Learning to swim can be tough. Especially for young children. But before we get into how to make learning to swim like playtime, let’s imagine the average swimming lesson from a toddler’s point of view: we get put in this big pool full of water and right away we start holding on to the wall or getting dunked under water.
Our eyes sting from the chlorine and before we know it, someone is moving our arms around and telling us to kick and kick and kick and… After 30 minutes we’re exhausted and hope we never have to do that again. This The Guardian video is also very helpful:
This visualization is certainly not the ideal learning experience for any child, but unfortunately, many children share this unpleasant experience. One not-so-obvious reason why parents need to create a fun learning environment for swim lessons is the level of fun effects a child’s capacity to learn.
A scientific study supports this idea with the statement that fun may definitely play a positive role in a child’s learning process and invites intrinsic motivation, suspends a child’s social inhibitions, reduces stress, and creates a relaxed alertness state. If at a later stage, your child wants to engage in synchronized swimming, a good starts at an early age is really what it takes!
The key to making swim lessons feel like playtime is squeezing in play and toys in “non-play” activities. If you would like to teach your baby to swim, do these 5 things for a positive and playful swim lesson:
Before each swim lesson, sing a familiar song to your child when you first enter the pool. Hold your baby close to you to help them feel secure. As you sing, gently twirl side to side in the water allowing your child’s toes and feet to splash on top of the water. This intro song will help set the pace of the fun swim lesson. Make sure to also sing a “goodbye” song before you get out of the pool after your lesson.
Go at Your Child’s Pace
If you force any part of the swim lesson, it will not matter how hard you tried to make the lesson fun. It will seem like something your child is forced to do and will not enjoy the lesson. This is why it is crucial to go at your child’s pace. If you see your child does not like putting their head underwater today, that’s fine, move on to the next exercise in your swim lesson. Never try an exercise that your child is not ready for. Progress will come as your child gets more accustomed to their swim lesson routine. See also: Basic Butterfly Techniques for Children.
Here is a fun game to do in the pool during your swim lesson. All you need is a beach bucket with tiny holes in the bottom of it, and fill dip bucket in the pool water. Lift up your bucket and sprinkle your child’s head with the “raindrops.” At first, you may just sprinkle the hands and back of the next before your baby is comfortable with water on his or her face. This is a great teaching tool to help your child become more comfortable with underwater submersion.
Keep plenty of toys on the side of the pool during each lesson. We will use these toys during drills like wall crawls to turn the drill into a game. Help your child grab on the wall and tell them to go over to the toys! There are so many swimming education tools! Once your child has crawled over to the toys, lift them up so they can grab their favorite toy from the side of the pool. Help them wall crawl to back and lift them up to place the toy into a bucket. Celebrate and go get another toy! This game will help build the strength needed to hold on to the wall and crawl to the steps if they ever fell in the pool. See also: Synchronized Swimming for 5th-graders.
Stickers + Lollipops
After each lesson, always make sure to give them a treat. I’ve found stickers and (organic) lollipops work great for an after lesson treat. If your child needs a little encouragement during the lesson, it sometimes helps to remind them of this after lesson treat!
Use these 5 tips to help make your swim lessons more fun for you and your child so when they grow older, maybe a new Michael Phelps is hidden inside…