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Teaching Your Child to Swim

Teaching your child to swim is an essential life skill you can help them develop, whilst also building trust between you and your child and spending time with each other. Depending on your child's age they will certainly need armbands and possibly a floatation ring or seat.

Stages 1-3 require very close adult support and in these early stages your child should only be practising closely assisted swimming. They should never be left to develop independent swimming skills at these early stages. At all times when teaching your child to swim you should be closely supervising them and always  be able to intervene if necessary.

Stage 1

Before you teach your child to swim you first need to get them use to water in a fun and relaxing way. This process starts at a young age from early experiences of bath time and perhaps the paddling pool.

Stage 2

When you child has developed some confidence in the water an age appropriate floatation device is an ideal way to allow them to experience a little more independence (whilst still under close adult supervision). Floating rings are ideal, and are available with or without a seat depending on the age of your child.

Whilst wearing their floating ring, encourage your child to kick their legs and move the water with their arms. Get them use to the experience of moving water around them. If your child is particularly sensitive to water, you could provide them with goggles, but ideally it would be best if your child was confident without needing these unless swimming underwater, which is something often developed at a later stage.

Stage 3

Once your child is confident with kicking their feet and moving their arms in order to move around the pool, you could then think about introducing them to wearing arm bands.

Be careful to ensure your child’s arm bands are secure and inflated correctly. Explain to them that without their floating ring, they will now have to work harder to stay afloat in the water. Provide them with a small float to hold in front of them (with both hands) to help support their balance in the water. Encourage your child to kick their legs to stay afloat and travel across the water. As your child progresses and becomes more confident encourage them to try travelling without the small float, but just with their armbands. Model and explain how they can move the water with their arms, whilst also kicking with their feet. Support them in developing these two skills.

Stage 4

Once your child is capable of swimming confidently with arm bands and seems ready to develop their swimming further take the relevant steps to encourage this.  Do not rush your child onto this stage , as if they are not ready it could result in them having a negative experience, and the whole process being delayed or worse starting from the beginning again.

Firstly, talk to your child and check that they are ready to try without arm bands and instead use a swimming board or float. Explain that you will be very close (in the water next to your child) and that if they do go underwater you will be there to pull them out immediately. Discuss how they may go underwater once or twice at first when they are getting used to swimming without arm-bands. If they do appear to be struggling, always support them immediately to avoid your child becoming anxious and possibly losing their confidence.

‘Top Tips’ to Develop Semi-Independent Swimming!

When your child is happy and confident to try semi-independent swimming ensure you:

  1. Make the effort to always be in the water with them, so you are ready to assist and give them confidence. If your child knows you are next to them, this will eliminate fears associated with semi-independent swimming.
  2. Offer praise and encouragement (even for what may seem to be small amounts of progress to you and I!)
  3. Only practise for short lengths of time, and don’t pressurise your child into achieving more than they feel able to. Avoid comparing your child to others, every child is unique and have varying capabilities in different areas.
  4. Practise regularly, at least twice a week, so your child continues to build on their existing skills.
  5. Enjoy it and make it an exciting experience for you and your child. Children learn best when they are happy, motivated and having fun!

Stage 5

Once your child is confident with swimming with a float or swimming board, encourage them to try swimming independently without arms bands or a swimming board.  Stand close by for support and once again show encouragement and enthusiasm.

Safety - Never ever allow a child to swim without close adult supervision. 

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net



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