as Eli swims horizontally and the vests push him so that his face is in the water and he can't get back out. When he doggy paddles on his own, he can get his face back out of the water to swim.

    One of the most important things to do is teach the child to swim to the side of the pool and hold on or swim to steps if they are in the pool. If Eli ended up in the water without an adult, he knows to get to the side and cling on yelling "HELP!" as loud as he can. He can't swim very far, but he can get from the middle of the pool to a side.



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